Kids are expensive

This is not a health policy post, just an observation from my life.

The New York Times reported that fertility rates are declining in America.

Americans are having fewer babies. At first, researchers thought the declining fertility rate was because of the recession, but it kept falling even as the economy recovered. Now it has reached a record low for the second consecutive year.

Because the fertility rate subtly shapes many major issues of the day — including immigration, education, housing, the labor supply, the social safety net and support for working families — there’s a lot of concern about why today’s young adults aren’t having as many children.

The Times asked the young adults who have fewer kids than they want why. The biggest reason (64%) was that childcare was too expensive. Most of the top responses were some variation on the simple fact that kids are expensive.

They are expensive even when you don’t take them to a baseball game where they want popcorn.

I have two kids. Both are out of daycare. The two of them were in daycare concurrently for two years straight and then my youngest was in daycare by himself for another three years. Paying for daycare was the biggest financial challenge that we have faced, it was a bigger challenge than me being out of work for almost all of 2010.

When my wife and I decided that we wanted to start trying for kid #2, we had a long series of discussions as to how we would handle childcare. We used a community based non-profit daycare for our daughter when we were both working and she was an only child. Its price point for full time care was below the Pittsburgh regional average. The two year overlap between our daughter and kid #2 both needing daycare and the first day of her kindergarten scared the ever living shit out of us. We were both doing okay in our careers. We were both employed at salaried positions, and probably a tad underemployed as this was still during the recovery from the Great Recession.

We had two major options conditional on us having kid #2. The first option was to suck it up, acknowledge that we would be broke and in debt and keep both kids in daycare. The other choice was for us to flip a coin to see who would stay home for two years. We figured that, after accounting for bus passes, work clothes and other job related expenses, one of us would be working solely for daycare expenses for two years. The upside of both of us working is that it would not leave another hole in our resumes, as we were reaching a point where careers either launched or flat-lined.

We decided to be broke. We put both kids in daycare. I went to referee every soccer game that my knees allowed. It was a close call. We lucked out. We made it through those two years and both of our careers were able to launch. Those launches would not have occurred if one of us was out of the labor force.

We also joked that at least paying for college would be easy. California University of Pennsylvania is a state school where I refereed too many games. It is a perfectly decent mid-tier school. In 2018, its tuition and fees for in-state students is less than what I was paying for my son’s infant year of daycare in 2013.

College is far less scary financially than daycare. The biggest difference between college and daycare is financing. I have access to relatively easy/cheap credit for college through the federal college loan programs. I am still paying off a chunk of grad school and will do so for another decade at 2.875%. My kids won’t get the same interest rate but we will be able to finance a year of college at a reasonable interest rate for ten to fifteen years. Daycare required payment in full for the upcoming month by the 28th of the current month every single month. We were paying effectively college tuition in cash every month.

The other, far more important challenge for financing daycare versus college is income life cycle. As cohorts, income tends to increase with age through middle-age and then stabilizes for a while. In less fancy terms, people are far more likely to make more money in their thirties than in their twenties and then they’re also more likely to make more money in their forties and fifties than in their thirties. If there was cheap financing that could shift financial burdens through time like student loans, this would not be a big deal. Daycare has no ten year financing option to shift burdens to better times.

Instead, it is a massive cash outlay at a point in one’s life when the odds of having a lot of cash available is fairly low. Helping my kids pay for college is going to be easy compared to daycare as we are likely to be earning more in nine years when my oldest will be a freshman than we are earning now and we can spread her expenses out over several years. We can also save money with seriously valuable and socially non-productive tax advantages to pre-pay a part of college unlike with daycare.

So when we, as a society, tie so many benefits to work and then tell young adults that they have to come up with state school tuition to pay for daycare in cash, some young adults look at the problem of working and raising kids as an impossibility and therefore they don’t have kids or as many kids as they would want.

91 replies
  1. 1
    Raven says:

    Thank goodness for people like us who don’t have kids and get to pay for public education through our property taxes.

  2. 2
    satby says:

    Add in the fact that some, like my oldest son and his wife, just aren’t feeling good enough about the state of the world to bring kids into it. Right now they say they’re considering not having kids ever. And I can’t really blame them.

  3. 3
    Nicole says:

    @Raven: And thank goodness for people who do have kids who grow up to pay for childless folks’ Social Security and Medicare.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    Crashman says:

    Our #2 will be arriving in October and it took a long time to come around to the idea of a second. I am not looking forward to any set of daycare payments; it’ll be tight.

  6. 6
    raven says:

    @Nicole: Yea, you are right. I haven’t been paying into if for 55 years.

  7. 7
    raven says:

    @satby: I made that decision a long time ago.

  8. 8
    Gindy51 says:

    Only had one and she won’t be having any. Thank dog.

