Kids can bring happiness to their mothers and fathers, but parents need dough before they can delight in those expensive bundles of joy.
Research on life satisfaction statistics largely show children don’t raise your level of happiness — and yet people still keep having kids, and then do it again.
So a new study delved into the kid conundrum and took into account whether parents had problems paying their bills. Without adjusting for financial woes, children reduced happiness. But when financial hardship wasn’t a factor, having children increased happiness, the study determined.
The findings might not be a big revelation for cash-strapped parents coping with rising day-care bills.
“Controlling for financial difficulties we then find that children now increase happiness. Why else would you have them? This appears to solve the puzzle in the literature,” the authors wrote. The study, distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research, was written by Dartmouth College economics professor David Blanchflower and Paris School of Economics professor Andrew Clark.
The study analyzed life satisfaction survey data of one million Europeans in 35 countries from 2009 to 2018.
The findings might not be a big revelation for cash-strapped parents coping with rising day-care bills, but Blanchflower, an expert on the economics behind happiness, told MarketWatch the paper was the first to clearly show how finances weighed heavily on parents’ well-being.
“I’m happy to say it’s bloody obvious. Nobody before has actually found that though,” he said. It was also noteworthy that the difference was so pronounced, according to the professor. “The flip is the big deal,” he said.
Children “raise happiness as long as they do not lead to difficulties in paying the bills,” Blanchflower wrote. But the grandfather of seven knows that’s a lot easier said than done, and has witnessed the fiscal strain firsthand. As his daughter and son-in-law raise one-year-old twins and a two-and-a-half-year old, every month they spend $3,600 on day care, $400 on diapers and buy 32 gallons of milk.
“How do people do this? It’s pretty tough,” he said.
The study concluded that life with step-children was linked with lower life satisfaction than life with one’s own kids.
The study also found that when adjusting out financial worries, children under age 10 raised happiness, but the effects were less pronounced for parents of kids aged 10 to 14. Additionally, the study concluded that life with step-children was linked with lower life satisfaction than life with one’s own kids.
The study is another reminder how hard parents have it these days.
Child care costs are rising all across America and exceed federal government recommendations that families shouldn’t spend more than 7% of their income on daycare. Meanwhile, just five states have paid family leave.
A middle-income, married couple raising a child in 2015 spent 16% more than a family raising a child in 1960, according to a 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture study on the cost to raise kids. The 1960 family would spend $202,020 in 2015 dollars, while a family in 2015 would pay on average $233,610, according to the federal analysis, which excluded the big-ticket items of college education.
Blanchflower said his paper backed the argument that lawmakers should find ways to ease parents’ financial burdens. But that isn’t a simple feat, because the equation must consider how to do it without disadvantaging people who don’t have children, he noted.
Politicians have been floating ideas recently on how to address parents’ pocketbook issues. One proposed federal bill, the FAMILY Act, would establish universal family and medical leave insurance for new parents and caregivers. The Child Care for Working Families Act is another bill hoping to address the issue.
Part of Elizabeth Warren’s platform in her 2020 presidential platform is a universal child care proposal. The Massachusetts senator said her proposal would be close to the child-care offerings the American military now uses.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump — who’s touted his administration’s increased spending on child care for low income families — said he supported paid family leave during his state of the union address earlier this month.
It was one of the moments to garner bipartisan applause.
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