Featured Post

The Kids Aren’t Having Kids: Why Does Choice Scare Us?

The New York Times ran a room for debate during the week about whether it is smart to delay adulthood? The concerns are evergreen. Later Generation Xers and Millennials aren’t buying houses, cars, and are having children much later than previous generations and they still like video games and . The most surprising thing about this room for debate is that it is late to the game for this pearl-clutching genre. The Atlantic dubbed these two groups The Cheapest Generation two years ago and I still see The Atlantic article fly around social media. The Atlantic has a host of articles about delayed adulthood and changing status symbols from 2012. The Bold Italic covered how being childless and in your mid-30s creates a weird sensation of being not-quite adult yet even if you can’t stay out till 1 A.M.

I think these evergreen debates say more about the fact that people seemed overwhelmed and potentially scared by the amount of options that exist for current generations. The debates can also be divided into three categories: Deciding to have kids, the decline in home ownership, and cultural preferences.

Having Kids Later in Life: Soundplanning or Narcissistic Lifestyle Choice

Millennials are allegedly having kids later than previous generations or not really settling down at all. I think this can probably be better translated as Millennials with college or advanced degrees are having children later in life. This is probably true enough. I was born in 1980 and the first pregnancy for my mom. She was 34 and this was considered old for first children then. Now it seems much more common to have children in your mid-30s and later. Most of my friends seem to have their first children between 33-36 but a good chunk of my friends are still childfree and/or still single even though they are in their mid-30s or older. I can only think of six or so people from high school or college that have more than one child.

I suspect the childrearing group can be divided into a few categories: People who don’t want kids at all (The Childfree Movement), People who want children but haven’t found a spouse yet, people who want children but don’t feel financially secure enough yet, and then people like me who are neutral on the idea of having children. I can see leading a happy and productive life without having a family but I don’t feel strongly enough about it to consider myself part of the childfree movement and people in the movement can often be very nuts in their anti-child rhetoric.

The most interesting groups here are probably the childfree and people who want kids but feel financially unready.

I don’t know how big the childfree population is. I knew a few woman who declared themselves childfree in undergrad and they are still going strong. I suspect the movement is small. What freaks people out though is that childfree people are no longer spinster and lonely schoolmarms or librarians or lonely old bachelors in boardinghouses. Now people can choose to be childfree and have long, healthy, and active lives including sexually active lives. There still seems to be part of our collective cultural brain that exists in a pre-Industrial world where children are necessary for labor on the farm or cottage industries. We have not yet fully adjusted to the idea that it is not necessary to have a large number or kids for the sake of survival yet.

The people who want kids but don’t feel financially ready are probably a more interesting discussion. What does it mean to not be financially ready? I suspect that a lot of people could probably choose to have kids and be fine but they don’t want to yet because it would mean cutting back of their nice lifestyle right now and spending less money on themselves. Having kids would mean less money and time for going out and travel and other consumer products and potentially moving away from cities and to the burbs. I could probably afford to have a kid on my current income (assuming it was a true salary instead of a freelancers rate) but it would mean moving farther away from cities than I would like. People in this group are making a calculated decision that they can cut back on personal spending less if they wait to have kids at an older age. I don’t necessarily see what is wrong with this option. People live longer. You can have a kid at 36-39 and still have decades left of life by the time your child reaches 30. But there still seems to be part of our collective brain that thinks people are likely to die in their forties and having kids younger is better.

So people are doing things a bit differently and it causes a freakout. I still have yet to hear someone come up with a good reason why having children in your twenties is better than waiting until your thirties or early forties especially because we are living longer lives.

Why is it bad the homeownership is down?

The Cheapest Generation article has statistics showing that homeownership is down among late Generation Xers and Millennials.

I think there are several reasons for this. I’ve been making decent money since graduating law school but as a freelancer. Many people in my cohort are freelancers. The idea of having a mortgage as a freelancer is kind of scary. Though I suppose it shouldn’t be any scarier than paying the rent as a freelancer. There is also the fact that my generation is supposed to prefer city life and walkability. This is true for me. I love cities and I love being able to walk to buy groceries, to the movies, to bars, etc. There are plenty of areas where I could afford to buy a house but it would require a long commute to SF or New York.

Again we are dealing with issues of choice and which is better and lots of cultural differences. Why is it better for me to buy a house in an exurb instead of renting an apartment in an interesting neighborhood? The argument seems to be that home ownership makes you more mature for reasons I don’t quite get. I’d rather rent a nice one-bedroom than have two acres of property that need caring for. I’m not much of a green thumb. This choice seems to put people at unease though. Previous generations might not have had choices like this at all.

There are also economic arguments against homeownership. Though I am not completely opposed to the concept and do dream of a nice house in Marin or Westchester or a nice condo in SF or Brooklyn.

The Culture Question

Another part of the Millennial complaint brigade is complaining about how they are still into videogames, comic books, and other activities from their childhood.

This is interesting because the video game and comic book industries do feel unique because the consumers grew up and remained loyal to them and the companies changed and started introducing products that were more likely to appeal to older audiences. I am not sure that there was another entertainment product that started out as being for kids and then developed a large supply of adult consumers who stayed loyal. Maybe post-WWII popular music especially rock music and hip-hop? Does anyone else have other examples?

I admit that I find this aspect of the Millennials staying Kids debate to be a bit troublesome but that is probably my own snobbery and cultural elitism coming in more than anything else. I don’t quite understand how explosion and bang wow movies are still big among a good chunk of the over-30 set. And I am one of those people who despair that movies are just becoming bang wow franchises.

But this is really again about choice. There are much more entertainment and cultural choices than there were in generations past. We have an embarrassment of riches. Maybe most people never really liked The French New Wave or Soviet Montage but felt compelled to say they did because it was simply a sign of being adult to have cultural tastes.

We have more choices now and this is freaking everyone out. We can all probably stand to calm down. Kids are still being born. We are not going into a population free-fall. But people still think there is something less than adult about thirty-somethings who are child-free, might not be married, and living on their own in apartments in cities.

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
TwitterFacebookRedditEmailPrintFriendlyMore options

219 thoughts on “The Kids Aren’t Having Kids: Why Does Choice Scare Us?

  1. I’m committed Child-Free. So is my wife. (Which, it’s convenient we agree on this.) Just, too much work and there seems to be no shortage of new humans in the world. Plus, for me it would be adoption, which sounds like bureaucracy hell.

    On the other hand, I tutor a few teens in math and compsci stuff. So on the whole shape the next generation thing, I do it that way.

    Report

    • What percentage of the population would you estimate as being truly childfree as opposed to just being neutral/indifferent on whether to have kids or not?

      Do you think I am wrong when I guess that people overestimate the number of childfree people out there?

      Report

      • Oh I have no idea. I mean, my social circles are heavy with poly-kinky-queer-trans people, so I imagine we’re not quite representative. That said, the “no kids no way” seems a smaller group than “maybe kids someday ’cept it’s way too hard right now.”

        Report

      • Saul,
        I don’t think people are overestimating that. I think you’ve got about 10% or less of the population who is “committed child free” — we’re talking “dumps girlfriend when they start talking about having kids” level here.