  9. 9
    msdc says:

    @Raven: Yes, you get to pay for a prosperous, well-educated society with your taxes. If you have a problem with that, then you’re an asshole.

  10. 10

    There’s another reason they are not having kids: society has evolved enough that it is now socially acceptable to people to admit they simply do not want kids. I’m from the generation before and the reactions to the fact that I was not a mother, would never be a mother, had no desire whatsoever to be a mother, was shock and dismay and disapproval and arrogant certainty that I would change my mind. Because it was assumed I had made a decision when I had no more made a decision not to have kids than a gay person makes a decision to be gay; it’s simply a fact of our lives and selves. Millennials I have spoken to have not had to experience this disapproval, and I am glad for them. I’m too old to have kids now, have never regretted my lack of desire or lack of kids, and in fact have I had several difficult periods where I was deeply thankful I didn’t have them. Not least of all because they would have been *so* screwed.

  11. 11
    Karen S. says:

    If they cared to, Trumpelstiltskin and the GOP will find a way to make child care cheaper for white families. That’s how they roll.

  12. 12
    gvg says:

    Sigh, the why should I pay for public schools in my taxes because I don’t have kids or mine have already grown up is so incorrect. You aren’t living alone. Our civilization depends on many people doing jobs that took education, not just college but all those years from kindergarten on. Your car mechanic, your nurses and doctors, your food farmers, your clerks in every store. You want to get along without doctors and air conditioning mechanics? Then you won’t have the taxes. In addition taxes pay for roads that are absolutely necessary for getting it all to you plus whatever you do getting to everybody else and them paying you. I expect Raven does get this but it’s a pet peeve of mine and I wanted to say it and remind everyone to push back on this casual throwaway line so that people stop and think.

  13. 13
    eclare says:

    This is why I hate the “free college” policy, it should be free child care.

  14. 14
    dnfree says:

    I pay taxes for roads I don’t personally drive on, too.

  15. 15
    Percysowner says:

    Well, I’m doing my bit. Through really good luck, I worked a job with a state pension for 40 years, so I retired with a nice steady income. My daughter had her first child this year and now, I come over every day and watch her. They briefly considered day care, since there is one on site for my SIL, but the 6-9 month wait and the close to $300 a week, helped them decide that I’m the better bet. Plus I do dishes! They occasionally talk about having a second one in 5 years. I have mentioned that by then I’ll be 70 and may not be able to give the same help. But for now, I’m making it easier for them.

    Good daycare is vital to having people want to have kids. But our corporate overlords don’t want to pay to finance that. It’s easier to go after first abortion, then start declaring that birth control is abortion and forcing people to have kids they can’t care for the way they want.

  16. 16
    dnfree says:

    This is a scary article. Add in student loan debt owed during the same years as child care and I see that it could seem insurmountable and risky.

  17. 17
    msdc says:

    College is far less scary financially than daycare.

    Now that we’ve hopefully all gotten past the turd that was dropped in the first comment, I just wanted to thank David for this post. Child care is ridiculously expensive in this country. A party that actually cared about family values (instead of family separations) would do something about it.

  18. 18
    MomSense says:


    My kids are all saying they don’t want to bring children into this world.

  19. 19
    hellslittlestangel says:

    Good news for the rest of the world, maybe. An every man for himself nation is not going to compete well against socialist hellholes.

  20. 20
    msdc says:

    @Percysowner: Depending on where they live, $300 a week for day care (on-site, no less) could be a great deal. Of course, no deal is better than grandparents!

  21. 21
    different-church-lady says:

    Or maybe the youngs have just decided little copies of themselves ain’t all that.

  22. 22
    Percysowner says:

    @Raven: I sent my daughter to private school AND voted for every school levy that came up, because the world is more than just me and the only way this country gets better is if we all take care of each other. You want someone to find a way to cure Alzheimer’s? Or stop global warming? Then they have to be well educated and that means everyone, not just those who can pay out of their own pockets.

    @msdc: Oh, yeah people told them that i was a really reasonable price, hence the 9 month waiting list. It still is a huge chunk of change and a real strain on the budget.

  23. 23
    Percysowner says:

    @msdc: Oh, yeah people told them that i was a really reasonable price, hence the 9 month waiting list. It still is a huge chunk of change and a real strain on the budget.

  24. 24
    MomSense says:


    Free child care and universal pre- k would make such a difference. I do support free community college and trade school. Am I alone in thinking the cost of four year colleges and universities is too damn high?

  25. 25
    different-church-lady says:

    @Constance Reader: It really is remarkable how much thing have changed in the last 15 years. In 2005 I remember thinking, “What the hell? Are childen fetish objects now?” There were frekin’ editorials about how selfish childless people were.

    I think the great recession went a long way towards breaking the spell. Competitive child raising as an affiuence signifier isn’t nearly as much fun when it bankrupts you, and you can offload all the work to servants.

