Reproducing is like super low rise fit-n-flare glitter jeans: so 10 years ago.
Despite the best efforts of the Duggar family, since the beginning of the recession, the American birth rate has plummeted. This isn't happening because we ladies were all sat down in a room together and informed that having a baby means letting a tiny angry stranger grow inside of our bodies for 9 months until removed by a very expensive team of medical experts. The birth rate isn't dropping because babies and children and most young adults are ungrateful jerks who don't understand the sacrifices their parents made for them until it's embarrassingly too late. Americans are having fewer babies because kids are just too fucking expensive, and that's not going to change anytime soon.
In fact, some couples have put off babyhaving for so long that it's no longer an option. "We'll have kids when we can afford it" has turned into "We'll have kids when we can afford it which should occur at about a quarter till never." From Today,
...many experts expect that women who put off having kids because of financial worries will eventually at least try to play catch up. Still, no one knows for sure whether those women will end up having as many children as they might have if the economy were stronger.
“The net effect in the past has been that you had about the same amount of babies … but they were just born a little later,” Cohn said.
But, she notes, that may not happen this time.
WHAT?! It may not happen? Sell your stock in affordably-priced baby food, America, because the only people popping out wee ones are the Wealthies who can afford to hire organic storks to personally feed their offspring like baby birds OR people who give their babies mashed up Flamin' Hot Cheetos mixed with Mountain Dew Code Red and forget they left the stove on.
During a recession, babies become a luxury item for the middle class. Think — is it possible for a pragmatic person to have a baby in good conscience if they're a sprained ankle or a sick mother away from financial ruin? If they depend on the income from a job that may not be there in 9 months to survive? Is it an economically sound decision for an uninsured middle income couple to get pregnant knowing that if their finances fail, the social safety net is an unreliable bureaucratic clusterfuck? Unquantifiable, esoteric, and sentimental pro-baby arguments are a difficult sell in the face of cold, hard numbers, even if most people putting off children would actually figure out a way to make it work.
In other words, prolonged economic uncertainty among the middle class means baby having becomes the realm of the rich or irresponsible or irresponsibly quixotic.
This prognosis is a spectacular oversimplification of brainiac speculation that may not ever play out (that's what we do on the internet!), but anecdotally, at least, it's perfectly understandable why someone in my age and economic group — right smack dab in the middle of the babymaking years and raised right smack dab in the middle of the middle class — might put off having children until it doesn't sound a lot like fiscal suicide. Depending on which scary chart you consult, raising a child from birth to age 18 will set you back anywhere from a quarter of a million dollars to north of half a million dollars, a chunk of change that for someone like me could mean the difference between a scrimp/save lower middle class adulthood and a small luxuries upper middle class adulthood. Having a child would be essentially punting the possibility of upward class mobility to the next generation. I'm never gonna own a home, kid. Here, you do it.
So, ladies who are not Mayor Bloomberg's horse-riding daughter, consider the alternative to having children: reasonably priced, well-made sundresses. Sundresses won't get drunk off wine coolers at a high school party and crash your car into a tree. Sundresses won't need you to cosign student loans in order to attend that fancy college and then ruin your credit by not understanding that paying them off is, like, really important. Sundresses won't throw your iPhone in the toilet and laugh. Sundresses won't shit all over your belongings.
Sundresses won't take care of you when you're old, sure, but face it: your kids probably won't, either.
Image by Jim Cooke.