I was struck by this post, from LAmom, in which she suggests that financial concerns are causing women to postpone (or forgo) parenting:
"If women who might be both physically and emotionally ready to have children routinely feel like they can't because of finances, then our society is failing to meet the needs of women and families."
I think LAmom is fairly characterizing the discussion on Feministing that inspired her post, but I wondered how representative those experiences were. I can't think of anyone in my personal acquaintance who really wanted to have kids, but waited because of money. (By contrast, I know a lot of women who wanted to have kids, but didn't want to be single moms, and weren't in a relationship that they wanted to bring kids into.)
More broadly, Dave Pollard claims that people worldwide are having fewer children than they want, due to economic constraints. I'm skeptical about both halves of that statement.
The first part may be true in the sense that the Gallup organization does regular surveys of how big people think the ideal family is, and people in most countries do give higher numbers than the actual birthrate. But I'm not sure how much thought people put into those answers, and whether they actually mean that many people have significant regrets about not having more kids.
The second part of the claim seems especially weak to me. Pollard argues that the widespread correlation between women's education and lower fertility is spurious and that the increased participation of women in the labor force is demand-driven. In other words, women are working because they have to, and therefore can't have as many kids as they want. This seems totally offbase, for several reasons.
- People overwhelmingly have fewer kids in more affluent countries than in poorer countries.
- At least in the US, women's labor force participation is unaffected by husband's earnings, which makes it very hard for me to accept Pollard's claim that it's driven by "economic necessity."
- Pollard cites a statistic that "over 40% of Americans say they would have more children if they were wealthier." In reality, however, in the US rich people have -- on average -- fewer kids than poor people.