Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Top Story on Sept. 4 Newsweek: The Childfree

Why More Married Couples Are Going Childless
Even in once conservative societies, more and more couples are choosing not to have kids. That means good things for restaurants and real estate. But a backlash has already begun.

The trend has spawned a new culture of childlessness. In Britain, there's a growing market for books such as "Child-Free and Loving It," which journalist Nicki Defago says she wrote "to let women deciding against children know that their feelings are perfectly normal." New support groups for the childless have sprung up, from the Vancouver-based No Kidding! to the British Childfree Association. In Japan, the trend toward postponing or not having children has given rise to an array of products like bedding supplier Kameo's Boyfriend Arm Pillow, and fueled trends like the unprecedented surge in pet ownership. Capitalizing on the growing status of these baby-substitutes among young Japanese, Honda is now designing cars that replace child seats with dog crates, and has even created a glove compartment with place for a Pekingese.

Apparently, our effect on the real estate market is being felt:

With their generally higher spending power, the childless are driving real-estate prices in expensive areas like Manhattan and central London; a recent British study showed a house's value drops by 5 percent if neighbors move in with teenage kids.
And internationally, our recognition as a marketing demographic is building:

Hotels are catering to the childless, too; Italy's La Veduta country resort promises, "Your Tuscan holiday will not be shattered by the clamor of children." In Rome, many restaurants make it clear that children are not welcome—in some cases by establishing themselves as "clubs," where members must be older than 18 to join.
Like it or not, if marketers begin targeting the DINK set, the result will be some very beneficial perks such as the above. I suspect that it will also reduce the amount of babies in ads for things unrelated to children (tires, anyone?).

This article also adds significantly to the dialogue: unlike the bevy of similar articles seen in the last few years, it examines the phenomenon of the childfree in more than just yuppie America. It delves in to an emerging childfree across classes and national borders. The reaction of some governments makes me realize that perhaps stork spots, child tax credits, and laws forbidding childfree housing are not the worst some childfree see:

From Germany to Russia, there is increasing talk of sanctions against the childless. In Slovakia, a leading adviser on the government's Strategic Council on Economic Development proposed in March to replace an unpopular payroll tax with a levy on all childless Slovaks between the ages of 25 and 50. In Russia, where the birthrate has dropped from 2.3 in the 1980s to 1.3 today, a powerful business lobby has called for an income-tax surcharge on childless couples. In Germany, economists and politicians have demanded that public pensions for the childless be slashed by up to 50 percent—never mind that such pensions were invented as an alternative to senior citizens' having to depend on their offspring. These moves resonate favorably with voters and the media. Since a large majority of people in all countries still do have children, critics say such measures in effect serve as middle-class tax breaks in the guise of social policy.

In any case, there is no reason to believe that sanctions against the childless will do much to raise the birthrate. Germany, for instance, already spends more than any other country on family subsidies, and has the world's second-highest taxes on childless singles (after Belgium). Yet that hasn't done a thing to boost the birthrate.

This is an extensive article with more topics than I can properly cover here. However, since it ends on a note evaluating how dropping bbirthrates can be solved, joining the popular assumption that they are indeed a problem, I suggest that a few readers head on over to the letter submission section after a thorough read.

There is a discussion on this article on LiveJournal. (scroll below the lj cut thread).

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