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The Kids Aren’t Alright

By KIM BELLARD

America, like most cultures, claims to love and value children, but, gosh, the reality sure seems very different. Three recent reports help illustrate this: The Pew Research Center’s report on the expectation of having children, Claire Suddath’s searing look at the childcare industry on Bloomberg, and a UNICEF survey about how young people, and their elders, view the future.   

It’s hard to say which is more depressing.

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Pew found that the percentage of non-parents under 50 who expect to have children jumped from 37% in 2018 to 44% in 2021. Current parents who don’t expect to have more children edged up slightly (71% to 74%). The main reason given by childless adults for not wanting children was simply not wanting children, cited by 56% of those not wanting children. Among those who gave a reason, medical and financial reasons were cited most often. Current parents were even more likely – 63% – to simply say they just didn’t want more.

This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Earlier this year the Census Bureau reported that the birthrate in America dropped for the sixth consecutive year, the largest percentage one year drop since 1965 and the lowest absolute number of babies since 1979. It’d be easy to blame this on the pandemic, but, as sociologist Phillip N. Cohen told The Washington Post: “It’s a shock but not a change in direction.” 

In many ways, having children seems like ignoring everything that’s going on. We have a climate change/global warming crisis that threatens to wreak havoc on human societies, we’re still in the middle of a global pandemic, and our political/cultural climate seems even more volatile than the actual climate. One Gen Xer told The New York Times: “As I think of it, having a child is like rolling dice with the child’s life in an increasingly uncertain world.”

Yikes.

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