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Can we afford kids? Talking about the steep pricetag of parenthood

A 4-day-old newborn baby

One of the biggest line items in a family budget is kids, so it's no surprise that many people are opting out of starting a family. America's birthrate is at 1.9 percent, its lowest level since 1920. There are a lot of reasons behind this, but many people feel they just can't afford children. The conversations leading up to that decision can be some of the toughest talks to have with loved ones.

Marketplace Money's Facebook friends Tyler and Jenni are in the midst of conversations about the decision to delay parenthood with their partners right now. Tyler lives in Minneapolis, Minn., with his partner Nicholas. Jenni, her husband Matt, and their 2-year-old daughter live in Murray, Ky. Jenni says she and Matt weren't really financially prepared for the birth of their daughter and although they'd like to have more children, they have decided not to. Matt is enrolled in school, using his GI Bill, while Jenni works at a nonprofit. "We're in our early 30s and we made the hard decision to actively have a child, which was a great decision and I'm so glad we have our little girl, but the way things are now, money is so tight and we just think it would be financially irresponsible to actively work to have our second child right now."

Jenni is familiar with the expenses of having a child, Tyler says he and his partner are also facing the upfront costs of their parenthood options -- adoption and surrogacy. "We recently started looking at the possibility of having kids and I was fortunate to be able to attend a workshop that talked about surrogacy and I was shocked to learn that it can be as little as $25,000-$30,000 to $100,000 or more per child," he says. "Even infant adoption costs between $15,000-$20,000. So, those were some numbers that were quite difficult to face."

Both Jenni and Tyler say they are the more financially savvy halves of their respective relationships and talking to their partners about having kids can be challenging. "I think my husband has continued to have baby fever, so he's anxious to have another child more than I am," says Jenni. "I'm the one who pays all of our bills and takes care of all of our financial side and so I'm always looking at those numbers every month and going 'aaah!' because I have student loan debt, he's about to have student loan debt when he graduates in December. I feel torn because my maternal instinct is strong, too and I love our child and I'd love to have another one, but someone has to kind of put their foot down and say, we just can't do that right now."

Click play on the audio player above to hear the entire conversation.

About the author

In more than 20 years in public radio, Barbara Bogaev has served as the longtime guest host of NPR’s flagship program Fresh Air with Terry Gross, as well as host of APM’s news and culture magazine, Weekend America and the weekly national documentary series, Soundprint.

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