House prices really do affect fertility

Lisa Dettling and Melissa Schettini Kearney find that house prices change whether or not a couple decides to have a baby.

They look at changes in home prices, and find that a 10% increase in home prices leads to a 1% decrease in births among non-homeowners. They argue that the cost of housing is the largest cost to raising a child– more than food, daycare, or education.  So if you don’t own a home already, rising housing costs increase your cost to getting a larger space to raise kids.  Related to this idea, they find that the negative effects are stronger for each additional kid than they are for the first kid, and they’re stronger for mothers over the age of 30.

They also find that a 10% increase in home prices leads to a 4.5% increase in births among home owners.  Why?  They argue that home-owners now feel wealthier so they feel more like they can afford another kid.  These price effects are stronger for women under the age of 30.

Additionally, they find that these effects of housing costs is greater than that of unemployment rates.

Have housing prices in your area affected your fertility?  Or has your desired fertility affected where you want to live?

12 Responses to “House prices really do affect fertility”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    Yup..I think it’s true, at least for me. There were 2 prerequisites to deciding to start trying to have a family: 1) Being married to someone who wants kids and 2) Being able to afford paying for one once they were born. Home ownership came first…before marriage, before children and even with a house, I wanted certain things completed before a kid entered the picture.

  2. Perpetua Says:

    We never bought a house because we were never confident that we would live in one place for more than 2-3 years (plus when we finally got into a position to buy, we felt like the houses in our area were way overvalued – it was during the bubble – so it seemed smart to keep renting). And we haven’t. Now we’ve got a couple of kids, and can’t afford to buy a house, because all of our money basically is eaten up with child care costs (etc) so we’re finding it difficult to accumulate the money for a down payment. (The mortgage itself wouldn’t be a problem.) Of course, having actual kids, especially slightly older kids, can affect where to buy a house, because you’re more likely to worry about the school system. Here, we don’t care that we’re not in a good district; the kids are in private preschool. But when we move, it’ll be a huge decision – buy a very expensive house in an upscale neighborhood so we can be in the “good” elementary district, or buy a cheaper house somewhere else and send them to private school. So, housing prices haven’t affected my fertility because I’ve been happy renting and don’t think home ownership is the end all be all, but it has affected my ability to buy a house.

  3. Anon_1 Says:

    I wanted to own before having kids. But when I did own, I didn’t have children, and now we’re renting (and will have to for at least a year more if not 2), but making plans for children. I’d prefer to own a home, have space for a room that is just the kid’s (as it is, the child will have to share with workout equipment…I feel less guilty when I figure a baby would probably care less). I realized recently that saying we need own again before having kids is just putting things off. Being a perfectionist, I worry about not having a house, enough money, the right job, before starting a family. That has held me back from what I really want–a kid.

    When we do buy again, school districts matter, neighborhoods matter. But most immediately? Our desire to have children has very much affected where we want to live. The state, the city, the closeness to certain relatives (not ALL relatives!! haha). We are moving in large part because of that–I simply can not fathom having babies so far away from the friends and family I would want around.

    Sorry this is anon…Ive not gone public with our plans.

  4. chacha1 Says:

    I’ve never wanted to be a mother, so homeownership : fertility has been a non-issue. :-) Anecdotally, I know a few women who waited until they were married and homeowners before trying to get pregnant.

    It’s an interesting association … but given that 40% of all pregnancies are reportedly unplanned, I would guess that the increase in fertility among women who are already homeowners, and whose home value increases, has more to do with less care taken to avoid pregnancy, than with *intentionally* increasing the number of children. Younger women who already have kids are also more likely to have additional children than older women.

    I really don’t think the question is answered simply by looking at fertility : home prices. Intention has to be analyzed too. If you *want* to get pregnant – at some point, even if not “right now” – then feeling more prosperous might make you a little less careful, or a little more “if it happens it happens.” Versus if you aren’t sure you want to get pregnant, or if you want to get pregnant but DEFINITELY not now, feeling less prosperous might make you a little *more* careful.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      (Married women also sometimes *gasp* abort…)

      • chacha1 Says:

        yes, there’s that too. :-) my understanding is that financial hardship is the top reason given for choosing to terminate a pregnancy. If you’ve already got kids (as most women who terminate do) and you’re underwater on your house and someone’s employment is looking shaky … ’nuff said.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yeah, it’s one of those big secrets– the large number of married (white! Christian!) women with kids who abort.

  5. Meredith Says:

    Ha! I would have thought it would be the other way–the more the house cost, the fewer babies b/c you would be so worried about paying the bills. Interesting…

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think the idea is that if you already bought the house and prices go up, you have more equity (presumably your property taxes could go up, but you could take out a home equity loan to cover them). For people who haven’t already bought, rising housing prices decreases fertility.

  6. mom2boy Says:

    I did wonder to myself if this is white, middle/upper class phenomenon. Then I read the abstract and, yes, it is.

    Yes, thinking of baby number two has lead to a discussion of buying a bigger house in a different area based on schools. Yes, the housing market is a concern. No, it’s not going to be the deciding factor – we are trying for number two regardless.

  7. Carnival of Personal Finance #366: Use Your Head Edition Says:

    […] from Nicole and Maggie: Grumpy Rumblings of the Half Tenured presents House prices really do affect fertility, and says, “Nicole and Maggie discuss an article that finds that when house prices go up, […]

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