  26. 26
    raven says:

    @gvg: I didn’t say “why should I”, I said thank goodness I do.

  27. 27
    raven says:

    @msdc: And how about if you go fuck yourself.

  28. 28
    Victor Matheson says:

    Yup, I paid for a whole lot of child care through refereeing as well. I can vividly remember a decade ago a buddy and I showing up at a PDL game, both of us with college or higher degrees and very good professional jobs. Both of us were driving beater sub compact cars with mileage closer to 200k than 100k. Suddenly our partner shows up, an unimpressive guy who we knew to be a low level guy at essentially Dunder Miflin. And he is driving a new BMW convertible.

    WTF, we both thought. How is this guy buying that when I have a PhD and am praying for at least two more years out of the Ford Focus. Then we both simultaneously turned to each other and said, “Ah, the joys of no daycare.” $1,700/month back then makes a pretty kick ass car payment.

  29. 29
    different-church-lady says:

    @MomSense: Higher education has become yet another grift. The point is to wring every last drop of financial aid/loan money out of the frogs before they boil to death.

  30. 30
    Steve in the ATL says:

    My kids attend private schools but I am happy to pay taxes to fund public schools because (1) I want to live in a world full of educated people, (2) I recognize how fortunate I am to be in that situation and want to help others who aren’t, and (3) I am not an asshole.

    NB: there may be some controversy about point (3) supra.

  31. 31
  32. 32
    Steve in the ATL says:


    Of course, no deal is better than grandparents!

    Assuming that your kids’ grandparents are not all drunks and/or insane. Uh, that’s totally not a shot at my mother and mother-in-law….

  33. 33
    different-church-lady says:

    @different-church-lady: meant “can’t offload all the work to servants.”

  34. 34
    Kylroy says:

    “In less fancy terms, people are far more likely to make more money in their thirties than in their twenties and then they’re also more likely to make more money in their forties and fifties than in their thirties.”

    I wonder how far down the economic ladder in America this holds true. I’d be surprised if it reaches the bottom 50%, and suspect it may not go much further than the top 10%.

  35. 35
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @raven: yeah, fuck that shit! And fuck our whore supreme court for forcing us to pay for religious schools with our tax dollars!

    And, just for good measure, fuck LBJ!

  36. 36
    ThresherK says:

    I knew I wasn’t put on earth to raise a little human, as I can barely manage taking care of a cat.

    But many of us introverts appreciate the extroverts who get together in panels and boards and do things which need to be done, who become the village it takes, and have no problem paying for schools and head start and the other bits which are needed.

  37. 37
    Kylroy says:

    @Steve in the ATL: …or just don’t want to go through child-rearing again. My mom visibly stiffened up at the prospect of helping me and my wife with childcare. I’m sure she’d be happy to afford us a few nights alone per year, but regularly being in charge of a tiny irrational human was not something she enjoyed.

    And my in-laws are half the country away, which I think is another common condition.

  38. 38
    rikyrah says:

    Real life story.
    One of the managers at my job is resigning. Why? Well, honestly, we are about to have a regime change, and it’s likely that he might not make the cut. And ,to be honest, his set of skills are very specific to our office. You can’t just hire someone off the street to do what he does. I have been chosen for the TEAM to learn about what he does.
    He is also leaving because his wife is pregnant with their third child. By the time the child is born, their oldest will maybe be five. He makes good money-low six figures (which is top of the line for public employees), but, his wife is a doctor. So, he is going to be the stay at home Dad until the new kid gets into nursery school. By that time, the older two kids will already be in school.

    I have another friend, the largest expense they had, larger than their mortgage, was the very nice day care for their two stair steps. Even when they got older, and they were paying Catholic School tuition for two kids, it wasn’t as expensive as their daycare bill😒

  39. 39
    Steve in the ATL says:

    I used to think daycare was expensive too. Then my kids went to college!

    Also, don’t have a kid with a birth defect. We had spent $250k on one of ours by the time she was 24 hours old. Of course, she now has spent nearly that much at Lululemon.

  40. 40
    Nelle says:

    My husband is thinking of retiring next year when he is 75. Not sure yet. Then we’re likely to move about a three hour drive from here to help my son who has one child and wants another one soon. It’s not just the cost of childcare There is no margin for sick children…someone has to miss work. So we will move and provide a margin. So far, my husband does the majority of childcare when we have watched as I’m incapable of carrying her. He was largely absent during our own kids years. I’m glad he’s enjoying this, including diaper duty.

  41. 41
    MomSense says:


    The Reveal Podcast did an important series on the cost of higher education by talking to students who are struggling to stay in school. They have the intellect but not the cash.

