Is it possible that pets will take the place of children? The 'Fur Baby' Stereotype Is Hiding the Truth About Fertility Issues
Is one of the key causes of the world's demographic winter couples foregoing children in favor of pets?
Pope Francis conveyed this viewpoint — and landed in the doghouse with pet owners everywhere — when he pushed couples to embrace the gift of children, even adopting orphans, at his Jan. 5 general audience.
Sometimes they have one [kid] and that's it, the Pope explained, but they have dogs and cats who fill the role of children.While this may make others laugh, it is a fact.
However, contrary to popular belief, pet owners do not have fewer children, according to Lyman Stone, a research fellow at the Institute for Family Studies.
He told the Register, We were not able to uncover any evidence that having a pet was connected with any decline in fertility, desires, intents, results, or anything like that.
Pope Francis’s statements were ultimately a very shorthand way to refer to his genuine deeper concern, which is the values of life.
He's the Pope, Stone explained, so talking about the value of life and what people think about life is kind of his job.
Pet owners, on the other hand, are more likely to be families with children, according to Stone. He shared with the Register the results of an IFS proprietary survey of nearly 3,400 women aged 18 to 44 conducted in September, which found that dog owners had 2.4 children, cat owners had 2.3 children, and women without pets had 2.2 children — and that if they don't have children yet, pet owners are more open to having them.
We discovered that persons who possess a pet have slightly higher fertility desires than other people on average, he added, noting that pet owners frequently acquire animals for the purpose of having children.
In surveys, however, persons who value animal life over human life exhibit less desire for children, or even anti-natal views, according to Stone. However, they are the least likely to possess a pet and make up a quite small minority of the population.
Pet ownership isn't among the top ten reasons people choose not to have children, according to Stone. Insofar as pets fit into a story of declining fertility, the growth of "fur babies" is simply one little sign of couples around the world not being able to have the children they desire.
Instead, cultural attitudes toward having a family have evolved, and significant economic developments are further lowering fertility rates by pressuring would-be parents to have fewer children than they would prefer, or to postpone or even forego having children.
We've seen a really significant fertility decrease in a lot of nations in the last 15 years, he added, that is way too fast and way too large to explain through changes in values.We have value surveys, and while values change, they don't change very quickly.
Economic developments, according to Stone, have played a big part, with family-wage blue collar employment drying away, needing more advanced or continuing education to maintain a standard of living, and preventing recent graduates from immediately leaping from their degree into steady work.
We're witnessing a significant change toward the perception that you have to jump through a lot more hoops before you're stable," he added. And the more hoops you make young people jump through before they feel stable, the fewer children they'll have because they'll delay fertility.
Having children is more excessively expensive and difficult, Stone remarked. W They're cheaper than kids, he continued, despite the fact that pets are costly.
Fewer marriages mean fewer children.
According to Bloomberg, according to U.S. Census data, the percentage of U.S. households headed by married parents with children has reached a new low: 17.8% in 2021, down from 40% in 1970. According to the Pew Research Center, 44 percent of childless persons aged 18 to 49 believe it is "not too probable, or not at all likely" that they will have children, up 7 points from 2018.
Most demographic surveys show that U.S. women want "two or more kids," but the fertility rate is 1.6 children per woman, which is far below desired expectations and what a country needs for stable population replacement, according to Brad Wilcox, executive director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.
I believe this is due in part to people not marrying in their 20s, when they have more chances of being pregnant, he said.
The median age of first marriage is 30 for males and 28 for women, according to NMP's State of Our Unions study for 2022. According to the report, 70-80 percent of Millennials between the ages of 18 and 33 support marrying later because "both people will be more mature, more likely to be good spouses, more likely to have achieved personal goals so that they will have no regrets after getting married, and will have had more time to get personal finances in order."
However, this logic "may make marriage seem beyond the reach of many young people, making it more of a Hollywood fantasy than a powerful script for establishing a meaningful life," according to the NMP analysis.
Part of resolving that difficulty, according to Wilcox, is significantly more positive message about marriage as the cornerstone of a healthy life and parenthood as immensely gratifying.
