A contributor to this blog forwarded an article to me recently that appeared in Sydney, Australia’s, The Sun Herald. It did not appear online. It’s titled, “Do children really make us happy? Alison Cameron compares parenthood with a childfree life.” Author Alison Cameron spoke to Australian parents, the childfree, and looked at international research to find out who are the “winner and losers,” parents or childfree, in five different areas. The next five posts will take each area one at a time. First, the quoted content from Cameron’s article. The first area: Money.
From the article: It seems like a no brainer that children are money vacuums. From the first purchase of the pregnancy bible, What to Expect When You’re Expecting on, the bills just keep coming. According to 2007 figures from the National Center for Social and Economic Funding, its costs the typical Australian family $357,000 to raise a child from birth to the age of 21. If parents choose private education, the cost skyrockets. The Australian Scholarships Group estimates that 12 years of schooling for a child born in 2010 will cost between $110,000 and $424,000, depending on the school.
But not everyone agrees. Research released in March 2008 from the Curtin University of Technology compared the wealth of parents and the childfree (including housing, shares, superannuation <401ks and the like>, and savings), and found that parents were only marginally worse off.
Associate professor Mike Dockery, who produced the research, says it might be wrong to think of children as costs when in fact they are a net benefit. “If you choose to have children and it works out, then you are better off than if you didn’t have them.”
From what I have learned from talking to hundreds of childfree, I would agree that childfree do not necessarily have more wealth than parents. Socioeconomic status spans a wide range. Professor Dockery’s logic, regarding the net benefit of children, however, I question. If you have them, and you enjoy the process of parenting that is a benefit. But you would not know the benefits of a childfree life to figure out whether there would have been more benefit had you made that decision. There are benefits with each decision, but “benefit” is also in the eye of the beholder.
Do the childfree feel less pressure to earn? I am not so sure. We don’t have the costs of raising a child, but that does not mean we don’t feel pressure to earn income. In today economic times, children or not, many people feel financial pressures. Everyone has their own relationship to money, too. Some people put pressure on themselves to earn more whether they have kids or not. It may be because they have goals that need money to attain them, to save for retirement, or it may be a desire for social status, or a need to feel they have “made it.” The reason we can pressure ourselves to earn income can stem from a variety of motivations.
What do you think? Are the childfree more often than not wealthier than parents? Do we necessarily have more financial freedom because we don’t have kids?