  42. 42
    Nicole says:

    @raven: And the average retiree gets more from Social Security and Medicare than they paid in:

    And then there’s people like my childless Trump-voting former friend who wangled her way onto permanent disability at age 40 and will spend the rest of her life living off the taxes paid by other people’s children.

  43. 43
    WereBear says:

    @Constance Reader: There’s another reason they are not having kids: society has evolved enough that it is now socially acceptable to people to admit they simply do not want kids.

    Any tendencies I might have had towards a “family of my own” got extinguished as my parents struggled with many kids and no money. I also got experience many people don’t, which is as the eldest and only girl, I was essentially running a “child raising scenario” with constant domestic duties under the most stressful of circumstances.

    Had I ever had enough resources to consider it, maybe I would have rethought my decision. But raising stepkids under similar time and resource crushes took care of that.

    Nothing makes my blood boil on behalf of Millennials quite as much as clueless conservatives disparaging younger people for not doing the suburban dream exactly as they did; when they didn’t have the crushing financial burdens Republican policies have laid on the Millennials their entire lives.

    They could get through college without crushing debt; they could get homes in a market that hasn’t been played with by Wall Street types for years; they could actually find a job. Because post-war prosperity was made for the early Baby Boomers; as a Generation Jones, I was sandbagged too, but not nearly as badly.

    My own crushing Republican burden is mostly because of myself and people around me having the unpardonable sin of Being Sick in America. They killed my first husband because we didn’t have medical insurance; and now my second is on SS disability. He was cheated out of his private disability insurance which he was sensible enough to buy, then they simply declared him “not disabled enough.”

    Now we are barely hanging in there in an economy which requires two earners and we are about ONE put together, because at my age, I am lucky to be employed at all.

  44. 44
    Barbara says:

    The collapse of the birth rate probably pales in comparison to the collapse of the rate of marriage at various ages. A few years ago I attended my aunt’s funeral and it was with a sort of shock that I realized that none of her grandchildren (of which there were many because she had 8 children) — NOT ONE — between the ages of 20 and 45 was married, even the ones with children. the birth rate is going down, but I suspect that it is also getting pushed forward, so that soon enough, at least for women with a college education, the peak child bearing years will be between the ages of 35 and 40, rather than 25 and 30 as it was for the last generation. This does result in smaller families, which seems totally fine to me. It also probably means most people will work to an older age than they might have.

    Daycare is a huge hurdle, but the desire not to lose too much time from work, and to apportion a reasonable share of what seems like a limited amount of personal time to your children all factor into decisions on the number and spacing of children.

  45. 45
    Barbara says:

    @Nicole: Regarding Social Security and Medicare. It’s important to mind the details on this one. Social Security is a bit off, but could be managed relatively easily with some tweaks on cost of living adjustments and raising the wage cap. But there is simply no way to manage Medicare with tweaks because beneficiaries receive, on average, services that cost nearly three times more than the amount of money they paid into the system.

  46. 46
    What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us? says:

    Yeah the expense, and just as importantly the shafting of the middle class over the past 40 years have really disincentivized having kids. I mean, I was 40 before, between schooling, paying off my student loans, and working my way up the career ladder got me to the point where I could afford a dwelling large enough for me, the Mrs. and a couple kids…how many kids are people that are 40 something and just getting started on a family, because they couldn’t afford to do it earlier, supposed to have?

    My parents’ (just pre-baby boomers) could start having kids right out of high school if they decided to work in the local factory or whatever. My dad got a PhD. Then, immediately, with no publications to his name or anything, got a tenure track college professor position. They bought a house, started having kids in their late 20s on one salary, and they were considered late starters. Now they’re living a comfortable retirement. To their credit they never bitch about kids these days, and never have, from my generation on. They recognize that everyone from GenX forward has gotten thoroughly screwed in comparison to their generation.

  47. 47
    Formerly disgruntled in Oregon says:

    @eclare: Bingo! (although, “porque no los dos?” applies too)

  48. 48
    Nicole says:

    @Barbara: That’s absolutely true and with our system as it is, I’m not sure what the solution is. As David has pointed out here, it’s easy to say, “National Health Care for All!” but it would be a hugely expensive undertaking at the start, and those who benefit the most from the current system (we who ourselves, or our spouses, work for companies that offer good health insurance) would probably come out with less than before. And those with good health coverage under the current system are the ones with the most power to fight any changes. When it comes to one’s own health, it is really, really hard to persuade an individual to make sacrifices for the good of the majority.

    That said, it still pisses the everloving f*ck out of me that the GOP will lump Social Security and Medicare in together when they shout warnings of deficit doom and gloom.

  49. 49
    MagdaInBlack says:

    @Constance Reader:
    I am pretty much word for word “what you said”

  50. 50
    gene108 says:

    On a general note, birth rates are declining all over the world. Considering there are over 7 billion people on a planet of finite resources this is not inherently a bad thing.