        I think people are worried that our society is really making it insanely difficult for kids to actually have A Life (TM), and they’re right to worry about that. So many kids are so deep in debt.

        Report

  2. I don’t quite understand how explosion and bang wow movies are still big among a good chunk of the over-30 set.

    Me too. I enjoyed Terminator 2 a lot, but I haven’t spent the subsequent 20 years wanting to watch it over and over. If I were an academic, I’d be working on a thesis describing how action movies, Twitter, and rap represent the end of the Western artistic tradition in drama, writing, and music.

    Report

    • I don’t know if I would go that far and there are a few enjoyable spectacle movies made every year but the lists of upcoming franchises over the next few years in the Grantland list was absolutely staggering.

      They discussed this on the Slate Culture Podcast this week. Hollywood was always about making money but the studio heads no longer come up from entertainment. They know often come from more polished and corporate backgrounds and finance. Hollywood is also a global industry and explosions and special effects don’t require much in terms of translation and often don’t get lost in translation.

      There is also this strange reverse snobbery going on where it seems like there is a social pressure to be a poptimist and write academically about pop culture. Part of this is an accusation that no one can really like what used to be called high culture and people often just pretend to like things like Joyce or Goddard or Ozu movies to seem intelligent. I consider this to be anti-intellectual.

      Report

      • Ripping a quote from the original, cited in the rebuttal:

        Imagine American movie culture for the last few years without Her or Foxcatcher or American Hustle or The Master or Zero Dark Thirty and it suddenly looks markedly more frail—and those movies exist only because of the fairy godmothership of independent producer Megan Ellison. The grace of billionaires is not a great business model on which to hang the hopes of an art form.

        This is remarkably bad. First, it’s a straight-out cheat to say “imagine this art form if we took away its best products.” Gee, imagine American literature without Twain, Melville, Roth, etc. OMG, all we’d have is Grisham and Jacquelin Susann!

        Second, the arts, generally speaking, have always depended on the grace of financial elites. To worry about it now is to start worrying at least 600 years too late.

        I have a general distaste for cultural criticism, and this is a great example of why. It seems to mostly depend on looking at some current issue without anything approaching sufficient historical context, and clutching pearls as a result of that ignorance.

        Report

      • Gee, imagine American literature without Twain, Melville, Roth, etc. […] the arts, generally speaking, have always depended on the grace of financial elites.

        Twain and Roth made very good livings from their writing (not sure about Melville).

        Report

      • I’m not saying they didn’t (well, Melville didn’t), and of course there are people making decent livings off movies san explosions. I just meant that excising the best of anything and then saying “OMFG look at how crappy things are if we don’t have that best” kind of ignores the fact that we do have that best.

        Report

      • “There is also this strange reverse snobbery going on where it seems like there is a social pressure to be a poptimist and write academically about pop culture. Part of this is an accusation that no one can really like what used to be called high culture and people often just pretend to like things like Joyce or Goddard or Ozu movies to seem intelligent.”

        Please show your work.

        Report

      • I absolutely loved American Hustle, and I wish there were lots more like it, but it hardly aspires to being high art. That it’s brought up as one of the few good examples just shows how stupid and awful most commercial films are these days.

        Report

      • But not Transformers

        And for that matter, not Spiderman.

        Not all bang wow movies are alike. It’s a curious accident of contemporary history that the best bang wow movies of today are about (costumed*) super heroes.

        *While for most of Hollywood history it’s been non-costumed superheroes like most of the things Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood, Charlton Heston, and John Wayne have ever done.

        Report

      • The Bond franchise is weird to me. I can watch Sean Connery in anything, and I liked the one with wossname because to had Diana Rigg (wow, Diana Rigg…. )

        Where were we? Oh, right. Roger Moore was so stiff and bland that he movies became unwatchable, plus they got more and more ridiculous as each one tried to top the last that even an actor as charming as Pierce Brosnan couldn’t make them watchable. I haven’t bothered with the Daniel Craigs.

        But Star Wars makes no sense to me either. So far, maybe three watchable movies out of six (counting III and VI as half each), none of them really great except maybe V, and still people are thrilled at the prospect of more. For both franchises, there’s definitely some greater than the sum of the parts going on.

        Report

      • I’d call James Bond “Competence Porn”. For example, any given scene with Bond trying out something Q gives him compared to Q’s meager attempts to show him how it works. (Though the stuff Q gives him tend to get used as plot coupons as much as anything else.)

        Report

      • And more charisma, and a more commanding presence, and an infinitely superior sense of humor, and was approximately a bazillion times more fun to watch.

        Other than that, I guess Moore had his points.

        Report

      • Dude. You could see Connery picking up a sledge hammer and killing everyone in the room. Moore? He could kill everyone in the room with a scalpel and then take a rose from a bouquet in the waiting room and put it in his lapel and look like he’d been wearing it all day.

        I’m not saying that Connery didn’t belong in the Indiana Jones movies. I’m saying that Roger Moore made a better Bond.

        Report

      • I’m voting Daniel Craig. For taking a bullet to the shoulder, improvising a backhoe as a weapon and a bridge to a moving tain car, jumping in at the last second as the roof of the train gets ripped away, and then fixing his cuff links without looking at them as he calmly proceeds with his business of hunting down the enemy spy.

        Report

      • I’m saying that Roger Moore made a better Bond.

        You do realize that nobody will ever take you seriously again? Ever. About anything. If you recommend eating a candy bar over cutting oneself, folks everywhere will be tossing their candy stash and picking up razor blades.

        Report

      • If you read the Bond books, they spend a lot of time discussing little things like the ingredients of the gourmet meal Bond was eating, the type of gems in the cufflinks he was wearing, and the names of the designers who made this or that product.

        That calls for a guy who comes across as urbane.

        (Personally, I think Brosnan made the best Bond, but he suffered from cruddy scripts as well.)

        Report

      • Not to mention that watching a Roger Moore Bond movie is as close as you can get to watching an Austin Powers movie without watching an Austin Powers movie.

        James Bond has no business in a clown costume.

        Report

      • Moore was a very enjoyable Bond in The Man with the Golden Gun and Live and Let Die and The Spy Who Loved Me. But he phoned in Moonraker which was a deeply silly script anyway, and looked too old to be attractive to either the bit-of-fluff American ice skater or the icy-hot archeaologist-turned-crossbow-assassin that were his romantic and/or sexual interests in For Your Eyes Only. Then he phoned in Octopussy, again likely in protest to another weak script (and the clown costume). I’ll concede that he was more than servicable in A View to a Kill (but eclipsed by show-stealer Christopher Walken as the bad guy).

        There’s much talk of Idris Elba as Bond again following what may be Daniel Craig’s retirement of the role in the upcoming Spectre. I’m all in with the idea of a black Bond, and Elba is a damn good actor. My concern with him is that he too looks a bit too far into middle age to pull it off.

        Report

      • Moore … looked too old to be attractive to either the bit-of-fluff American ice skater or the icy-hot archeaologist-turned-crossbow-assassin that were his romantic and/or sexual interests in For Your Eyes Only.

