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

Pets and babies: Competitive goods.
More

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. 


Jump to comments
Presented by

Jordan Weissmann is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Is the Greatest Story Ever Told?

A panel of storytellers share their favorite tales, from the Bible to Charlotte's Web.


Elsewhere on the web

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

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In