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Opinion: This is why Gen Z does not want kids

Evaluating the many reasons why starting a family is not a priority anymore.
Image by Wejdan al Balushi
Parenting is less important to Gen Z than any other generation.

In today’s society, the idea of having kids has become an increasingly complex decision, especially for Generation Z. The societal pressures toward starting a family and pursuing the so-called “standard” path of living have become less of a concern. Instead, personal goals are now at the forefront of many minds. 

These progressive attitudes from Gen Z have sparked confusion for many members of older generations. Although most members of our cohort could not care less what the older generation has to say, the deviation from the “traditional” way of living still raises an interesting question: Why doesn’t the majority of Gen Z want kids? 

One of the biggest concerns that is leading Gen Z to choose this lifestyle is financial insecurity. Of nearly 2,000 Gen Zers asked in a Business Insider survey what they saw as an important goal to achieve within the next five years, 72% said financial security and 27% said starting a family. 

I don’t blame them for choosing to prioritize a solid financial standing rather than becoming a parent. Just look at the statistics.

The median household income has been steadily decreasing since 2019, whereas the cost of living continues to inflate. The price of raising a child from before they are born to when they turn 18, and sometimes longer, is incredibly expensive: ranging from $200,000 to $300,000. Of course our generation feels uncertain about raising a child when these are the conditions we live in.

As a result of the uncertain financial securities of the future, more couples today are choosing to live the DINK lifestyle, or double income with no kids, according to Tai Mendenhall, a professor for the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. 

“The freedom that you have, financially, to do what you want with your life computes very differently when you have or when you do not have children,” Mendenhall said. “People are increasingly gravitating to the freedom and to the financial benefits of just being a couple and not having kids.”

The survey also reported that 59% of Gen Zers said improving their health was an important goal to achieve within the next five years. This checks out when cases of anxiety, depression and overall stress have risen a great deal compared to other generations. Establishing and keeping relationships have already taken a blow due to this concern, why would raising kids be any different?

The way Gen Z differs from older generations is in their capacity to be self-aware about their mental health issues. The ability to take care of another human being while the majority of us can barely take care of ourselves plays a big part in the decision not to have a child. Most find it unfair to bring life into a world where they themselves are not mentally anchored.

Gen Z also takes into consideration their own parents’ relationship, as well as the relationship they have with their parents, according to an informal survey I conducted on Snapchat. Growing up in a precarious environment can be discouraging. When the only frame of reference you have for being a parent or sustaining a healthy marriage is unstable, it seems only fair to question whether you want to go down a similar road or completely avoid it. 

“I think a generation ago, you were just socialized to grow up, meet somebody, get married and be a parent,” Mendenhall said. “And now, I think people feel a sense of agency to do with their lives what they want to instead of what they’ve been socialized to do.”

As Bob Dylan sang: the old road paved by the previous generations is “rapidly agin’.” 

As the most progressive and diverse group, Gen Z has shifted away from the path of what was formerly deemed “the norm” in society. This is especially true for women. According to a Ruby Home survey, it was reported that most women enjoyed the flexibility of not having kids, which is reasonable. The percentage of women in the workforce grew rapidly within the last 50 years, resulting in a change in values among women — many finding satisfaction in just focusing on their careers. 

This new-fashioned life for women is a big stray from our parents’ and grandparents’ typical societal structure. To Yashasvi Singh, a second-year political science student at the University, this may be attributed to social media. 

“Seeing on social media single women being happy and successful without having kids is changing perspectives,” Singh said. “As long as more women are getting educated and the overarching patriarchal mindset of focusing on family is going away, I think this trend will continue.”

As our generation continues to confront the complexities of the world around us, in front of us and inside of us, becoming a parent is a decision many are placing on the back burner for now. 

Does this make us selfish? 

Absolutely not. Taking into account your own well-being first, mentally or financially, is the most considerate thing you can do before deciding to bring life into this world. 

We may be diverging onto a different path than our elders, but it doesn’t mean it is the wrong path. There is no correct way to live life, so it’s important to live it in a way that feels best for you.

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  • Yvonne
    Mar 31, 2024 at 7:22 pm

    Man, what a great article. This easter, I had some talks with my family about general differences, and it is so interesting how oftentimes there is criticism and pressure from those before us to be like them. Thank you for pointing out that we don’t have to be!

  • Chris
    Mar 13, 2024 at 10:26 am

    I fully understand why younger generations are opting out of having kids. Having raised two kids myself as a Gen Xer, I’ve seen the costs of daycare and everything else necessary to raise children skyrocket. But we also need to think about society as a whole if so few Millennials and Gen Z couples no longer have kids. I will never shame or criticize those who choose not to have kids, but perhaps our country needs to look at the fact that we are currently having a very hard time filling skilled jobs and our economy will suffer further as it grays out. The boomers are retiring and no one is coming up behind them to fill much needed jobs to keep this country and economy afloat through tax revenue and productivity. We will further rely on immigration, which seems to be broken with half of the country Xenophobic and angry, we may further close off our borders to much needed workers. Who is going to take care of the Gen Z folks when senior living, nursing homes, etc. are lacking competent caretakers? Social security will suffer as well with the shrinking workforce. Maybe we need to start thinking what the slow trickle of childrearing will do to our society. I’m not sure how we can encourage more people to have children unless there is more of an incentive and affordable childcare credits, parental leave, etc.

  • Hannah
    Mar 12, 2024 at 9:10 am

    As a Millennial who decided just one kid is the right number for me, I can definitely relate. I had thought I wanted two kids, just because that’s feels like the default number – but once I became a parent it became very clear just how much parenthood demands of you, in many different ways. People have varying strengths of urges to be parents (or not), and so I think it’s great to see that Gen Z are feeling more free and confident to do what feels right for them. It’s important to take care of yourself first, and there are many ways to contribute to society beyond having kids.

  • Aidan
    Mar 11, 2024 at 8:36 pm

    Very well-written piece! Shocking that it’s that much to raise a child to 18.

  • Susan
    Mar 10, 2024 at 10:34 pm

    What a great well written article!! Although I’m not a Gen Z and I have kids, I can understand why more people nowadays are hesitant about having kids. Incomes are not keeping up with inflation, so many national and international social issues and a planet slowing dying. If I was a few generations younger I probably would have chosen to be childless.

  • Linda
    Mar 10, 2024 at 10:26 pm

    Great article, gives us something to think about.

  • you're right
    Mar 7, 2024 at 7:35 am

    agree with Solomon – this is for the best – the planet is perilously over populated and anyway, we learned in this same opinion column that gen z struggles with interaction and communication…better to err on the side of repro freedom for all (hope to see these socially awkward young people fighting for that!) than have babies that will just trigger your social anxiety.

  • Solomon
    Mar 4, 2024 at 7:44 am

    How profoundly self-centered.

    Perhaps it is best for humanity this generation does not reproduce. Does it have anything of substance to offer the world? Let it wither and die, leaving only self-gratification as its legacy.

    After all, is life not, “…meaningless, a chasing after the wind…”?

  • Steve Carnes
    Mar 1, 2024 at 1:53 pm

    Very nice synopsis

  • Childfree & lovin' it!
    Mar 1, 2024 at 10:36 am

    As a cusp Xer/Millennial, I was fully aware of the issues laid upon me by my boomer parents and figured wth would I want kids when I’m still dealing with my own sh*t?!

  • Mary Blissenbach
    Mar 1, 2024 at 9:22 am

    I am not Gen Z, but this fits me perfecty. I was 18 when I had the realization kids would not be a good choice for me due to emotional maturity to be a good parent.