“Generation Z is more family oriented than the last two generations and will have the most racially diverse families in U.S. history. They are more interested in quality of life than previous generations and family ranks high on the list for this demographic.”
magine a world in which parents could afford to have several preschool age children while being economically able to survive. What would that look like for the future of the American family? If costs were the only barrier to raising and having a large family, could large families make a comeback in the United States?
According to Census Bureau data, there has been a marked decline in the number of mothers with four or more children, all of which points to the long-term decline of large U.S. families. Pew Research, which has crunched the numbers, found that in 1976, four in ten mothers in their early 40s had given birth to four or more children. But by 2016, that share had shrunk to just 15 percent. The three-child family, by contrast, has held relatively constant. In both 1976 and 2016, roughly a quarter of mothers ages 40 to 44 had given birth to three children.
Despite the dramatic decline of four-or-more children families over the past few decades, the share of Americans who see four or more children as the ideal number is actually climbing. According to Pew, who explored the issue ahead of National Middle Child Day on August 12 found that “Some have recently pondered whether middle children are “going extinct.” But not according to a recent Gallup survey. New data on the number of children Americans see as “ideal” suggests that middle-child families could become more popular again. Roughly four in ten U.S. adults (41 percent) think families of three or more children are ideal, a share rivaling that of around two decades ago.
Donald Trump released a child care and maternity leave plan last August that would offer new mothers six weeks of paid maternity leave, tax deductions for stay-at-home parents and dependent care savings accounts for families. Even Cosmopolitan magazine, the semi-pornographic rag-mag aimed at young feminists says, “America is the only industrialized country in the world that does not offer federally mandated family leave, and Trump’s proposal is a significant shift from the traditional Republican stance against mandating paid leave.”
Conservatives have long been leery of supporting government programs that subsidize lifestyle choices on principal alone, but in a world in which American families are routinely attacked in media with derision and Americans are overtaxed by being forced to pay for the welfare and healthcare benefits for illegal immigrants, it may be time to bury this libertarian and utopian dream.
According to the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform, “At the federal, state, and local levels, taxpayers shell out approximately $134.9 billion to cover the costs incurred by the presence of more than 12.5 million illegal aliens, and about 4.2 million citizen children of illegal aliens. That amounts to a tax burden of approximately $8,075 per illegal alien family member and a total of $115,894,597,664.”
But you can’t talk about reproductive rates in a vacuum. There are many factors that have contributed to the decline in the size of the American family, such as the number of single-female head of households, the declining rate in marriage and the student debt load of women in their prime child-bearing years.
Then there’s the education gap. Those higher on the educational and independent wealth scale usually live in large urban areas that are impossibly expensive for raising children. For those that do have children in these areas, they are often able to afford private schools and nannies and the exorbitant cost of owning real estate within the city. The rest of America’s parents must contend with long commutes, costly day care and crippling student loan debt and taxes.
According to realtor.com, to accommodate larger families, “Gen Xers, who make up the demographic cohort following the baby boomers and preceding the Millennials, are seeking markets that offer large homes and good schools at more affordable prices.” Having suffered significant losses by the Great Recession, Gen X is eager to settle where they can acquire a big home without breaking the bank.
But we can’t talk about large families without talking about Gen Z, those born in 1995 or later, and who have been routinely compared to their grandparents generation and who will make up 40 percent of the population by 2020. Gen Z watched older Millennials struggle with huge student debts and moving back home after the Great Recession as job prospects dwindled. As a result, they are the most frugal, pragmatic and cautious generation to emerge in several decades. Gen Z is largely non-white and also one of the most family-centered generations in decades. Gen Z also doesn’t have the same skepticism for religion—all of which may predict that larger families will make a comeback.
As history has shown, hard times make for responsible people. The question is whether a divided country will ever support American families rather than continuing down the path of trying to manipulate political bases through illegal immigration, draining the resources of young adults and putting future generations at risk.
Strong families make for strong nations. Here’s hoping we do something right for this generation. Believing that Gen Z can afford the unsustainable model of a broken immigration system is a lot like believing in Santa Claus. We must move to a merit based system that makes our nation strong with productive, skilled and principled citizens. For all the societal ills Baby Boomers wrought, I think we owe them that. Reign well.