  51. 51
    Shantanu Saha says:

    Grandparents are the only cost-effective alternative to daycare for two-earner families.

    When my wife and I had our son, I was ready to fork over the money for daycare, but my parents came in with the offer for us to move in with them, and my wife jumped at it. I privately predicted that she would come to hate them if we lived with them, but gave in because she really didn’t want strangers looking after him. We lasted two years before moving out into our own house. We paid for daycare for about six months before my wife’s mother was able to get a visa to come live with us. Now we only have to cover the three months she goes back to the home country every year. Fortunately, she’s gone from mid-June to mid-September, and since I am a teacher, I am home July and August. Even when I go in for prep work in the last two weeks of August, my parents love to have junior over for those weeks.

  52. 52
    CodeWriter says:

    At first, researchers thought the declining fertility rate was because of the recession, but it kept falling even as the economy recovered. Now it has reached a record low for the second consecutive year.

    That’s cute, but something tells me the researchers looked at overall “recovery” without factoring in exactly how screwed the current older end millennial cohort that’s supposed to be having children right now is doing. Me? My wife and I both make okay money with out college degrees but nothing special. Between student loans, vehicle loan payments (reliable private transportation is vitally necessary in the upper midwest if you want a job), and rent we have plenty of income left over to save and slowly build up enough to buy a house. Childcare expenses, though? They’re more than our rent, both car payments, or both our student loans.

    We make enough money to be classified as upper middle class in my community, but thanks to daycare costs we’re still living with no more than a month or two of savings buffer at any given time. I honestly don’t know how any couple making under 6 figures manages it. We have one child who’s 8 now and always wanted a second, and originally we wanted a 1-2 year gap between the two. Once we got over the sticker shock of childcare costs that quickly turned into a pipe dream and he’s still an only child. He may always be, honestly.

    And you’re right, with college if you can’t afford it you can get student loans to make the difference and they pay it off over time. It still sucks compared to most of the developed world, but it’s an option. Daycare? Not so much.

  53. 53
    But her emails!!! says:


    Yea, you are right. I haven’t been paying into if for 55 years.

    That’s not really how SS works. Current workers fund current retirees. Your 55 years of payments covered your parent’s and grandparent’s retirements with any balance being used to buy aircraft carriers and nuclear missiles.

  54. 54
    EmilyHG says:

    Thank you for this! We had our third a year ago, and we have two in daycare for two more months. We make a solid income, but our daycare expenses are about $30,000/year which has been… pretty awful. The upside is that we aren’t worried about paying for college at all, but it’s been a tough year.

  55. 55
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The parasitic vermin of the 1% do not care about your problems, peasants.

  56. 56
    Ruckus says:

    @But her emails!!!:
    That balance was not supposed to pay for that extraneous crap, like defense. SS was planed and has held up well to changing birth rates. The original model took that into account. Smart woman who worked on SS from the start.

  57. 57
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    but regularly being in charge of a tiny irrational human was not something she enjoyed.

    Now, imagine how John Kelly feels.

  58. 58
    But her emails!!! says:

    Our older child is about to start school in the fall. We’ve probably been paying on average about 28K per year for the two of them once they were both in daycare. A bit less now that they are both older and the rates are slightly lower for the older age groups in our daycare. The elder child going to school isn’t really going to save us any money. Before and after school care combined with coverage in the summer is likely to cost us just as much as her daycare.

  59. 59
    WereBear says:

    “Medicare for all” doesn’t have to deal with the enormous profits made by healthcare insurance companies, of which I have vast and bitter knowledge.

  60. 60
    The Moar You Know says:

    Never wanted kids, and in part that was because even by the time I was a teen in the early 1980s, there was no way to have them and have one parent stay at home and, you know, do that important kid raising stuff. And I could see what was coming down the pike and knew that was going to get a lot worse.

    Plus, frankly, I had my fill when my stepmom had my sister when I was fifteen. They put her in the room next to mine, so I just simply did all the late night changing and feeding. They thought she was the easiest kid ever to raise, lol (in truth, she was). Loved every bit of it, and adore my sis, but that was enough. Fine at fifteen. Can’t imagine doing it at thirty. Or fifty.

    Now, there’s no place in the US where a person can work a full time job and afford an apartment by themselves, never mind have and pay for kids. So if the Nazi party assholes want people to start having more kids, they’d better start agitating for a system that enables young people to be able to afford to do so, because otherwise the demographic catastrophe they’re always gassing on about will just happen that much faster.

  61. 61
    But her emails!!! says:

    When SS was originally implemented, what was the surplus invested in?

