affording childrenA recent report from the Center for American Progress found that middle class families are experiencing an unprecedented economic squeeze – between stagnating wages and soaring costs of basics like housing, children’s education and healthcare. Most families are having to get by on less. Affording children and the challenge to help them get ahead and stay healthy is tough and getting harder.

We all know that for most families the days of raising a family on one income are well behind us. Besides having two incomes in most marriages, there are cost savings from the being able to live together as a family under one roof. These cost savings go away with a divorce. And while the primary breadwinner (still usually the man) generally does somewhat better financially after a divorce, the lesser breadwinner / primary child rearer very often fares significantly worse.

Affording Children – Rising Costs

The report indicates that the average cost of child care for a family has gone up an average $200 per year over the last 12 years. The cost now is nearly 10 times what it was 50 years ago. On average, child care now consumes about 20% of a family’s budget and the monthly cost exceeds typical rents in every state.

Per capita spending on health care, which we all know has been rapidly increasing for many years, has increased more in the last 12 years for children than for any other age group.

The national birth rate provides evidence that the challenges of affording children are pricing couples out of parenthood. It hovered between 14-14.5 per 1000 people from about 1995 until the financial crisis in 2007. It has dropped each year since then and in 2012 it was only 12.6 per 1000. In the early 1960s it was more than 20.

In addition, the median net worth of households is less now than it was 15 years ago and median family incomes dropped 8% between 2000 and 2012.

A grim picture. It’s becoming more challenging for divorce professionals to help many couples chart a way forward financially post-divorce for their families. It increases the need for us to make such services cost-effective.

I am fortunate in having two grown children who are college-educated, without debt and working. Their mother and I divorced about 20 years ago. Fortunately our family didn’t endure the financial hardships most families endure today. Having and affording children wouldn’t be as easy a choice today as it was in the 1980s.

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