        Another area in which Connery trumps him. ;)

        Report

      • , Moore doesn’t necessarily come off as urbane in the Bond movies. I can’t imagine Moore’s Bond talking about gourmet meals or jewels with any great amount of expertise. He comes more across like a many trying to impress women and failing badly.

        Report

      • The other problem with Elba is that, from what I’ve seen, at least, he doesn’t have the light touch required to play Bond. Stringer and Luther are both pretty heavy and intense.

        Report

      • Sean Connery looked positively disgraceful in Never Say Never Again, especially considering that he’d already made that same movie, that time with the title Thunderball, something like twenty years previously.

        Daniel Craig is starting to show his age around the eyes even with the help of theatrical makeup, but Skyfall was marbled through with people saying “Aren’t you getting a little long in the tooth for this sort of thing?” to Bond (and to Dame Judi Dench’s deliciously sarcastic M), so a Bond who looks a good deal closer to 50 than 40 was thoroughly right for that script.

        Report

  3. I still have yet to hear someone come up with a good reason why having children in your twenties is better than waiting until your thirties or early forties

    1) Less of a chance of having a retarded baby.

    2) The longer a woman waits, the less fertile she becomes.

    3) More energy in dealing with the day-to-day challenges of parenting.

    4) Being a younger parent increases your chances of being a younger grandparent.

    There’s 4 off of the top of my head.

    Report

    • FWIW, using the phrase “developmentally disabled” here would give you a hat trick of advantages: being more accurate medically, being more inclusive of all of the various actual risks that increase with age, and not being offensive to a whole lot of people.

      Report

      • Even if imperfectly expressed, Scarlet’s list here is pretty on-the-money. #3 and #4 are tradeoffs, as Tod mentions in his comment. However, #1 and #2 are unfair facts. If you really want kids, you shouldn’t wait until one’s late thirties* and really shouldn’t wait until “early forties.” Or, at least, you do so at potential peril.

        * – We waited until late thirties. That was, however, a product of circumstance and reaction and not deliberation. Even though #1 and #2 did not ultimately prove to be an issue for us (on first bounce), #3 and #4 make me with things had turned out differently.

        Report

      • , it might be ideal not to wait until your mid to late thirties to have kids but many times having kids earlier might not be possible for a lot of reasons like not being able to find somebody to have kids with.

        Report

      • Yeah, that falls under the rubric of “circumstances” that held Clancy and I back. In our case, it wasn’t finding a partner, but the huge income/time curve change that was continuously supposed to be right around the corner and kept getting moved back. For others, it is indeed finding a partner.

        Report

      • I’ve largely decided you were uncouth with how you presented your arguments.

        Wow, you must be a hell of a trial attorney

        in court: Your honor, opposing counsel is uncouth. Therefore I refuse to respond to his argument.

        I’ve largely not replied because Tod already did it well

        Actually, didn’t reply to my argument, he objected to one of the words I used. Nice try, though.

        Furthermore, even if you found reason number 1 to be “uncouth” that still doesn’t explain why you ignored 2-4.

        I guess it makes you feel better to call me names than to just admit that I pwned you. Well, whatever gets you through the night…

        Report

  4. I’m just starting this, and I’m sure I’ll comment more fully after I have finished, but after the first paragraph I have to ask… How the hell does “making different life choices than I do” get translated so quickly and so credulously into “delaying adulthood?”

    I love the Atlantic in general, but lordy they do have that Caitlin Flanagan gene that makes them look at any tiny thing people do that is different from what people like Caitlin Flanagan do and declare it a sign of The End of Western Civilization.

    Report

    • It reminds me of when my NYC investment banker brother came to visit me in Steamboat many years ago. “Christ”, he said at the bar one night, “just look at all these escapist losers”. (One of which, of course, was me!) His frame of reference was that anyone who didn’t want to live in a city, didn’t want to live in a big city, didn’t want to compete with the best and brightest for the best jobs and accompanying social status, was a loser who just wasn’t being honest with themselves about their loserdom.

      That was a long night.

      Report

    • On the other hand:

      How the hell does “making different life choices than I do” get translated so quickly and so credulously into “delaying adulthood?”

      Easy. Define “adulthood” as “having kids”.

      Report

    • ‘I’m just starting this, and I’m sure I’ll comment more fully after I have finished, but after the first paragraph I have to ask… How the hell does “making different life choices than I do” get translated so quickly and so credulously into “delaying adulthood?”’

      Some thoughts.

      1. The fact that we can see these as life and/or lifestyle choices is probably very recent. We have more leisure time than ever (even though it doesn’t always feel like it) and more options for what we want to do without lives/careers than almost any other time in the past if not every time. For most of human history most people were required for their physical labor especially in agriculture and then for a briefer time as Industrial laborers. For most of history, people either worked 6 or 7 days a week and the few days of rest involved mandatory religious observation unless you wanted to be shuned, tortured, or killed.

      All the things people can do as single people or childless couples are relatively new from Sunday Brunch to watching sports to video games to movies to classes etc.

      In the world described above you often got married via arrangement and/or if you didn’t get married you probably lead a very lonely life. There were always single people who never married but they were either talked about in hushed tones (meaning people thought they were gay) or they did not live well unless they came from or somehow earned great wealth and power. Confirmed bachelors lived in SROs or Boarding Houses. Unmarried women were sentenced to a worse fate.

      Maybe our brains are still largely stuck in the old society and we don’t understand how people can survive or lead fulfilling lives without children and family because for most of human history you needed children just to survive because children were labor.

      There are still a lot of people who are really co-dependent and a lot of people in couples who view single people with suspicion and as the enemy. I know a lot of people who seemingly think a bad (not necessarily in an abusive way, more in a boring way) or mediocre relationship is better than no relationship because they cannot fathom spending too much time on their own (The phrase ‘Not Mr. or Ms. Right but Mr. or Ms. Right NOW comes up a lot’). If these people are older, they tend to have gone through multiple marriages and divorces and always get a sweetie quickly after each divorce. If they are my age, they seem to start a relationship quickly after one ends. I don’t have much experience romantically but I’ve never been into the rebound thing and it takes me a while to get over someone. In many ways, I am still recovering from a really bad breakup that happened in May* even though I am starting to see someone that I like a lot (we are taking it slow).

      I am also very comfortable with doing things on my own in ways that seem to freak people out. These are things that I can and have done on my own and been told that I am really strong for being able to do on my own: Go to movies, eat at restaurants, eat alone, travel alone, go to museums on my own, spend days by myself, go to bars on my own, go to concerts and music festivals on my own. Is it lonely? Yeah sometimes but I also find that arranging things can be a pain sometimes. The woman I am currently seeing was a bit startled when I said I ate dinner on my own frequently.

      Couples also tend to hang out with other couples and single people can be viewed as a wheel too many. Last week some friends had a dinner party at their new place. It was three married people, two small kids, and me. The wife in the couple I knew least passively-aggressively indicated that she thought my presence was odd and I got the indication that she thought three couples would have been perfect and I made it less than perfect.

      Report

    • @will-truman

      There are plenty of people including New Yorkers who can be highly provincial about where they live. I’ve also gotten plenty of “Why would you want to live in SF or NYC? It is pretentious, expensive, there is no space in apartments, etc….”