  62. 62
    Gin & Tonic says:

    I guess I’m in a minority here, where my wife and I enjoyed and continue to enjoy (for some value of “enjoy”) having had three children, now fairly successful and well-adjusted adults. We are also in a minority in that we didn’t put them in day care – but it required real sacrifices, with us working different shifts and my wife taking a couple of periods of working part-time at hours when I was parenting. We understand the different choices that others make and very seldom get into discussions about this, as every family has to decide for themselves.

    Oh, and we now have two beautiful grandchildren, and my daughter and her husband are also making various complicated adjustments to avoid the necessity of day care.

  63. 63
    MomSense says:

    Speaking of kids, 14 year old just came downstairs to see Richard Engel saying that trump was sending an autographed cd of Elton John singing Rocket Man.

    Kid: Is he trying to get us blown up?
    Me: laugh
    Kid: can we watch a funny movie or something else? I mean this is kind of like a funny movie but without a happy ending.
    Me: sad

  64. 64
    chopper says:

    @But her emails!!!:

    youngest is starting public K in the fall. nursery school/pre-k was about 18k/yr, which is cheap by city standards (through the university, 12
    month program). i can’t imagine being an underemployed 20-something with loads of student debt, taking on the costs of having kids.

  65. 65
    CodeWriter says:

    We are also in a minority in that we didn’t put them in day care – but it required real sacrifices, with us working different shifts and my wife taking a couple of periods of working part-time at hours when I was parenting.

    That’s seldom enough to be enough to afford multiple children these days if you’re just starting your career. The only couple I know that has multiple children close together in age right now is a couple I knew in high school who, in our early 30s now, is living in a poor (and crime riddled) trailer park on one union job income so the mom can stay home with the kids. They’re not the norm, and while they technically make it work I’d rather raise my son in a safe neighborhood alone than give him siblings if we had to live like they do.

  66. 66
    chopper says:

    @But her emails!!!:

    there was no surplus in the beginning. it was purely pay-go. the surplus was created during the reagan years to help when the boomers started retiring. unfortunately, SS was required to keep the surplus in bonds, and reagan saw that bond money as a way to help shore up massive defense-related deficit spending, rather than invest in things that actually pay for themselves.

  67. 67
    Mnemosyne says:

    Several of my coworkers have small children and we have excellent on-site childcare at the Giant Evil Corporation, but excellent=expensive. Two of them were carrying both the family health insurance and the family childcare because their husbands were self-employed, which meant that their paychecks were totaling about $15 per week once all of the deductions were made. Not a joke.

  68. 68
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    Golf clap to the Libertarians, they let the free market decide when it came to children, now it’s a luxury only for the rich. Now the conservatives are in full freak out over how they got their own wish.

  69. 69
    Cermet says:

    Wow, the world has changed in twenty years; while my daycare costs weren’t trivial, neither were they an undue burden and I was a single Dad paying for my daughter. The tax write off was a bonus (I guess like all good things that the middle class enjoyed, tax-wise, that one bit the dust thanks to cutting taxes for the 0.001%.) I even got lucky that she got into a top Ivy league school and they covered 90% of the tuition. People need to realize that even fairly high earners get huge tuition breaks for their kid(s) at these elite school if they want one’s child. Don’t overlook that!

  70. 70
    WereBear says:

    @Cermet: It’s not just college.

    It’s food and clothes and a bigger place to live and reliable (or not) transportation. There’s the legally required “things for them to ride in” if there is a car. Doctor visits, some kind of device is really required (knowing my kid has a cell phone is something I think is important) and they have to know computers and such to be employed at all, plus doing homework; and so forth.

    And any hint of inadequacy makes them targets for bullies. This isn’t “spoiling” the children. In my childhood it was was about being clean and adequately covered for modesty. Everything else could be figured out.

    Now, it is not.

  71. 71
    Capri says:

    I think a big part of the low birth rate is because of factors that are present prior to even having a child. Maternal care and having a baby are hella expensive. The US does not have mandated paid maternal leave. Even before the child care decision is made, having a baby entails huge expenses and it takes a toll on the family. For every example of lip service about wanting more babies born in the country, you can give 10 examples on how there are no mechanisms in place to support mothers and young families.

    My daughter was looking for a job about 2 years ago, and got offers from 2 companies. She didn’t have kids at the time, but knew she eventually wanted a family. One employer offered extended paid maternal leave, fantastic health insurance, and has on-site free child care. The other said they provided the federally mandated benefits (which I think is 6 weeks unpaid). My daughter told that company that she’d consider their offer if they increased her salary by $45,000 to offset the cost of child-care in the Chicago area. You can guess how that suggestion was received. So she went with the first company and has been a very happy employee ever since.

  72. 72
    Heidi Mom says:

    David, thanks for writing this. Because I 1) have no kids and 2) went to college, my focus has always been on the cost of the latter. Now I know.

