Americans Are Having Fewer Babies. They Told Us Why.

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She said she had such high expectations for parents that she wasn’t sure she could meet them: “I would have the responsibility to raise this person into a functional and productive citizen, and some days I’m not even responsible.”

This generation, unlike the ones that came before it, is as likely as not to earn less than their parents. Among people who did not plan to have children, 23 percent said it was because they were worried about the economy. A third said they couldn’t afford child care, 24 percent said they couldn’t afford a house and 13 percent cited student debt.

Financial concerns also led people to have fewer children than what they considered to be ideal: 64 percent said it was because child care was too expensive, 43 percent said they waited too long because of financial instability and about 40 percent said it was because of a lack of paid family leave.

Women face another economic obstacle: Their careers can stall when they become mothers.

This spring, Brittany Butler, 22, became the first person in her family to graduate from college, and she will start graduate school in social work in the fall. She said it would probably be at least 10 years before she considered having children, until she could raise them in very different circumstances than in her poor hometown neighborhood in Baton Rouge, La.

She admits being “a little nervous” that it may become harder to get pregnant, but she wants to pay off her student loans and, most of all, be able to live in a safe neighborhood.

“A lot of people, especially communities of color, can’t really afford that now,” she said. “I’m just apprehensive about going back to poverty. I know how it goes, I know the effects of it, and I’m thinking, ‘Can I ever break this curse?’ I would just like to change the narrative around.”

Starting a family used to be what people did to embark on adulthood; now many say they want to wait. Last year, the only age group in which the fertility rate increased was women ages 40 to 44. Delaying marriage and birth is a big reason people say they had fewer children than their ideal number: Female fertility begins significantly decreasing at age 32.

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