Last September, the U.S. government announced that our birthrate fell to "another record low" in 2012, following a long, steady slide since the Baby Boom after World War II.
It goes without saying that, morally speaking, there's nothing wrong with this. It's natural, in a way. All over the world, birthrates tend to fall along with economic development, for numerous reasons including (a) the move away from a labor-intensive small-farm economy and (b) women's ascendance in the workforce, which uses time that used to be devoted to child-rearing. Families in richer countries tend to have fewer kids. In places like Japan and Western Europe, national populations are actually peaking.
The thing about an increasingly childless economy is that it has major implications for consumption. Just look at this new data from a Gallup survey released today on the average daily spending of families. Even after you control for income, age, education, and marital status, families with young kids spend more every day. These are the sort of spenders you want in a weak economy following a great deleveraging.
What are parents spending on? Not just books, toys, and games. The Department of Agriculture (weirdly enough) annually surveys the many ways we lavish our kids with spending, to the tune of about $14,000 a year. The overwhelming majority of money goes to the basics: housing, food, transportation, and education. Housing is kinda funny, because young children tend not to have their own housing units, unless the parents are extremely well-off and the children are terribly misbehaved. The survey estimates the housing portion of spending by trying to account for a few factors: the cost of an extra bedroom, the cost of moving into safer communities with better schools, and the cost of buying homes with larger yards. It's rough, but there it is.