  73. 73
    gvg says:

    @raven: I thought you probably got it, however I think a lot of people don’t. They don’t bother to think about how all the invisible things work and then they vote in ignorance of how they are hurting themselves. I have come to thinking the “obvious” has to be frequently spelled out, or I will pay the price of more dumb election results. We haven’t had too many really serious things happen in America in a long time because we built a lot of good safety nets like the Federal Reserve and world trade and costed on infra structure. Some really dumb “common sense” ideas have taken root and the reasons they are dumb hasn’t immediately demonstrated so they get stronger. All taxes are bad and I am paying for things I don’t need and never will is a major society error that worries me a lot. Trump and his supporters and Paul Ryan libertarians and the Kochs really worry me. They don’t know how things work and are wrecking my future. I happen to think they are wrecking their future too but not as fast as mine and most of the GOP voters if only I could show enough of them.

  74. 74
    Gin & Tonic says:


    That’s seldom enough to be enough to afford multiple children these days

    I’m not sure what’s different “these days” if you take out the day-care part of the equation. We had our third by the time we were 33 years old. Like I said, we made sacrifices but we worked hard and didn’t live in a trailer or eat Cheerios for dinner. But maybe that’s why I’ve found it’s best to avoid these discussions.

  75. 75
    Citizen Alan says:

    Don’t forget about the environmental factors as well. If you are pessimistic like me and think absolutely nothing will be done to address climate change, then you probably also think that it’s a sin to bring children into a world in which survival will be struggle by the time they reach the age of 40.

  76. 76
    gvg says:

    Yes, I would like to adopt but I know the early childcare is expensive. I also feel I cannot impose on my parents in their 70’s more than once in awhile. As a single woman, it’s challenging. There is also the factor that around here all the daycare ends by 6. Schools expect pick up by 5:30. A small town doesn’t have the traffic that the large one I grew up in does, but enough that these times are hard and take planning and concentration. they also don’t all allow early enough drop off for me to make work. I don’t know how people with nontraditional hours can do it and that tends to be the lowest paid jobs too. In practice this means that while fostering and helping with my nephew, the choices were the daycares and schools that were the closest to my work, not my home. We had to apply for a zoning exemption for my nephew because the closest to our home school was in the other direction from work and the times would never work out. I can never live close to work because everything closest to the biggest employer in the county, is very expensive (duh). Luckily Florida has gone to a pretty liberal view on zoning exemptions.
    I got to know quite a few childcare employees and they don’t make a real living wage even with how much we pay, with pathetic benefits mostly, so we probably need to pay more only how?

  77. 77
    opiejeanne says:

    @Gin & Tonic: We had three as well and enjoyed them most of the time (let’s be honest here). They all turned out to be good decent caring people, never in trouble with the authorities, etc.
    We have no grandchildren and it’s killing my husband. The oldest is not interested nor financially well-off enough, the middle child is approaching 40 and has struggled with infertility, and the youngest said on the evening of November 8, 2016 when it began to be clear that something had gone terribly wrong, “I am not bringing a child into the world while this monster is in office”.

  78. 78
    boatboy_srq says:

    @Karen S.: They can’t do that AND send all the potential nannies and au pairs “home”. Besides, if you can’t afford all sixteen kids then you’re just not Elect®.


  79. 79
    Miss Bianca says:

    Never wanted kids either. Except for that one period when I was first getting involved with my ex-husband, which was right around age 30, that stereotypical age where women are supposed to be hearing their “biological clocks” ticking. Then it turned out that my husband was sterile (because of mumps contracted when he was 10 years old – something that these anti-vaxxers don’t seem to take into account when they talk about how much “safer” it is for kids to get infectious diseases than to vaccinate against them), so we *couldn’t* have kids. I was into the notion of foster/adoption, which I actually preferred, truth to tell, as an option to being pregnant and giving birth, but Ex wasn’t into it, so…no kids. And I have to admit, I’m not sorry about it a bit.

    Not sure why I really never wanted children, and had an almost visceral aversion to babies when, according to everyone around me, I was supposed to be doting on them. I rather think it’s because I had a bone-deep terror of being as emotionally abusive a mother as my mother had been. I just couldn’t bear the thought of not getting my own mental/emotional shit together in time to avoid possibly damaging some poor little soul who had done nothing to deserve it.

    And yeah…the mechanics and expense of childcare were a daunting obstacle. It just fills me with rage and sorrow that our society worships the fetus and despises actual children and working families. It disgusts me.

    So yeah, America…you’ve made your bed, with regard to your future. Too bad you’re so set on getting rid of the one segment of our population – immigrants – who could be boosting that all-precious birthrate.

