With the release of the results of the latest U.S. Census earlier this year, one of the most noteworthy trends was the nation’s relatively slow rate of population growth. The 7% growth rate from 2010 to 2020 matched a previous low from the 1930s, and 16 states saw their populations decline. One of the major factors behind this trend is a steady decline in the U.S. birthrate.
The proportion of households with children has consistently fallen since the 1960s and the trend does not appear to be waning. In the U.S.—as in many other developed economies—fertility rates have declined in recent decades as social, cultural, and economic structures and preferences have evolved. More recently, increasing debt burdens on young Americans have exacerbated the problem, with many Gen X and Millennial Americans delaying parenthood, having fewer children, or electing not to have children at all due to the costs of raising a family.
The postwar Baby Boom drove the percentage of American households with children upward in the late 1940s and 1950s. More than half of U.S. households had a child during this era, with the share peaking in 1963 as the first Boomers were turning 17. Since then, however, the share of households with children has fallen, dipping below 50% in 1985 and dropping to 40% for the first time in recent history in 2020.
American family life has also changed in other ways related to the decline in births over the same span. Labor participation and educational opportunities for women have increased dramatically, as has the use of contraceptives, all of which have allowed women to delay marriage and childbirth. Meanwhile, divorce and cohabitation by unmarried persons have also become more common, resulting in a range of family structures that differ from the traditional nuclear family.
Despite the increased individual opportunities from these transitions, economic pressures remain a major constraint on whether people will choose to have children and how many. This is especially true for single parents, and single mothers in particular. Household incomes in a single-parent home are naturally lower with one earner instead of two. The typical married couple with children has a household income of $96,571, while single fathers bring in $56,156, and single mothers earn only $40,815. In addition to earning less, single parent homes may also incur greater individual expenses associated with rearing children because they cannot share costs for expenses like housing and transportation, and they may rely more heavily on child care.
For families who want children but are worried about the costs, one possibility is to seek out locations that have lower living costs, and there is some indication that families are already doing so. Utah leads the nation at 35.9% of households with children, followed by Texas at 31.5%, and the two states are tied for 23rd in cost of living, 3.5% below the national average. In contrast, some of the states with the highest cost of living, like Hawaii or many states in the Northeast, tend to have lower percentages of families with children. The outlier is California, which ranks third-highest in the percentage of households with children and second-highest for cost of living.
Utah, Texas, and other affordable states feature prominently on the list of metros that are both affordable and have a high percentage of households with children. To identify the affordable locations with the most families with kids, researchers at Roofstock gathered data on household composition and income from the U.S. Census Bureau and cost of living statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Researchers looked at the areas with the highest percentage of households with kids under 18, and included only those places where the cost of living is below the national average.
The analysis found that residents of Utah enjoy living costs that are about 3.5% below the national average. In total, 35.9% of Utah households have kids, compared to just 26.4% of all U.S. homes. Out of all affordable U.S. states, Utah has the highest percentage of households with kids. Here is a summary of the data for Utah:
- Percentage of households with kids under 18: 35.9%
- Total households with kids under 18: 368,068
- Total households: 1,023,855
- Median income for families with kids under 18: $87,271
- Cost of living (compared to average): -3.5%
For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:
- Percentage of households with kids under 18: 26.4%
- Total households with kids under 18: 32,481,312
- Total households: 122,802,852
- Median income for families with kids under 18: $78,001
- Cost of living (compared to average): N/A
For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Roofstock’s website: https://learn.roofstock.com/blog/affordable-metros-most-families-kids