      My answers of BAM, Theatre, the Arts, Film Forum, The Castrom, great restaurants always seem to fall on deaf ears. “Why do you need BAM? We have a great community theatre here…..”

      Report

    • To finish my thought (because I forgot my asterisk)

      *This was really my first relationship and for most of the relationship it was long distance and there were parts that were better in theory than in fact. I am not sorry for it and the good parts were really good but in hindsight, there is a part of me that wished we said “Wait a minute, we live three thousand miles apart….” instead of both of us jumping right in. It would have saved both of us a lot of pain. I told my ex that she was really my first girlfriend and she found this absolutely surprising. I don’t think she was ever able to quite comprehend that or deal with the fact that someone could make it to their 30s without a super-serious or long-relationship, just lots of dating.

      Now this could be part of the reason why I am still “neutral” on having kids. Maybe I am still waiting to have a real close-distance relationship and don’t see anything wrong with that. Everyone else got to experiment and explore and get used to their partners and spending a lot of time with each other before having kids, why can’t I experience that? My ex was clearly ready to have kids (and to her credit she expressed this early on) and perhaps I was unconsciously freaked out by this and not ready. Our fearless sea captain said that in his mind the best thing to do if you were unsure about having kids, was to have a bunch. I’ve heard this from of people and I wonder why. Kids are a serious responsibility. Shouldn’t you be absolutely sure you want them before having them?

      Yeah I am 34 and get that I should be thinking about settling down and all and I am not quite as young as I used to be but I still would like to do all the urban dating and just hanging out stuff that I’ve seen my friends do when it is light and fun and free and thinking about which bar or concert you are going to is more pressing than thinking about which house or apartment is in the better school district.

      Report

    • Re: Caitlin Flannagan, I am normally not a fan but this article was really good:

      http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/02/the-dark-power-of-fraternities/357580/

      There is a lot of deadpan comedic writing in this article. Really deadpan:

      “One warm spring night in 2011, a young man named Travis Hughes stood on the back deck of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at Marshall University, in West Virginia, and was struck by what seemed to him—under the influence of powerful inebriants, not least among them the clear ether of youth itself—to be an excellent idea: he would shove a bottle rocket up his ass and blast it into the sweet night air. And perhaps it was an excellent idea. What was not an excellent idea, however, was to misjudge the relative tightness of a 20-year-old sphincter and the propulsive reliability of a 20-cent bottle rocket. What followed ignition was not the bright report of a successful blastoff, but the muffled thud of fire in the hole.”

      Now that is what I call writing!

      Report

    • How the hell does “making different life choices than I do” get translated so quickly and so credulously into “delaying adulthood?”

      I suspect a lot of it is cum hoc ergo propter hoc. You grow up and you notice that adults tend to have children, own houses and consume certain types of media while children and adolescents do none of these things. Then when you grow up you have children, own a house and consume certain types of media. Then you look at the next generation and they don’t have children, own houses or consume certain types of media, and you ask yourself “why are they not growing up?”.

      Confusing the surface features of a thing for the thing itself is a distressing common cognitive error.

      Report

      • ,

        Confusing the surface features of a thing for the thing itself is a distressing common cognitive error.

        its not just that. For lots of people, they view their own conception of the good as not only objectively good, but at least somewhat obviously so (or at least it should be obvious to anyone from a similar social background). Leaving aside whether such beliefs are correct or even justified, it is a logical consequence of the way they view their own conception of the good that they see those who behave contrarily as doing something wrong. In a way, my parents are a bit like that. For them, consuming certain types of media, having children owning houses is not just a thing that they do, but is the proper thing to do. I’ve got a few biases in that direction myself, but I don’t let it infect my politics. Thus occupying certain sorts of social roles is thus constitutive of growing up. For this latter part the idea roughly is that people’s lives ought to have certain templates. Lives which deviate from this template intrinsically aren’t as good (everything else equal) as those which don’t. It isn’t obviously nutso. At the very least it appeals to the little Aristotelian or Confucian in us.

        Report

  5. For women at least (I don’t know about men), fertility declines sharply with age. If a woman is planning to give birth to children in her 30s, she needs to understand that it may not happen, and have a back-up plan. Many young women I’ve talked to seem to assume that advances in medical technology, in-vitro, etc. have solved this problem. They don’t always work, are expensive, and not always covered by insurance.

    I was born on the mid-sixties and adopted my children, the first at 38. Adoption isn’t the answer for everyone. It’s expensive, isn’t always covered, and if you want an infant with no known medical needs, it can take years.

    However, those are reasons that choosing to parent younger rather than older might be a good idea.

    Report

  6. I have friends who had kids when they were around 20. Those kids are now old enough to have kids themselves.

    I have friends who had a kid earlier this year. When the kid graduates high school, Dad will be 60.

    When you say “You can have a kid at 36-39 and still have decades left of life by the time your child reaches 30.”, sure. That’s true. My grandmother, however, has lived to see her great-grandchildren enter middle-school and she might live to see them graduate high school. The person you’re describing? They’ll have a much different relationship with their grandchildren.

    Report

  7. Do people really group all these things together? It seems a dubious proposition; best to take them one at a time.

    1. Having Kids: is correct, of course. I would add, however, that waiting till you are older also increases your odds of staying married to your children’s other parent; it also gives you better odds of having a steady income with which to raise that child. There are, in other words, different increased risks regardless of when you decide to have kids.

    2. Home Ownership: This seems like the other side of the coin that led people who could not afford mortgages in the early and mid-00s to act like Donald Trump. Not buying because it’s risky seems as poor a financial decision as buying more than you can afford because real estate always pays off. Home equity is not a very liquid asset, but it’s still an asset — for most people, the biggest asset they will have at the end of their career.

    3. Culture Question: Having watched Boomers and Gen Xers spend their lives gobbling up shows like Gilligan’s Island, Full House, Welcome Back Kotter, Knight Rider and the A Team, it’s a little hard to take seriously the complaint that Millennials are somehow dropping the grown-up-culture ball with comic books, video games, and movies with superheroes.

    That generation that largely spent its time reading Dostoyevsky, going to avant garde theatre, taking in new art exhibits and seeing art house flicks? They never existed. Ever.

    Report

      • You might be right, but I confess I am non-plussed by the questions asked in this study.

        Did I or didn’t I “hook up” with my wife before we exchanged vows seems like a weird question to ask me to begin with, and it also seems to create something of an unspoken false dichotomy. (Did you wait to lose your virginity until your wedding night, or were you a total slut that boinked anything that moved?”)

        Report

    • “2. Home Ownership: This seems like the other side of the coin that led people who could not afford mortgages in the early and mid-00s to act like Donald Trump. Not buying because it’s risky seems as poor a financial decision as buying more than you can afford because real estate always pays off. Home equity is not a very liquid asset, but it’s still an asset — for most people, the biggest asset they will have at the end of their career.”

      Probably but there are countries that never fetished home-ownership to the extent that the U.S. did (or maybe the Anglo-world did). Germany has a long history of most people renting including the middle class and above. These countries also have policies that turn renting a place into a long-term thing though. IIRC in Germany, you bring in your own appliances and are allowed to remodel without permission from the landlord but the renter pays for it. The Germanic and Nordic countries also figured out how to make government housing that was not seen as being for the poor only.