  80. 80
    L85NJGT says:

    This comment by Rukus last night gets to the heart of the matter – we are drifting into an affordable housing crisis, but nobody seems to GAF. Suburban housing stock is showing it’s age, too expensive, or waaaay the fuck out of town. So the younguns try to make a go of it in the new urban Jane Jacobs fantasy lands being carved out of the old central city. But those are expensive, and doubly so with school aged kids (private schools), so….

  81. 81
    Groucho48 says:


    The other big thing is that SS assumed a certain amount of wage growth over the last 30-40 years when calculating benefits. That wage growth didn’t happen. That and (mostly) red states actively working to get folks on SS Disability and off state safety net programs are two of the main reasons there is a shortfall in SS revenue.

  82. 82
    Karen S. says:

    Good point.

  83. 83
    Luthe says:

    @boatboy_srq: Those sixteen kids are living on food stamps, CHIP, and other government programs. But bootstraps!

  84. 84
    CodeWriter says:

    @Gin & Tonic: I can’t speak for your situation, obviously, but the fact that you’re discussing having grandchildren tells me that neither you nor your spouse were prime childbearing age during the recession. The reality we face is not the same reality you faced, and many of us are making all the same sacrifices you did without half as much to show for it. I am glad, truly, that you made it work.

    Just please do us the favor of recognizing that the reason we’re having fewer children, or no children, isn’t because we’re too lazy to work for it. Most early millennials and late gen-Xers would love the house, dog, 2.5 children “American Dream” we were promised our hard work and longterm planning would allow us to achieve. Imagine how we feel knowing that not only was there no way for us to ever afford that dream, but that we’re now approaching the biological age where it will never happen. It’s not a good feeling, and having people say, “if you’d only worked harder” doesn’t lead to anything but pissing people off.

  85. 85

    @Gin & Tonic:

    I’m not sure what’s different “these days” if you take out the day-care part of the equation

    ??? What kind of argument is this?
    “America’s a red country!! (If you take out California and New York)”

  86. 86
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @John Revolta: My original statement was that my wife and I made significant financial and other sacrifices *to avoid childcare*. CodeWriter responded that that is seldom enough to be able to afford multiple children. I don’t see her/him saying anything about childcare, so I was curious, what else in child-rearing is an order of magnitude more expensive than it was in the 1970’s or 1980’s?

  87. 87
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @CodeWriter: I did not say “if you’d only worked harder”. And I’ll note that the first house we bought was with a mortgage that carried an interest rate of 14%.

    This is why I generally avoid discussing how we approached life and child-rearing.

  88. 88
    Original Lee says:

    I remember those days. Aside from the stress of paying a lot of money to have someone take care of my kids, the supplemental daycare expenses were also an issue. The first rule that I didn’t know about was, you are paying for 52 weeks a year, period. Doesn’t matter that you’re taking the kids to visit the grandparents for two weeks, or that your kid can’t come to daycare because of strep throat or an ear infection or pink eye, or that the daycare is closed due to inclement weather, or that your kid is in preschool three mornings a week. (The two years where we had two kids in daycare and one of the two kids was also part-time in preschool were a really difficult period.) The second rule that I didn’t know about was, just like school, daycare and preschool have supply lists. And finally, the third rule I didn’t know about was, the annual tip to the person(s) who provide the bulk of the care, usually one week’s fee (which I actually didn’t mind about, because they were terrific and not making much money and you know, were taking care of my kids). Keep in mind that this was 20 years ago – we were paying $500/week for 52 weeks of daycare a year, plus preschool. I know a LOT of people who are providing daycare for their grandkids because otherwise, they wouldn’t have grandkids. It’s a real problem.

  89. 89
    Ruckus says:

    @But her emails!!!:
    There wasn’t a surplus then and it wasn’t invested in anything until I believe the 60s. And it was invested in paying for not raising taxes. Congress loaned the fund to the country. It got worse as time passed and now congress thinks it can say that SS is going bankrupt so we might as well kill it. It’s not going bankrupt, SS is working as intended. It doesn’t pay enough but then the minimum wage isn’t high enough and both of those are from business owners pissing and moaning that “we” can’t afford it. It’s bullshit. I’ve been a business owner, I’ve paid those taxes and if you run your business reasonably you can pay good wages and your taxes – right up until the financial geniuses fuck up, again, and we have another recession. If those financial geniuses would actually produce something besides bullshit and zeros on a calculator we wouldn’t have nearly as many recessions.

  90. 90
    Ruckus says:

    Mostly those 20 yr olds with a lot of college debt aren’t having kids. Or having fewer than previous generations. Or waiting for 5-10 yrs.

  91. 91
    Ruckus says:

    @Miss Bianca:
    I didn’t want kids either. I think I turned out OK but really we didn’t have a good home life. For sure not all that bad either but I just didn’t want to risk inflicting my upbringing on more kids. I’ve noticed a rather common theme among my age mates (early boomer), many fewer kids than our parents generation.

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