According to recent research, American women are more likely than men to benefit financially from forgoing marriage and kids.
Ashley Marrero is single and has no children. She also has advice for other women who share her perspective: You can still have it all.
The 43-year-position old’s as a sales representative for a manufacturer of medical gadgets, which puts her in contact with patients, gives her a great deal of happiness. She also enjoys having the financial and lifestyle freedoms that come with being a childless, single woman with a successful profession.
This includes an apartment in New York City, a brand-new beach property on the Jersey Shore, and regular leisure and business travel.
I love my life and feel very fulfilled, says Marrero, who froze her eggs in 2018 to keep her options open. I love children, and I love all my friends’ children. But I don’t know if I would love my life with children.
Marrero is one of a growing number of women who are delaying or avoiding childbirth. As a result, many are entering a new era of riches and moving upward in their careers faster than previous generations. According to recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, single women without children had an average wealth of $65,000 in 2019, compared to $57,000 for single men without children. The amount for single mothers was only $7,000
Even before Covid-19, people were finding parenthood less appealing, and the hardship the pandemic seems to have hastened the tendency.
According to a Pew Research Center research from the previous year, 44% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 49 who are childless think they are unlikely to ever become parents. This is an increase of 7 percentage points from the previous year.
Since people are getting married later in life and delaying having children, the US birthrate has been declining. For every 1,000 women aged 15 to 44, there were approximately 71 births annually in 1990. According to an analysis by the Census Bureau, that number had decreased to around 58 births by 2019. The most recent year for which data dating back to 1976 are available, 2018, saw a record-high percentage of women between the ages of 25 and 34 who are childless.
Many analysts claim that Americans’ decisions to have fewer or no children is significantly influenced by the rising cost of maintaining a family. The Brookings Institution modified a government estimate to account for inflation trends and added nearly $26,000 to estimate the costs of raising a child born in 2015 until age 17 at $310,605. The projection doesn’t include the cost of a college education.
There are other costs to think about. It has been shown in numerous research that working women experience a “motherhood penalty” both during pregnancy and after giving birth.
Julie Kashen, the director for women’s economic justice at the think tank Century Foundation, estimated the size of the penalty in research conducted prior to the pandemic to be 15% of annual income for each child under the age of 5, with Black and Latina mothers bearing a heavier burden than their White peers.
There’s the consequence for your earnings of having kids, says Kashen. The whole purpose of the women’s movement is to maximize choices for women so that every choice is a viable one. Income should not be a thing that dictates that, which it totally is right now.
According to Melissa Kearney, an economics professor at the University of Maryland, cultural shifts are also causing women to put off or postpone having children. Young adults in America during the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s experienced a new set of social standards regarding motherhood and jobs for women.
“It seems like people’s priorities have shifted,” says Kearney, who’s also the director of the Aspen Economic Strategy Group and a mother of three.
It’s not necessarily that people have less of a preference for kids, or that it’s that much more expensive or time-consuming to have kids. It’s the way those two things are interacting for this generation vs. prior ones.
Marrero, who was married for four years until divorcing in 2008, lives in financial freedom to an admirable extent. The West Village resident is the owner of her own flat, which she restored after purchasing it in 2019 for roughly $900,000. Along with her sister Kristyna, who is a few years older and is also a single woman without children, she also closed on a vacation property on Long Beach Island in New Jersey in June. Ashley estimates that in the past 12 months, she has traveled ten times, frequently with friends from a group of roughly 25 people who are primarily single and childless.
“I found this group so interesting and compelling and fascinating,” says Anna Dickson, 41, who recently traveled to Napa Valley with Marrero and some of their friends.
“All these people are so smart, talented, put together, and they don’t have kids—they’re very independent,” says Dickson, a product manager at Google who is divorced and now lives with her boyfriend of five years in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen.
And I was like, ‘I want that, I want to do all of that.’
“People feel less of an obligation to the family they were born into in all sorts of ways, and to embrace this notion of chosen family,” says Nicole Sussner Rodgers, founder and executive director of Family Story, a Washington-based think tank dedicated to raising awareness about alternatives to traditional family structures.
There are disadvantages to the lifestyle Marrero and Dickson have adopted. People without children and without children pay more in taxes. Additionally, housing is much more difficult to finance on one salary than two, particularly with home prices and rents at all-time highs and rising mortgage rates. Who will take care of them in their old age is another concern for those without children.
For Dickson, the pluses of parenthood don’t outweigh the minuses. “I like to travel, pick up and go whenever I want to,” says Dickson, whose jaunts with her extended family of friends in the past year have included Alaska and Anguilla.
I’d rather regret not having kids than regret having them.
As for Marrero, she’s still paying to store her eggs in case she changes her mind. But she’s certain that even if she doesn’t, she won’t feel like she’s missed out.
If you don’t have children, it may or may not be a choice, she says. But that should have nothing to do with your happiness. You can be so happy going this route, too.