      But you are right that a lot of Millennials are also suspicious of owning a house because of all the shenanigans that came with the mortgage crisis. Many also lead somewhat nomadic existences and owning a house causes people to sink down.

      The studies I’ve seen shown a discrepancy in where Millennials want to live and where they can afford to buy a house for the most part.

      Report

      • Skipping past my initial knee jerk comment — that the word “fetish” is so watered down in its overuse among liberals that it has become devoid of any non-signaling meaning, the act of owning a home being a fetish being a great example — my response is that what other countries do is somewhat irrelevant.

        If it’s time to move into an assisted living facility and you have $300K equity in your home to be able to afford it (or, perhaps, you’re just retired and you want to travel the world), that equity is an asset you would have given up to your landlord had you rented your entire adult life.

        That people in other countries also lack that asset doesn’t mean it isn’t an asset, or that someday you will either need or want it.

        Report

      • Fetishizing might be too strong a word. I am not personally anti-homeownership and would like to do so one day. However not if it means needing to live in an exurb that is far away from a city center. If there was regular and decent commuter train transport, I would consider otherwise. My hometown was a half hour train ride from NYC and the trains ran 7 days a week and in both directions at least twice an hour, more during rush hour. Most public transit in the U.S. seems to run far less frequently and might be confined to commuter times and weekdays.

        But living in an inner-ring suburb is expensive and city housing is also expensive.

        I was merely pointing out that other Western societies can do the less home ownership thing and maintain good standards of living.

        Report

      • …that equity is an asset you would have given up to your landlord had you rented your entire adult life.

        That is true if the price of a mortgage is roughly the same as or only a small amount more than rent. If rent is less than the mortgage one would get, then one consumes the marginal value of the difference on a monthly basis, likely in lifestyle.

        The possibility of the home appreciating in value is also an incentive to buy rather than rent…if. Again, if. In that case, if appreciation outpaces inflation.

        If one calculates that property values will not appreciate faster than inflation and that available mortgages are roughly equal to available rents, renting seems to be a rational choice.

        Report

      • Seems only right to say that home ownership is good in some cases and not so good in other circumstances.

        I see high ownership rates as a hindrance towards labor mobility, but often a social good. Sometimes a good investment and sometimes a bad one.

        It’s more affordable to buy in some areas than others… but that’s true of renting, too.

        Report

      • It’s also important to point out that saying that buying can cost less than renting in today’s’so environment implies a series of assumptions about a person/couple’s buyer/borrower profile. Some people simply can’t buy (including many who have bought before and made a mistake or bee burned by the unforseeable), while the savings that buying represents depends very greatly on the kind of financing a person can bargain for. Whereas rentals generally have a particular price for all renters, which if you satisfy the landlord as to your reliability, you simply pay in nominal terms.

        Report

      • …Renting is also payment for a vast suite of services that the homeowner assumes monetary responsibility for. I assume that claims that buying can be cheaper than renting considers those costs, but it’s merely that – an assumption.

        Report

      • I wonder how much stories about underwater mortgages scared people in the Late Generation X/Millennial groups off from home-ownership.

        One of the interesting things about having friends who are starting to have kids is seeing which ones are moving to the suburbs and which ones are trying to hold onto living in the city (usually NYC, sometimes SF) with all dear life.

        Report

      • Is there some way that what I said suggested you had erred by implying it must always?

        It can be so while depending on things that affect how we think of the choice in general in very different ways. It’s not clear from “it can,” for example, that in very many circumstances we’re talking about a choice where there really isn’t one, for example, which is significant for the conversation we’re having. And for many others the question is much more clear that renting is more cost effective than buying – all because of differences in buying power.

        It’s really a fairly narrow band of people for whom it’s a close question at all. To a large extent, the issue is deciding how much we should bless social approval trends that make people aspire to things that are unattainable or not wise to try to attain on this rather than that timetable feel inadequate over long stretches of their life – and that tip many others who can attain them to do so at times and with decisions that are not the best for them in the long run.

        Report

      • Burt made a comment about Tod’s calculus holding up only if the mortgage is roughly the same as or a little more than rent. I responded that it can also be less. I stand by that comment, which is the only comment I made (except for the one about buying sometimes being a good idea and sometimes not).

        Report

      • This is true, of course. However, I would argue that if you’re looking at a period of time over decades rather than years than those “ifs” are few and far between.

        I think of real estate as being somewhat like mutual funds in this regard. If you got your first retirement plan in 2006, then by the beginning of 2010 you probably wondered why the hell you didn’t listen to Glenn Beck and put your money in gold coins. But if you keep in in mutual funds and check back in 2046, you’ll probably be pretty glad you did.

        I think real estate is the same way. If you enough time and don’t treat a home as a get-rich-quick scheme, I have a hard time believing the odds won’t be in your favor — even if you have to do a few sell-buys along the way.

        And, for the life of me, I can’t think think of one singe really big estate that I’ve ever heard of where the person passing on and leaving that estate rented their entire life. My own personal experience is anecdotal, I know, but it seems significant that I’ve never heard of even one after all these years.

        Report

      • If rent is less than the mortgage one would get, then one consumes the marginal value of the difference on a monthly basis, likely in lifestyle.

        Or one saves the different. Renting hasn’t stopped me from building equity. I’ve just done it in securities rather than in a house.

        A mortgage isn’t magic. It’s a highly leveraged, non-diversified investment. Which is to say, a fairly risky one. On the other hand, movements in its price are fairly constrained, so that mitigates the risk a bit. A house is very unlikely to lose more than half its value, unless it’s in a location whose economy is dominated by one or two employers, in which case you’re really screwed if things go south, because all at once your mortgage goes underwater, you lose your job, and you need to sell your house (at a loss) and move to find another job.

        In the short run, a mortgage can wipe out your entire down payment (probably your life savings) and then some. If you don’t move for the entire thirty years, you’ll probably come out ahead. But you’ll also probably come out ahead if you invest in a diversified portfolio of securities, and you won’t have to stay in one place for 30 years.

        Whether it’s better to buy or rent depends on a number of factors, most of which can’t be known in advance. All you really know for sure is the current price/rent ratio. But usually the safe, conservative approach is to rent.

        Report

      • And, for the life of me, I can’t think think of one singe really big estate that I’ve ever heard of where the person passing on and leaving that estate rented their entire life.

        In health research, there’s a phenomenon where a lifestyle choice that is generally believed to be healthful will end up being correlated with good health regardless of whether it actually has any effect. This is because people who are conscientious about their health will do a bunch of things they think are healthful. Some of them will work, and consequently even the ones that don’t will be correlated with good health.

        You may be seeing a similar thing here. It’s conventional wisdom that buying a house is the financially prudent thing to do. So financially prudent people, who also did a bunch of other financially prudent things, usually bought houses.

        There’s also the fact that buying a house used to act as a sort of forced-saving program, which would help with those who have the means but not the will to save. The easy availability of HELOCs and other means of cashing out home equity have likely weakened this effect quite a bit, though.

