Most American families with children at home are concerned about paying bills on a monthly basis.
One in two people have had at least one personal “economic crisis” in the past year, we learn in the American Family Survey 2018, released last week from Deseret News and The Brookings Institution.
The project surveyed 3,000 U.S. adults across the general population, fielded online by YouGov.
This poll, conducted since 2005, looks at the state of U.S. families through several issue lenses: the state of marriage and family, parents and teenagers, sexual harassment (with 2018 birthing the #MeToo movement), social capital and support networks, and family and public policy.
The fact that half of U.S. families a financially struggling, it follows that Americans are concerned about the cost of raising children. Three in four people with children at home are worried about paying at least one monthly bill, including from the top utilities (34%), rent/mortgage (33%), credit cards (33%), food (32%), health insurance or medical bills (23%), transportation expenses (20%), and loans (including student loans, 20%).
As a result, 26% of folks with kids at home did not pay the full amount of an important bill, and 22% borrowed money to pay the bills. Fifteen percent said they needed to go to the doctor but couldn’t because of cost.
Financial concerns impact peoples’ decisions about having children in the first place.
One of the Deseret News essays analyzing the Survey takes a deeper look at younger peoples’ approach to marriage and family planning. Jennifer Graham (@grahamtoday) titled her essay, “‘First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby…’ or maybe not.” Rewritten today, the song might lead with a couple living together and establishing a career with good health insurance before having a baby.
Riffing on the childhood “Kissing Song,” Graham wittily points out the culture-shift of some younger people changing the traditional order of, “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage,” as the rhyme goes.
Becoming An Adult, the data here show, is first about financial stability: being money-independent from parents, moving out, becoming sufficiently financially flush to support a family — the top three objectives for both young men and young women. Employment and school follow.
Then, it’s getting married and having kids.
In Graham’s words, “Rewritten today, the song might lead with a couple living together and establishing a career with good health insurance before having a baby.”
What’s re-shaping fertility rates in America is explained in the second chart, which reveals what people want to have in place before having children. The top two considerations were (1) being financially stable and (2) having good health insurance, both relatively more important to more people than being in a committed relationship, getting married, or graduating from college.
I recommend you mining the report in its completion, across the various elements studied. Here, I’ve focused mostly on household economics issues that are challenging families and young people contemplating mating and parenting.
The report concludes: “Despite the stresses and other difficulties of family life, this survey continues to send a clear message: that people often find deep happiness…inside of families….This year’s survey underscores that people see multiple stresses and sources of tension for families, but that the institution remains resilient in the face of these tensions….We continue to believe that, despite the challenges of the research, family relationships remain one of the most important sources of meaning and happiness for most Americans.”
Health Populi’s Hot Points: One of the most telling survey results is shown in Table 13th, the last graphic in this post. The question asked what parents do “after children go to bed.”
The top “to dos” were to watch TV or a movie, to use social media, and third, to have sex.
There’s a 20 percentage point gap between watching entertainment and having sex for Dads, and a 28 percentage point gap for Moms.
As we enter this holiday season and consider our New Year’s Resolutions for 2019, I’ve got one ask: let’s make (more) love…not (civil) war. Our health and wellness will greatly benefit from switching up these activities…even if you’re not a parent.