For nearly half the Americans (48%) an ideal family means two children. The trend has been more of less the same in the last decade with many people preferring a smaller family.
But it wasn’t always been the case, according to Gallup.
The early 70s saw a shift in the “ideal” American family from four kids (19%) to two (38%), with an average of 2.9 kids as ideal.
Way back in the 30s, the average number of kids was 3.6, with 22% saying four children; 32% saying three children, and 32% opting two children.
Fast-forward to the present, a different picture emerges with 2.6 as the mean ideal.
Factors like wider availability of birth control pill in the 1960s; increased women’s participation in the workforce and increasing the cost of raising kids accounted for this preference for a small family.
Gallup asked couples why they didn’t have more kids. Most Americans (65%) — with or without children– cited the costs associated with raising a child. About 11% said it’s because of the state of the economy and the jobs situation. Just 6% cited personal choice; 3% cited lack of time, and 3% cited career concerns.
Another important factor is the increasing cost of raising a child from 0-18 in the last decade. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child has gone up from $198,560 to $245,340 in the last five decades.(Those figures are adjusted for inflation and are calculated for raising a child from ages 0 through 17 in a middle-income, two-parent family.)
Housing, education and food are the largest expenses.
Modern parenting is also much different from what it was just a few decades ago. More mothers today are likely to be working. In the last 2-3 decades, the number of working mothers with children younger than 18 has risen from 47% to 71% according to a Pew Research Center report.
Even “traditional” roles for mothers and fathers are eroding. Way back in the 60s women were largely homebound while it was men who went to work. Not anymore, mothers these days are spending more hours per week at their jobs, and fathers are spending more time doing housework. Both mothers and fathers are today spending more time bringing up children though mothers still do more than fathers.
More Americans have a smaller family today. In the 70s, 36% of women in their early 40s were giving birth to four or more children, just 22% gave birth to two children, according to a new Pew Research Center report.
Now women of the same age have two children. About 35% give birth to two children, and just 12% had four or more.