        Report

      • Here’s a pretty good rundown of the benefits of buying and renting. It comes at it from more of a pro-renting slant (Here’s one with a pro-buying perspective).

        A lot of it depends on the issues. I agree with Brandon that buying is more risky, though I don’t think it’s quite right to fixate too much on monthly payments vs rent. If you stay in the house for a prolonged period, the lost monthly money can plummet. Depending on the term of the loan.

        We just spent bought a house for about $250k, roughly. If we stay here for fifteen years, we will have paid $50k in interest. Even adding maintenance and upkeep, that’s a really low monthly cost of living here. That’s assuming that the value of the house stays constant (which was our assumption, even though we feel really good about the direction that housing costs are going to go).

        We’re on a fifteen year mortgage, and our monthly payments plus costs (upkeep, insurance, taxes) all equal probably a bit more than we would be paying if we were renting this place. But it’s hard to imagine a return on investment from securities off maybe a couple hundred dollars a month equating to the over $1,000 a month that goes towards equity if we were to stay here for fifteen years.

        Now, if we have to move next year, we’re taking a bath. If the housing values plummet, we’re taking a bath. But the longer we stay here and the more that the value of the house stays constant, the better of a deal it becomes. We were surprised how quickly the buying would become advantageous for us, even compared to the old place we were renting (which is much smaller than where we are now). We bought first and foremost as a lifestyle choice: The renting market here is tight, and the options were not to our liking.

        This is also the product of the particulars of our situation, of course. We were able to pay 20% down. We have a fifteen year mortgage which cuts down on the total interest payments significantly. If we had a thirty year mortgage, interest would rise but monthly payments would go down (and making the monthly payments much cheaper than rent). And if we lived in an expensive coastal city, everything would change all over again.

        It’s really all in the particulars. Up until now, we’ve never purchased and I’m 100% sure that was the right call in each case. Not the least of which because we haven’t stayed anywhere more than three or four years (and usually less). It’s hard to come up with even the most general of rules about what the average person should do, because it’s so wrapped up in the particulars.

        Report

      • If you stay in the house for a prolonged period, the lost monthly money can plummet. Depending on the term of the loan.

        You mean the fact that the mortgage payment stays fixed for the entire term, while the rent of comparable properties goes up due to inflation?

        That’s true, but it’s more or less (again, according to many factors) offset by the fact the money you saved (or should have been saving) by renting is compounding and earning a growing amount of interest. You can think of the growing wedge between your mortgage payments and rent on comparable properties as interest on your home equity.

        Report

      • It seems like a lot of the discussion about whether it’s wise for millennials to buy houses seems to center on the idea that property values will (or in the counter-argument, will not) rise at a certain level. But property values aren’t really monolithic. As I look around my part of the world, I see that small, cheap-to-live-in communities are dying, while the places where it’s already hideously expensive to live are continuing to blossom.

        Given that, it seems like the math may work out such that the homes millennials can actually afford are shitty vehicles for building equity, while the financial benefits of property ownership accrue to older buyers who spend obscene amounts of money for housing in places like San Francisco.

        Throughout the boom years, there was a strong emphasis on the idea of trading up–that homebuyers would buy “starter houses” in their late twenties or early thirties, build equity in those homes, and then leverage that equity to buy the dream home later in life. Is that still a smart thing today? If not, it may be that the millennials are just skipping the starter home, and still intend to move into the dream house in their late thirties and early forties. From my (quite limited) vantage point, that looks like a wise move. Am I completely off base?

        Report

      • I find it a bit bemusing that home buying v. renting is being looked at only as investment value. There is that, of course, and I’m not suggesting it shouldn’t be discussed. But a person has to live someplace, and so there’s an awful lot of consumption value in a home choice, too.

        My brother is single, childless, needs little space, doesn’t want to have bother with upkeep–including not wanting to have to mow a lawn regularly–and wants the ability to move quickly if a desirable job appears elsewhere. An apartment is the right consumption choice for him.

        In addition to having a wife and kids–the latter of which take up lots of space–I value having a yard to kick back in, plant flowers, etc., and I get a bit of a kick out of fixing up an old place and making it better than it was (albeit very very slowly).

        Each of us has made the right choice, investment decisions be damned.

        Report

      • The kinds of lifestyle choices I referred to in my earlier comment are reflected in the sorts of. Utilities refers to with respect to comparing his own life situation to that of his differently-situated brother. I’d argue that at least to a degree, ‘s brother is presently consuming value that owners like me are investing in equity.

        Report

      • Brandon,

        I was referring to amortization. Next year, we will spend roughly $925 a month* to live in our house, with another $950 going on to the principle of the house. In ten years, though, if we hold other stuff constant, we’re talking about $600 a month. Over the course of the loan, we’re talking about an average of $700. The rest counting towards equity. Let’s say that you could rent it for $1500 (unlikely, but we’ll go with that).

        It seems to me that it would require some… really good investment strategy, to turn that $425 a month into something that’s going to get you $250,000 over fifteen years**.

        Whether the difference in monthly payments would come out to $425, or more, or less, depends dramatically on the local real estate market, the loan term, and what you’re comparing. In our case, the difference would have been less than $425. In Seattle, I could imagine it being more. Alternately, if you rent, you can maybe get a smaller place than you can buy, if you don’t need the space. Particulars.

        * – Including taxes, insurance, and a fair amount maintenance. Excluding utilities, since that’s likely to be roughly the same whether buying or renting.

        ** – I’m assuming a fifteen year mortgage. If it’s over $30, the mortgage payment plus taxes/insurance/maintenance would be $1250 or so, giving you more money to invest if you think that’s wise.

        Report

      • Saul,

        They do, although they’re not as prevalent. But a condo is harder to dump than an apartment, and would cost more. It would probably be nicer, but that doesn’t matter much to him–he’s spent over a decade living in a dorm in Yellowstone, so he’s accustomed to basic housing.

        Report

      • I think the idea of a starter home is also relatively new. Newer than massive suburban home ownership.

        My maternal grandparents grew up in NYC apartments. My mom was born in 1946 and they moved to the suburbs around 1951 into a very modest house where there was one bedroom on the ground floor and the kids had bedrooms on the attic-like second floor. My grandparents lived in this house for the rest of their lives. My grandfather died in the 1990s and my grandmother died in 2000.

        My paternal grandparents rented in NYC until they retired to Florida and bought a condo there. They did own a country home in Putnam County though when my dad was a kid and also had a condo somewhere in North Carolina when I was very young.

        By contrast, my parents have owned three homes. They bought the first one when I was three, upgraded when I was 10, and then sold that home when I was 30 and bought their empty nester place in California. They might downsize again if this house gets to be too much for them.

        I think people used to buy houses as just being places to live and they did just that. There used to be such a thing as mortgage burning parties because people lived in the same house for 30 years or longer. There are also people who have family houses that have been in the family for generations. But sometime in the past thirty or so years, a house went from being more than just a place you live and raise your family to a kind of active investment with people talking about swapping, trading up, etc.

        Report

      • 1. It can get you started in home ownership when you might not be able to yet afford something bigger/nicer, so that you don’t have to keep renting if that’s not what you want. And you can eventually parlay the equity you’ve gained (hopefully) into something more.

