Social media is full of jokes about millennials looking around and realizing all their friends are married with kids, but is it actually true? In the past, households in the United States often had multiple children, as most of our grandparents can attest. But, a new study by the CDC found that millennials are having fewer kids than previous generations and here's why.
In its "Births: Provisional Data for 2017" study, the CDC found that birth rates in the United States fell 2 percent from 2016 to 2017. This is the lowest number that's been logged since 1978. According to the CDC, the general fertility rate also took a hit. At 60.2 births per 1,000 women aged 15-144, there was a 3 percent decrease from 2016, setting another record low.
However, the decreased birth rate doesn't hold true across all age groups. Among women ages 40-44, the birth rate rose 2 percent in 2017; for women between 45-49, the birth rate saw a 3 percent increase. In other words, while the millennial birth rates are clocking in as the United States' new lows, it's not a matter of there being no kids at all. Instead, the data is suggesting that women are having kids older, and it makes complete sense.
A January 2017 report released by the Department of Agriculture found that middle-class married couples will spend one-quarter of a million dollars to raise a child born in 2015 - so around $233,610. That averages out to spending between $12,350 to $13,900 annually (and that's calculating in 2015 dollars). According to CNN, costs rose 3 percent — or $380 — in 2015 from the year before. It's a slower increase than before, but an increase nonetheless.
The spending amount varies based on income, and obviously not all children are coming from nuclear families, but $233,610 is a good, broad estimate. It's also important to note that this is incorporating basic costs; it doesn't account for if a child has any emergency or chronic health conditions, nor does it account for the cost of college. In short, the average cost to raise a child to the age of 17 can very well increase, depending on the individual case.
And speaking of college, a major factor in the decreased millennial birth rate is simple: they're in debt. In 2017, Forbes reported that the average student in a college class of 2016 graduated with $37,172 in student loan debt. That's only calculating what someone leaves college with; it doesn't calculate the average amount of interest and dollars that will be added on over time. It's gotten to the point where people cope in the one way they really can, now: with jokes.
But at its core, the situation isn't all that funny. There are an increasing number of stories from millennials whose student loan debt behaves like a reoccurring nightmare, where no matter how much they pay it always remains. Recently, Bustle published an article detailing one woman's experience "I've Paid $18,000 To A $24,000 Student Loan, & I Still Owe $24,000."
For young people just starting out, it's unrealistic to expect them to have children matching previous generation's birth rates when they're dealing with crippling debt and a housing market that remains out of reach for many.
There is concern about what the low birth rate means for the United States economy, as reported by SF Gate. However, it's clear that issues with the economy are, in fact, what is creating the problem in the first place. It all comes back around in a not-so-pretty circle.
For now, there's some hope in the rising birth rates of women over 40. It means that, while millennial may not be having babies right now, it doesn't mean that the birth rate will continue to decline forever. Perhaps, in another 15 to 20 years, there will be a massive leap in birth rates of women over 40. Only time will tell.