Married persons with children are the most likely to say their lives are meaningful, not lonely, and joyful, he explained.
Changing cultural norms and values is a part of the story. People are delaying having children, according to Stone, because of the cultural messaging that they should focus on other things in their 20s before having children.
But, according to Stone, it is males, not women, who are reducing fertility by seeking fulfillment outside of the home.
Men who stated work came first above family had significantly greater negative effects on their likelihood of having children than women who reported the same thing, he said. A two-pronged attack
But, according to Wilcox, prospective parents who want two or more children may feel unable to achieve their aspirations due to increased financial responsibilities, such as rising child-rearing, schooling, and housing expenditures.
In San Francisco, there are more pets than children, Wilcox remarked. But, according to Wilcox, the scenario demonstrates why more couples are observed treating pets as if they were children they couldn't have in urban environments.
While many Millennials work in technology in San Francisco, a local investigation found that the city is not just not more dog friendly than areas like Tulsa, Oklahoma, but also hostile to those same Millennials having the children they desire.
While San Francisco has a higher median family income than the rest of the country ($122,449 according to the US Census Bureau), the cost of living is greater, and housing for growing families is out of reach. The median home price in 2021 was $1.5 million, more than double what it was ten years previously, and studio and one-bedroom apartments made up 61 percent of new housing.
According to Stone, changing societal priorities on family life, along with growing economic fears, are delivering a one-two punch that is destroying family formation.
According to Stone, a cultural norm of family prioritization, which prevailed in previous generations, might help adults embrace the problems of children. However, as Stone pointed out, the modern economic system is actually supporting these shifting cultural priorities by encouraging employees who lack the financial means to have families to find fulfillment in their jobs.
That is, instead of having children, you might get your purpose from working for the employer, he explained. The Catholic economic worldview, according to Stone, argues that workers should have access to adequate means to ensure the autonomy of their family.
Situations and Solutions for a Wide Range of Problems
According to Patrick Brown, a family policy fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Catholics considering this problem must acknowledge that the difficulties to marriage and having children affect people at different income levels in different ways. As a result, proposals for a parenthood renaissance" must also take this into account.
Brown, for example, claims that low-income people suffer harsh marriage penalties that deter them from marrying because they will lose assistance such as food or healthcare that they rely on to care for themselves or their dependents. In many circumstances, the tax system penalizes single parents on government assistance who marry their children's father or mother. As a result, government policy frequently keeps low-income families together. Brown claims that 14 states have regulations in place that threaten to deprive people of benefits if they have another kid after a specific number of years.
He described it as as anti-natal as it gets.
Working-class families, according to Brown, suffer genuine financial pressures when deciding whether or not to have a child.
Having children is now seen as more expensive, Brown explained.
Brown claims that data reveals one-time rewards, such as baby bonuses for having children, which have been tested in Hungary, Poland, and France, have a minor influence. More importantly, making family life more affordable has a greater impact.
The most fundamental approach of supporting families is to say, We're going to make it simpler for you to make ends meet and finance family life, The said, adding having children at that level makes a difference.
The core issue, he argued, is reorienting our policy perspective to recognize the need of investing in family. Brown proposed five remedies, including a tax policy that provides more generous direct help to families.
The extended, fully refundable Child Tax Credit championed by President Joe Biden, which just expired and paid monthly installments to parents, is one variant that has been pushed. The program has yet to be renewed by Congress.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has proposed that the Social Security Administration provide parents with monthly support (beginning in the third trimester before birth).
Other measures mentioned by Brown include lowering the cost of living in housing and health care, expanding educational access through vouchers, abolishing marriage penalties, and assisting families in dealing with external threats such as sexually explicit material in K-12 classrooms and youth access to online pornography.
Having a child is both financially and socially costly, Brown explained. Thinking of investing in families as a kind of societal investment, and appreciating the hard work that parents do, is the appropriate way to think about it.
Brown said that it's a cultural problem for higher-income people who prioritize values over economic concerns, such as the belief that a profession, travel, or educational pursuits should take precedence over children.
Brown added, That is a dialogue the Church needs to have, and that is what the Pope was aiming at.This is where the Church should step in and ask, What are we actually put on this earth for?