        2. Families sometimes grow, and you need more space later. Our first home was 1100 square feet, with two bedrooms. We had 1 kid, an infant. It might have worked ok for two kids, as long as they were the same gender (which, for me, they are), but not as well for 3 kids, not just because of trying to make 3 kids share a room (possible, but difficult) but because other than the bedrooms and 1 bathroom it only had a living room and a kitchen, which wasn’t enough general living space.

        Of course we’ve moved to another state since then, but had we remained in that city, we’d have definitely upgraded by now anyway. But for the time, it was both a very well-sized space for us and all that we could afford. And fortunately for us, housing prices increased enough that when we sold we had a good equity gain to put into a downpayment on our current house.

        That’s not to say it’s the right choice for everyone. Everything you indicate about your situation seems to suggest it’s not the right choice for you.

        Report

      • Burt–Sorry, didn’t mean to slight you!

        Shifting focus, re: Investment value. An important point I gleaned from a pro-renting guy a couple years ago was that the money you put into a down payment could be put into some other investment. That other investment could–potentially–have a greater rate of return.

        Report

      • I’m instinctively dubious about claims that things have suddenly changed in the last X years, particularly when X is just about the whole lifetime of the speaker.

        So I did an n-gram of the term “starter home,” and, lo and behold, that evidence supports your idea that the starter home concept is not prevalent until the ’70s.

        Report


      • “Starter home” makes sense in a couple of situations.

        One, as points out, is when there’s some sort of real-estate boom going on. Might be because there’s a bubble; might be because gentrification is coming. Or there might not be an overall boom, but an opportunity to buy a house that can appreciate more rapidly than the local market as a whole by labor-intensive improvements that the owner is competent to make. I once knew a guy whose hobby was restoring the 14-room mansion he bought for pennies on the dollar, with a reasonable expectation of adding a million dollars to its value by the time he was done.

        The other is the situation I was in when I was young, that has largely disappeared now. It was entirely feasible at the time I joined Bell Labs that I could work for the same company, in the same location, for an entire career. There was a reasonable expectation of ongoing raises and at least a couple of promotions. Start with a small house because it was what you could afford, with the expectation of trading up as your position improved. If you could combine this kind of expectation with the equity growth angle, even better.

        Report

      • I don’t see what your refutation has to do with my point. My whole point is that the concept of a starter home is relatively new and if the term arose in the 1970s, I would call that relatively new as compared with boomers or earlier generations.

        Report

      • I also had ‘s consumption choices point in mind when raising the maintenance costs (money, time, sweat) point.

        For someone for whom those activities (property maintenance and improvement) actually contribute to overall contentedness – who, indeed, will consciously seek to arrange their lives so as to allow time to engage in those activities all things being equal – obviously the “costs” of them are much lower. A person could find himself seeking out opportunities to do work on other people’s property (yeah, you know me), which work won;t improve one’s own property, and if one can even arrange to be paid for it, the rate might likely be lower than what one makes at one’s profession. For that person there is a clear loss if he doesn’t have property to which to apply the work he would want to do regardless.

        Other people have no interest in that kind of work, so the work that is necessitated by property ownership (for the property not to suffer loss of value) is a real cost, whether simply in materials and time/sweat, or in payment for services. These people sometimes buy condos, and one can get a sense of the magnitude of the maintenance costs they take on fully monetarily rather than in effort and time by getting a sense of the amounts that condominium association fees run these days.

        Report

  8. “Millennials are allegedly having kids later than previous generations”

    Allegedly, millennials are currently between 15 and 35 years old. So allegedly, half the demographic are people we haven’t fretted ourselves about being childless since at least the 60s.

    You know who really aren’t having kids anymore? 15 year olds.

    Which is to say, how much of the average age of parenthood being skewed upward by the sharp decline in births by teenage mothers? (the same way a drop in infant mortality – always a good thing – skews up life expectancy)

    (As a mix of anecdote and facts, the people that really didn’t have kids were women in the 1970s. All the school infrastructure that systems had to shut down in the 80s because of lack of enrollment is now back online and mostly over capacity)

    Report

  9. Also, considering we just discussed how vehicle and esp SUV purchases are finally up, the evergreen debate over “Why Are Young People Ditching Cars for Smartphones?” is probably seeing some pine rust.

    Report

  10. People have some very skewed ideas about what marriage and family life used to be like. They have this idea that people whom we would call teenagers now behaved more responsibly in the past and had jobs and kids to take care off and that even the very idea of childhood is a modern invention; the idea that children used to be viewed as little adults. Historically, speaking this is all inaccurate. The British historian Nicholas Orde has proved that people seen childhood and adolescents as distinct time from adulthood at least since the Middle Ages. People made the same complaints about adolescent apprentices, that they like to party too much, that people make about high school students today. We also know that the average age for marriage, at least for England and its derivative countries, from the 1600s to the 1960s was 25 or 26 because people could not afford to get married earlier. The idea that you should get married in your late teens or early twenties was Hollywood anti-feminist propaganda from after World War II in order to get women out of the workplace.

    I’d also argue that the idea of their being distinct entertainment for children and adults is a very new one that does not make sense until the advent of mass entertainment in the late 19th century. When entertainment and leisure opportunities were a lot fewer, class and religion more than age determined what you did for fun.

    Report

      • I’m not an English legal historian, and I’m sure that there are lots of historical records of marriage that can no longer be found and marriages that were never recorded. But as for the English having or later ceasing the practice of common law marriage, see the Marriage Acts of 1753 and 1823. “Common law marriage” as understood today wasn’t really a thing in England at all even before the Act of 1753, but the new law did require the publication of an announcement of marriage (confusingly called “banns”) or the granting of a license. It didn’t apply in Scotland, which had its own laws that frowned on clandestine marriages and its own system for public recognition of marriages. In 1823, the legal hoops for obtaining a license or publishing a notice of marriage were significantly streamlined. But there seems to have been very little objection on the part of either English society in general or English law specifically to couples “shacking up” and having informal “marriages”; it may not have been the strictly proper thing to do and the wealthy could hire lawyers and clerics to make sure that their marriages were proper, but regular folk did as they chose with their lives, and let the formalities of law be damned.

        Report

      • Burt,
        the banns, as I understand, were more like posting a betrothal announcement. You’d be deemed married considerably later.

        The English also seemed to have remarkably little objection to cuckoldry, particularly among the lower classes.

        Report

      • If by “remarkably little objection” you mean the men weren’t allowed to beat their women to death for adultery, then yeah, I’d agree with that. One cannot help but suspect that there were still at least social repercussions for the cuckolded husband, the unfaithful wife, and possibly even for her lover — and the financial and social impact of illegitimacy was no laughing matter for a child who was declared a bastard.

        Report

      • Burt,
        More, it was that the men and women didn’t really seem to care much if their spouse was canoodling behind their back. Both sexes did it about equally (and frequently), so far as I can tell, and the kids stayed legitimate.
        I think it was all a bit of a game…

        Report

      • , common law marriages were never that common before or after the English Reformation. They were frequent enough to exist for legal reasons but most couples, from farm folks to nobility, got married in a church ceremony. After the English Reformation settled down in its final form, English people were required to be baptized, married, and buried by the Church of England more or less. This gives historians a remarkable amount of historical data because the Church of England had to keep records of baptisms, marriages, and deaths. From these records we know that the average age of marriage for English couples was twenty five or twenty six from the 1600s to the 1960s.

