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Child-free by choice: Why more Americans are skipping parenthood

Internationally and in some parts of the U.S, leaders have tried to make raising children easier financially.
A baby grasping an adult finger.
Posted at 6:21 PM, May 09, 2024

More Americans are deciding to remain child-free.

In 2023, the average number of children per woman was about 1.6 — a 2% decline from 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1960, it was about 3 per woman, according to Statista.

"For a lot of people, it's a very difficult and challenging decision," said Kimberly Palmer, a personal finance expert with Nerdwallet.

A new survey from the organization finds only 27% of people under 60 without children say they ever plan to have them.

"For millennials, 2 in 5 actually cited cost as the reason that they don't feel that they can have kids," said Palmer.

Researchers say there are lots of reasons Americans may be choosing to be child-free, like uncertainties surrounding the future of reproductive health care, climate change and finally, the cost. The price tag for raising a child until the age of 17 is about $306,000.

"In urban areas it's very common to spend as much as $2,000 a month for infant child care, for example. And if you have multiple children, of course, that all adds up. They're also juggling other costs as well, like student loan debt. And when you put all that together it just adds up to a lot of financial pressure," explained Palmer.

Internationally and in some parts of the U.S, leaders have tried to make raising children easier financially. Dozens of countries offer government mandated paid parental leave.

In the U.S.,13 states and Washington, D.C. have enacted mandatory paid family leave, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

People who have made it work in the U.S. often get creative or rely on family, according to research from Nerdwallet.

"A lot of people tell us they move closer to their family and so grandparents can step in and play a role in childcare and that can really help offset a lot of the cost," said Palmer. "A co-op or teaming up with other parents so you can share the duty of taking care of children and you're actually helping take care of other children too," Palmer continued.

Still, experts say a decline in births may simply have to do with changing times and uncertainty about the future.