Raising a child has never been cheap.
But millennials starting a family today face a double disadvantage that makes it more difficult to have children than it was for their parents or grandparents. Not only is it ever more expensive to have a child, but many young workers today struggle with stagnant or falling wages, leaving them less equipped to cope with those rising costs.
“They’re being expected to do more with less,” says Konrad Mugglestone, a policy analyst for Young Invincibles and author of a report on the rising costs faced by millennial parents.
The math for figuring out how much it will cost to raise a child is different for this generation than it was for their predecessors, Mugglestone says, especially when it comes to child-care costs. Child care and education — not including college costs — now make up 18 percent of the cost of raising a child, up from 2 percent in 1960, according to the report.
That is partly because child-care costs are rising as demand for day care and other similar services increase. Consider: Annual day care costs for a 4 year old range from about $4,300 in Mississippi to more than $12,300 in New York, according to Child Care Aware of America. In roughly 20 states, average annual child-care costs are more expensive than housing.
Those expenses would take up a sizable chunk of the budget for almost any family. But young parents may especially struggle to cover those costs, says Gina Adams, a senior researcher for the Urban Institute. “This is happening in the early stages of people’s earning careers when they don’t have a lot of discretionary income,” Adams says.
For millennials, who entered the workforce in the midst of the recession and economic recovery, the situation is even more daunting. Even though young workers today are more likely to have a college degree than previous generations, they often get trapped in low-paying jobs, according to a separate report by Young Invincibles.
The typical 18- to 34-year-old makes $2,000 less each year than young workers did in 1980, according to Census Bureau. And if they can’t find a way to balance work with raising a family, they risk being stuck in those especially low wages.
Because of their college degrees, many young workers are starting families while they’re still paying off student loans, which could make the idea of starting a child’s college fund seem impossible. Those challenges help to explain why millennials are putting off parenthood more than any other generation in U.S. history, waiting until they feel more financially stable.
People who decide not to put off parenthood often face challenging schedules and tight budgets. Young parents are more likely to go to work earlier and leave earlier than people without children, according to Young Invincibles. Millennials with children are also twice as likely to work an after-midnight shift in order to free up time they can spend with their children during the day.
Despite the efforts, one in five millennial parents lives in poverty, according to the report. And even those financial struggles don’t guarantee assistance with paying for child care — many parents who qualify for aid are put on a waiting list.