        Report

      • You can’t read restoration comedy and transport it to reality. Well you can but you would be wrong as you so often are.

        There were a good deal of people who were pregnant at the time of marriage though, that was not uncommon.

        Report

      • Both sexes did it about equally (and frequently)

        Why do people keep mentioning this? That there are as many men as women having any category of two-partner heterosexual intercourse is implicit in the definition.

        Report

  11. Why Does Choice Scare Us?

    I just know that the HTML gods (or WordPress, same difference) are going to eat my formatting, no matter how much I’ve tested before copy-and-pasting :^(

    Social Security reforms proposed by the Greenspan Commission and adopted by Congress in 1983 or 4 go like this. It’s a PAYGO system with revenue collected by a fixed-rate tax applied to workers’ income and transferred to retirees. The important variables are w the population growth rate for workers, i the inflation rate, p the productivity growth rate, and r the population growth rate for retirees. Taxes collected grows at rate w+i+p; benefits paid grow at r+i; if w+i+p > r+i then the system is solvent. Drop inflation from both sides and have w+p > r as the condition.

    Currently w<r. Is that the end of the world? Not if productivity makes up the difference. The Greenspan Commission assumed that productivity gains would be shared uniformly across the population. In practice, productivity gains since Congress acted have increasingly accrued to capital and to workers earning more than the cap on the tax base. The value of p, from the perspective of the SSA, is approaching zero. So. Suggestions to fix the system include increased immigration, increased childbirth rates, adjusting the statutory formulas to correct Greenspan’s bad 1983 assumption, reducing promised benefits, scrapping the whole thing as a bad deal, or various combinations.

    For people with some set of biases, the problem is that young adults aren’t having nearly enough children.

    Report

  12. So a couple thoughts. I’m a mid 40s guy, divorced, no kids. Intentionally on the no kids part. I’m not part of the “child free movement”, whatever the hell that is. I just wasn’t interested in having kids and the ex had some disagreements on the how we would raise the kids. Note I’m not divorced because she wanted kids either….so…

    Older women having kids: Second the comments about older women, fertility, “medical consequences”, etc. I see A LOT of dating profiles of women that all say the same thing. They focused on their career first, and now, in the late 30s and 40s they want to settle down and have kids. But as I told my childless, never been married friend, guy at this age, if they haven’t had kids, most likely don’t want them (they are focused on retirement-especially in this economy), or if they had them, don’t want MORE of them, as their kids are now rather independent and Dad is looking forward to having free time with the ladies.

    That was the “creating kids” point. Now, about “marrying into them”. Lot’s of women out there who are divorced and looking for a new guy. Add all the reasons why he’s childless at 45 from above, and add in one more: why should a guy take on any burden of raising kids, especially if they aren’t his own?

    Housing: Frankly, in a lot of areas single people, making decent incomes can’t afford to buy a house. I live one such area and it’s marginal to buy. I could have bought the marital estate but I would have been house poor. Being single and having little money to have fun sucks. I’m currently renting and looking into to buying but my state makes it hard to come up with the scratch, given all the taxes at settlement. My financial adviser told me the price of a house I could by and still achieve the goals I wanted–you know–retire at 65. That price is about 75k cheaper than the market rate for the area–and by area I mean an hour drive from my current job……so I might have to move out further? Fun!

    Video games: hell, they are a lot more interesting than tv sometimes.

    Report

  13. why should a guy take on any burden of raising kids, especially if they aren’t his own?

    Because he is a loser who can’t get a woman any other way.

    Report

  14. Good for the kids not having kids.

    Perhaps, someday in the not-too-distant future, we’ll finally see a time where we actually want people to have children and offer incentives for them to do so. The generation of kids that might be parents got screwed out of jobs and economic security but still have aging boomers to support; no wonder my children’s generation seems reluctant to take parenting; they can’t afford it. My generation sucked up all the resources. Shame on us.

    Report

  15. We’ve all known this day was coming, but I didn’t expect it quite so soon. The Ordinary Times has returned to its roots as a gay porn link hub.

    Report

  16. Waaaay off thread, but there aren’t any relevant posts with comments still open:

    Arrests plummet 66% with NYPD in virtual work stoppage.

    NYC cops are protesting de Blasio by refraining from enforcing the law. Traffic tickets, for example, have gone down by 94%. Petty crime and misdemeanors down same.

    “This is not a slowdown for slowdown’s sake. Cops are concerned, after the reaction from City Hall on the Garner case, about de Blasio not backing them.”

    The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association has warned its members to put their safety first and not make arrests “unless absolutely necessary.”

    Whu? I had to read those sentences a coupla times…

    Lots of interesting stuff going on over there in NYC. But one thing libertarians might like is that the NYC cop slowdown will give us a real-world case of whether or not anarchy! results from cops not enforcing the law. Well, unless “absolutely necessary” of course.

    Report

      • Yeah, that’s excellent Saul. I liked this part as a concise summary of the “logic” in play:

        One has to wonder if they even understand, or care, that their “work stoppage” is giving police state critics exactly what they want—less harsh enforcement of the city’s laws.

        Oooh! I can answer that!

        Report

      • Well, it’ll punish city government of course, since a bunch of revenue streams will be cut off. They’re playing a very dicey, high-stakes game of old-school power-politics, and doing it very poorly, it seems to me. But we’ll see.

        Report

      • I doubt NYC is as dependent on tickets and fines as some places like Ferguson apparently is. But i imagine they would notice it. It would also change how the PD rewards cops since they do it based on arrest quotas to some degree.

        Report

      • “We have good news and bad news. The bad? Our revenue from fines and fees is down 75%, costing us tens of millions. The good? We now realize that we had way too many cops, and are cutting the force in half, saving us hundreds of millions.”

        Report

      • I read an article the other day (can’t find it now, of course) that talked about how stuff used to work before there were quotas and other silly little rules. The older cops would ignore stuff like the guy selling loosies or somebody selling little bags of weed (to adults) and establish a relationship with the neighborhood. Now, when there was a murder or a kidnapping or something bad like that? The guy who sold loosies or bags of weed made for great informants because they always knew somebody who knew somebody.

        When cops started busting people for victimless crimes (yeah, yeah, tobacco kills more than 5 million people per year), this source of information dried up…

        Which, effectively, meant that it became a lot easier to arrest people for selling loosies than for murder.

        This is not a place where we want to be.

        Report

      • Jay,
        the goal is to establish a relationship with the neighborhood, still.
        Mostly you want your nice nebby elderly folks helping you out.
        Because nothing like a bored neighbor to notice when someone is breaking into a place.

        I’m pretty sure the businessmen of the underground economy get left as alone as they … can be (bear in mind you have federal versus local jurisdiction…).
        They know the rules, like anyone else — “don’t kill innocents” is a biggie.

        You occasionally see truly psycho gangs, but those get stamped out in a hurry. (by their competitors if nothing else.)

        Report

Comments are closed.