The Economics of Parenting

There are plenty of different perspectives about the best way to raise children. Some believe hovering helps children get ahead. Others think less supervision encourages children to figure things out for themselves. Some believe extracurricular activities are vital. Others – not so much.

The list could continue, but safety and access to enriching environments are major issues.

A Pew Research Center survey of 1,807 U.S. parents with children younger than 18 finds huge differences in parenting based on income. Financial instability can limit lower-income children’s access to a safe environment. It also affects the availability of enrichment activities that affluent parents may take for granted. Here are the facts.

The survey also showed that:

Concerns about teen pregnancy and legal trouble are also more prevalent among lower-income parents.

Regardless of income, at least half of all parents worry that their children might be bullied or struggle with anxiety or depression someday. For those with annual family incomes of $75,000 or higher, these concerns trump all others tested in the survey.

Researchers believe the dramatic changes in family living arrangements have contributed to the growing share of children living at the economic margins. In 2014, 62 percent of children younger than 18 lived with two married parents – a historic low, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. census data. The share of U.S. kids living with only one parent stood at 26 percent in 2014. Also, households with two unmarried parents have risen steadily in recent years.

These patterns differ sharply across racial and ethnic groups.

The economic outcomes for these types of families vary dramatically.

There are clearly many variables that promote the safety and well-being of children. The harder question is: How can we improve the quality of life for all children?



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