Photo:President Barack Obama in a pre-kindergarten class. Jonathan Ernst/AP Photo
Gen Z will struggle to acquire life-work balance due to rising economic uncertainty.
To be or not to be, that is the question. To have children, yes but can you afford it? Economic uncertainty of young people around the world is leading to a marked decline in fertility rates leading the U.S. economy down a dangerous path.
From rising housing prices to higher student loan debts, the future is not kids-friendly.
If Millennial are choosing to have fewer children as a group, Gen Z is expected to have even less — this is because the Middle class in an age of automation doesn’t fare too well economically with inflation and bearish wage growth that doesn’t compensate unless you inherit money in the family.
Not having a family can be heartbreaking for young people, unable to reach a standard of living their parents enjoyed.
Home ownership can be pricey, unless you get substantial help from your parents.
Why Capitalism isn’t working for the Middle Class
To make matters worse:
- The cost of having children in the US has climbed exponentially since the 1960s.
- In 2015, American parents spent, on average, $233,610 on child costs from birth until the age of 17, not including college.
But hold on second, if you want to talk student loan debt, American millennials are saddled with more than $1 trillion in debt — and student loans make up the biggest share.
- Americans ages 18 to 29 had debts exceeding $1 trillion at the end of 2018.
- That’s not a labor pool of consumers that show a healthy future economy where consumer sentiment and new families are the chief driver of the economy.
So what does it all mean?
Young People are viewing Family and Kids Differently
Technological capitalism is quickly changing the dynamics of marriage, living alone, buying a home, and even having the economic stability to raise a family.
While researchers argue that the recent decrease in birthrate has as much to do with the Great Recession in 2008 as it does with the increase of women who are not willing to sacrifice their careers for family.
It’s complicated, and higher education rates among women globally means the fertility rate will plummet. Even in Western countries people are marrying later, buying homes later and deciding not to have children by default at rates not seen before. If Millennial trends are any indication, the generation after called Gen Z will be even less kids friendly.
As countries like Japan and South Korea can attest to, this is a real problem for the future, meanwhile aging parents will need care as well.
It’s not only existence with more economic pressures and uncertainty. It’s this wearisome trend of the default being “I’ll just go it alone”.
This is causing a growing trend of men and women who become single parents by choice, and who live alone even when in a relationship. This is due to the more transient nature of stability, social bonds and romantic relationships all tethered to economic uncertainty.
The Real Reason Millennials are Having Less Children
The real reasons are economic and a future of capitalism where the Middle Class is going to feel the crunch. The 2008 recession could lead to longer economic cycles with deeper recessions.
However, the declining fertility rates will mean skill-shortages and labor pool participation rates are not hovering at healthy rates in the U.S.
If you want to put your kids through College — think $450,000 per child.
In 2015, American parents spent, on average, US $233,610 on child costs from birth until the age of 17, not including college.
In 2025, your average family is not going to be able to afford to put their kids through college, and perhaps forgo kids for more travel time, leisure, freedom and life-work balance. It’s sad, but that’s the new American reality for young people.
According to figures from the New York Federal Reserve Consumer Credit Panel, Americans ages 18 to 29 had debt exceeding $1 trillion at the end of 2018. This means GenZ will be saddled with considerably more debt than Millennials and the impact on fertility rates should be more dramatic in the years to come.
If you do not empower your young people, the future of your economy won’t be in a good shape, it’s really that simple. Student loans have become a contentious sector of the market, seeing a record $166 billion in delinquencies in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Declining rates of home ownership among young people, essentially means the Middle Class is failing. A growing body of research shows students who borrow don’t fare too well in the post 2008 economy. This will likely eventually lead to a new model of how student loans take place that’s more sustainable and less exploitative of young people and students.
Young people since the financial crisis of 2008 have had to face exponential economic trends that disadvantage them at rates and creating obstacles for well-being and socio-economic stability not seen for young people in decades.
Should I have a kid? Can I afford to have a family? Millennials know all about sacrifice.
