Friday, October 1, 2010

The Toddler and the Ferrari

The decline in birth rates in advanced countries continues even though most women throughout the West tell pollsters they want to have more kids (quite a lot more) than they actually have. Pundits offer various theories to explain this “fertility gap,” but the family budget seems the most likely reason.

The Department of Agriculture reports that families earning between $46,000 and $77,000 spend over $200,000 per child from birth through high school (i.e. without college costs). The Wall Street Journal estimates that households earning over $118,000 spend an average of $800,000 per child through high school: "Add in luxuries like private school, a nanny and a flat screen TV set in a kid's bedroom, and the figure climbs to $1.6 million."

A person might tell a pollster he or she would like a Ferrari, while in practice considering the price prohibitive.

The ZPG (Zero Population Growth) people made their case to my satisfaction 40 years ago when they were louder than they are today. I think lower birthrates are an overall benefit to the world, even though they make for a bumpy demographic ride as the population pyramid alters shape. All the same, the costs of child-rearing are eyebrow-raising. It is amazing folks have as many kids as they do.

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