by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
New data, released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, attracted attention by showing the wide variation in fertility among states. They also prompted commentators to ask: Are kids getting too expensive for Americans to have? …
… There is some evidence from other countries to support this connection. Researchers working on data from Swedish mothers estimated that an increase in childcare costs of 1000 Swedish Krona (about $100) reduces the number of births by about 0.05 per 1,000 women.
Although the relationship between childcare costs and fertility may seem straightforward, their interrelation with other factors makes the picture more complicated. That is because both are affected by one of the most important trends of the past fifty years: rising female wages and labor force participation.
As women have left the home and entered education and the workforce, they have been likely to have fewer children, later, than their mothers. This same trend is linked to rising childcare costs, as the decline of the stay-at-home mom means families need to pay someone to care for their children.
“Women with higher educational attainment and higher potential wages face higher opportunity costs to childbearing. Social scientists have understood that for decades,” Samuel Hammond, Director of Poverty and Welfare Policy at the Niskanen Center, told the Washington Free Beacon. “The question is whether the rising cost of child care is an independent factor in women’s fertility decisions, or a symptom of these other deeper trends.”
Hammond further pointed out that the urbanization of the United States, and its concurrent effect on of how Americans live and work, may be driving childcare up and fertility down.