by Patrick Appel
A reader writes:
First off, let me say that I was shocked to learn that Ben Domenech is my age (27), and from what little I can tell, he is unmarried with no children. So once again we have a case of an aspiring conservative talking-head playing pot calling the kettle black.Furthermore, let me state that I live in a major urban area, I am married, and got married when I was 24 (my wife was 27 and not American, so ours is not quite the "average" experience). We do not have children yet, but we want to have them and are preparing our lives for that step. Domenech asks why less Americans are married with kids at my age, and the best he can come up with is that tired old socially conservative canard of uppity women and a pornography-filled society. Does he really want to know why there is a greater delay in marriage and rearing children than there was in 1970? One word: cost.
Take education: The average cost of attending a four year private college has gone from approximately $10,000 a year in 1970 to $30,000 a year today. The need for a graduate or professional degree is more important to one's career than ever before. Therefore, not only do I still have to pay off my student loans for undergraduate, but I need to plan financially for my future graduate schooling. And this is before I even have to consider the educational costs of my future children!Take housing: The average house price in 1970 was about $26,000, which was the equivalent to one person's annual salary. In 2008, the average house price was $292,000 (or about six or seven times the average annual salary), and this is even after the dramatic fall associated with the bursting of the housing bubble. So on top of worrying about getting a house in a good neighborhood with good schools, I still need to save a significantly larger portion of my income for a downpayment, with an exponentially larger mortgage than my parents needed some 40 years ago. Of course, I could have just paid a smaller downpayment a couple years ago and wound up with with an underwater sub-prime mortgage, but by now lending has been tightened. And excuse me for trying to be fiscally responsible.Take healthcare: My wife and I have personally lucked out and have good coverage, but I think you and plenty of your other readers know about healthcare inflation ad nauseam.In order to be fiscally responsible and afford these things that will allow us to provide the best things for our future family, we need to be frugal, ever more so since my wife was laid off a few months ago. This means no car, limited vacations and eating out, watching our money. We have been able to live a relatively comfortable, if simple life, and I don't mean this whole email as a complaint. I'm merely saying that Domenech obviously doesn't know what he's talking about when he says that young adults are delaying marriage and children. He obviously has never seen the hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt flash before his eyes. And all these future costs need to be balanced against our immediate economic needs and the needs of my and my wife's careers.
I am disgusted that such a self-styled "conservative" can so blithely write that young Americans today should be more like the heroes of yore by throwing off a corrupt modern society, and ignore personal cost and sacrifice in order to raise as many young as they can. I thought that the world had enough of that kind of family planning propaganda in the 1930's.