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Why Are Americans Having Fewer Kids?

According to a new study, it all boils down to money.

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Contrary to popular belief, Americans aren’t having fewer children because they’re selfish. Or because they would rather own pets. According to a new study conducted by Morning Consult for The New York Times, more Americans are having fewer kids or opting out of parenthood entirely for a pretty simple reason: it’s really damn expensive.

Surveyors asked 1,858 men and women between the ages of 25- and 40-years old which personal and outside factors most influenced their decision to have children. The cost of childcare topped the list, followed closely by a lack of paid leave. Of those surveyed, 64 percent of respondents noted the high cost of childcare while 39 percent of respondents said that they didn’t receive enough paid leave for a child. Thirty-eight percent said that they actually didn’t get any leave at all, which makes sense considering the US remains one of the only developed nations that doesn’t guarantee it to parents.

Factors like the daunting prospect of home ownership and the overall cost of child rearing were high on the list as well. Of those who said that they wanted or were considering having kids, about 25 percent said that they would end up having families that were smaller than what they’d consider ideal. None of this should come as a surprise. When you look at the cost of childcare by state, it’s clear that it’s literally too expensive for the average person almost anywhere. At its highest, child care costs about $2,982 per month per child in Washington, DC and at its lowest, $665 a month in Mississippi. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the cost of childcare shouldn’t exceed seven percent of families income; a thing that it already does in 49 of the states.

Interestingly, for respondents without children (about 50 percent surveyed), 36 percent said they did not have kids because they wanted to maintain a good amount of leisure time while 34 percent cited not having a partner.