As a 29-year-old, college-educated professional, I see my fair share of friends posting photos of their newborns on Facebook. This should come as no surprise, but what I am also noticing is a good number of couples posting pictures of their furry friends to Facebook. These are college educated people in their 30s who hold down white-collar jobs and have the means to support a family, but choose to adopt a dog or cat from the SPCA and dress it up for holidays and sporting events just as some would do with their children. These are not just a few fringe people trying to make a statement, but rather a significant number of engineers, doctors, lawyers, and accountants, all of whom are holding off on starting a family…for the time being. What is contributing to this trend?
The notion of working for a company for 20 years and retiring with a pension and a gold watch emblazoned with the company logo is dead. Those just starting their careers and those with five or ten years of work experience can tell you that the current work environment in the United States is very volatile. Millennials face a tough labor market defined by intensity and uncertainty. If you do land a decent paying white-collar job, the threat of layoff is always looming and Americans are working longer hours than ever before. Properly raising a child in this labor environment is a major stress and risky endeavor for all but the most affluent.
Student Load Burden
For those who graduated college in 2011, the average student loan burden was $26,000, and the level of indebtedness is only expected to increase as rising college tuition costs continue to outpace inflation. The debt burden means that young married couples often start out over $50,000 in debt, eroding their expendable income and forcing them to make tough decisions about starting a family. Many young college-educated couples find it irresponsible to bring another person into the world when their household income barely tops their student loan burden. How is a Millennial couple to come up with the funds necessary for raising a child, much less start a college fund for their bundle of joy, when they are still paying off their own student loans?
Cost of Living
Generation Why not only has the task of dealing with crushing student loan burdens, but the increasing cost of living is also creating an economic environment where many Millennials must wait to start a family. The cost of food, energy, and health insurance have increased significantly since the dawn of the new millennium and all of these expenses are creating a scenario where it is just not feasible to add another mouth at the table.
Generation Why tends to be more educated about their family planning options than any previous generation. They have also seen how expensive a modern college education is and just how important such formal schooling is if they are to have any hope of survival in a tough job market in a globalized world. Millennials don’t want their children to endure the stresses that have been pushed upon them so they are choosing to hold off on the dream of a family until their finances can support the immense expense.
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