Child care has become one of the most expensive costs that a family bears
From actual labor costs to childcare, young people appear to be strategically targeted by the system to have less children.
You want to know the cost of having a children? Don’t think of how expensive it costs now, but how much it will cost in five years time. Plan ahead. Get real.
If fewer Millennials in North America can afford to have a child in their 20s when biologically we are optimized to do so, fewer Gen Z will be in a position to have a child in their 30s. This will mean skill gaps due to fertility declines will actually incentive automation that disrupts the future job market.
As a futurist this is in economic terms a very important problem we have to solve. This is one reason the democratic socialist movement in 2020 and more so in 2024 could be quite significant, after a stretch of having a POTUS in their 70s who might not understand future trends clearly.
Not everyone has half a million dollars to give a child a good life. Not everyone can make do with economic stress that leads to health problems and a decreased quality of life, just to “have” a family.
Not every woman is willing to sacrifice their career just to have a family. Marriages will be strained in times of economic uncertainty and with rising automation, human relationships aren’t expected to thrive, though we do the best we can.
More Kids More Chores
Due to the unequal distribution of chores in households between men and women, a woman has to know the time and cost of having children and if it’s really for them.
In fact, the American Time Use Survey shows that, on average, parents with children under the age of 18 spend about 1.5 hours per day on domestic and child care responsibilities. Women spend 2.5 hours a day, while men spend roughly only one hour on these tasks.
That is, women are spending 2.5x more time on chores, usually while working at the same time.
Having a child costs — $300,000 + losing 2.5x as much time for a woman
, as a man. About 40% to 50% of married couples in the United States divorce. Divorce rates through are dropping for Millennials, since they tend to get together later in their youth, when they know themselves better.
The instinct to mate and reproduce is strongly conditioned into our biology, but it’s also becoming more rare in ultra competitive urban living where Capitalism has modified our behavior into being individualistic hardy survivors of a rising technological capitalism.
Fewer of us will start a family with a good conscience, because we want to bring a child into a world with the best possible of conditions. Having a child (just because) in non-ideal conditions put them at greater risks for a bunch of things. Such a choice might even be considered unethical by many.
If 40% of outstanding student loan debts will default by 2023, what does that say about Gen Z’s potential to be Mothers, Fathers and to raise happy families? What does it say about a country, when you cannot even afford to raise a family, own a home or have a normal life? Welcome to the new normal of the Middle Class.
Mortgage debt makes up the vast majority of overall consumer debt, but it’s not growing nearly as fast as student-loan debt. We take debt for granted in 2019, because there is no other way to survive, but from $Trillions in national debt to the strategic choices we make to thrive in our youth, capitalism isn’t working very well for young people and it’s only going to get worse if you are under 25.
“We’ll Make it Work No Matter What”
If family is everything, people will do everything they can to make it work but what happens when “love” and family ain’t enough? What happens when we don’t have the funds, skills, time or support system to sustain the possibility of building a life?
What happens when the double work load for women just won’t work in the long-term and burn-out will occur? Work-life balance clearly isn’t optimized for young women in North America and it shows one of the biggest failings of the Middle class.
In short the social equation for young women to bear the brunt of raising a child no longer makes much sense in a career-driven world of ruthless economic uncertainty.
Fewer younger men will be able to be traditional “bread winners” for U.S. households in the future than in the generation of their parents. Millennials are buying homes, getting married and having kids later or forgoing these steps to adulthood altogether at record and increasing rates.
The future is childless
What does it mean for the future of the family institutions? I cannot say, but this trend is impacting everything that’s wrong about Capitalism and for Middle Class women and young aspirant mothers especially.
The data show that the burden of costs and the stress of family life are real and that the economic costs of doing so may lead more young people to forgot the biological rituals for exceptionally individualistic goals and experiences. Having kids is not a biological imperative, but the consequences of not having partners, families and children is also a stress on our mental health.
It’s a lose-lose situation for the future. It’s a tragedy of dreams stillborn. And, it’s going be a growing and more severe reality for young people in the U.S. for decades to come.