Children are Less a Cost than a Blessing

Children are Less a Cost than a Blessing

Written by Mark W. Hendrickson |
Thursday, September 1, 2022

As the population declines accelerate, the societal impact will not be pretty, especially for adults who decided that not having children was supposedly a smart economic decision. As is often the case in economic affairs, we see that what makes sense in the short run often does not make sense in the long run. Bottom line: The costs of not having children may be greater than the costs of having them. 

On August 19, The Wall Street Journal published an article titled “It Now Costs $300,000 to Raise a Child.” The calculation came from a study at the Brookings Institution, which in turn relied on data gathered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

$300,000 is a lot of money. A primary reason that the cost of raising a child is so high is the everyday reality we all face: high inflation. As noted by Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow at Brookings, “A lot of people are going to think twice before they have either a first child or a subsequent child because everything is costing more.”

I do not dispute the numbers arrived at in the Brookings study. However, the study is sorely lacking in context. As I recently noted in writing about another important societal issue, i.e., calculating the social cost of carbon dioxide, the most balanced way to frame such an issue is by conducting a cost-benefit analysis. Looking only at the cost side of a ledger can be daunting and depressing. But it’s only half the picture (if that). Comparing benefits with costs completes the picture for a more realistic economic analysis. And since there is more to life than simply economic calculations, presenting only the economic costs of having a child provides less than half a valid analysis.

The great difficulty in trying to compute a cost-benefit analysis for having children is that most of the benefits are non-monetary. How does one attach a dollar value to the love that one feels when sharing the gift of life with children? What are heart-melting moments, heart-felt memories, joy, and psychological and emotional fulfillment worth?

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