Why America's Falling Birth Rate Is Sensational News for the Pet Industry

Pets and babies: Competitive goods.

Conservative writer Jonathan Last, author of What to Expect When Nobody's Expecting, likes to argue that pets are gradually replacing children in the hearts of American couples -- giving them an outlet for all their nurturing instincts at a fraction of the cost and hassle. As someone who grew up with two dogs (though, admittedly, no siblings), I'm a bit skeptical about the theory. But I couldn't help but think of it when looking at this graph from the Bureau of Labor Statistics illustrating how much households spend on animal companions.

Long and the short of it: Childless couples and empty-nesters really do sink the most into caring for pets. A husband and wife with no kids spends 69 percent more, on average, on their dogs, cats, and whatnot than parents of children under six. Second place goes to the parents of adult children.  

Who_Spends_on_Pets_Weissmann.JPG

Of course, pet spending also just seems to track pretty closely with disposable income. Two-paycheck households with no children have a lot more extra cash to throw around on premium dog chow and fancy kennels than most singles or young parents, after all. So for those out there who aren't particularly comfortable with Last's brand of cultural criticism, here's another way to think of what this data shows: The more married Americans that shy away from parenthood in the future, the better it'll be for the Purinas of the world.

Investors, take note. 


Presented by

Jordan Weissmann is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

Saving the Bees

Honeybees contribute more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy. A short documentary considers how desperate beekeepers are trying to keep their hives alive.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Business

Just In