Great Recession, fewer kids

The Great Recession has reduced jobs, savings and economic stability in Minnesota. It may have also cost us a chunk of our future workforce.

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That was a message we heard from Gina Lund, a Minnesotan in MPR’s Public Insight Network, who told us recently she and her husband had decided “not to have a second child because we cannot afford it, even with a promotion, since our student loans are also coming due at the same time.”

She spoke to the kind of broad, demographic change that the recession might deliver to our state. Fascinating new research shows thousands of Minnesota families made the same decision.

“For us, it was a very difficult decision, because we initially felt like we owed it to our daughter to have another child,” Lund wrote us. ” However, we have seen friends lose their jobs and homes in this economy, and have seen what that has done to their children, and could not do that to our own.”

After a big climb during the 2000s, Minnesota births fell about 4 percent from 2007 to 2009 and “evidence suggests at least part of the recent decrease may be related to the slumping economy,” the state demographer’s office wrote in a report published a few weeks ago. “It appears some Minnesotans have chosen to postpone or forgo having children because of financial uncertainty. ”

The report notes that in the good economic times before the recession births in Minnesota were rising and widespread. Between 2007 and 2009, however, the birth drop was “concentrated among groups most vulnerable to unemployment and financial uncertainty: the young and the less educated.”

Then as the economy began to recover in late 2009, births numbers were higher, “suggesting the recession effect may be leveling off.”

The state demographer’s data show a surprising drop in the numbers of foreign-born women having children in Minnesota. We’ll get at that in a separate post Friday.

For now, the overall trends are intriguing.

Here’s a look from the demographer’s office at the run up in births from 1980-2006, including the jump in good economic times.

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Here’s what’s happened in the Great Recession, which began in December 2007 and officially ended in June 2009.

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Similar trends can be seen nationally. This chart’s from the Pew Research Center.

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For the nation, it could be simply a footnote on the recession. In Minnesota, though, the trends may be more worrisome because the state’s workforce is already projected to age rapidly and grow slowly over the next two decades.

Lund, who lives in the Twin Cities area and works for a construction equipment manufacturing company, gave us some insight into how the economy influenced her decision.

We are very good at budgeting and we ran the numbers, both as a two-earner family with childcare, and with my husband or myself staying home and getting a part-time job in the evenings, and no matter how we looked at it, our cash flow would have been negative, which for the short-term would have been OK because we have worked hard to have about 3 months of bill payments saved up, but if anything serious were to happen (furnace breaks down, major car repairs, loss of job) we could have been at risk of losing everything.

We both are in fairly stable jobs, but we have both faced pay cuts, while the costs of food, fuel, and childcare continue to go up.

We also saw friends who had to pawn their wedding rings to put food on the table, so for us, the risk was not worth it.

“We decided that we were comfortable with our one child,” she added, “and feel that we can give her a good, happy life.”

  • Roy

    We had one child; then decided to have a second–but forgot kids come in two’s and we had twins! Now our daycare costs are over $25,000 / year! That should be criminal to place such a burdon on families. The wealthy get tax breaks, the poor get some breaks, but we “middle class” are left to pay all the costs on our own; and, the costs are high because of the persons at both the top, and bottom are not paying their fair share (of course the top are most able!). We don’t have “extras”–no cell phones, no cable TV, modest house in poor neighborhood, and small car that we cram all five of us into; both wife and I work…can’t afford to stay home, but barely afford child care. If we left the workplace, we most likely would not find a place once we returned.