Cost of raising children a major obstacle for US families, study finds

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The overwhelming majority of U.S. families with children at home worry about paying their bills each month, and the cost of raising a child today is a significant factor in deciding whether to become parents, according to a recent study.

Fifty-three percent of respondents to the 2018 American Family Survey said that the cost of raising a family today is not affordable for most people.

The survey, released last week, is the fourth annual poll of American families by Deseret News and Brigham Young University's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. The nationwide survey of 3,000 Americans examined attitudes toward marriage, family, and policy issues.

For both men and women who do not currently have children, the cost of raising a child was the top consideration in deciding whether to become parents, ranking ahead of current relationship status, desire to raise a child of one's own, and difficulty of balancing family and career.

In addition to attaining financial stability, the majority of respondents said it is "extremely important" to be in a committed relationship – although not necessarily married – and to have good health insurance before having children.

Of those who have children at home, 73 percent say they worry about being able to pay at least one monthly bill, and 44 percent have faced an economic crisis in the last year – being unable to pay an important bill or going without food, medical care or housing due to financial difficulty.

Of those who do not have children at home, 56 percent were worried about being able to pay bills, and 30 percent had faced an economic crisis in the last year.

Among women with children who responded to the survey, 40 percent are not currently married. However, the majority of those polled in the American Family Survey – 65 percent – agreed that children are better off if they have two married parents. Majorities also agreed that marriage has financial benefits for couples and is necessary to create strong families. Only 14 percent said that marriage was a burden, and that it was out-of-date.

Republicans and black Democrats were more likely to say that it is ideal to be married before living together and having sex, while white Democrats were more likely to favor cohabitation and marriage after sex. However, the groups' behavior was all similar – sex generally preceded living together and marriage.

Overuse of technology was seen by parents as the top issue facing teenagers. The majority of both fathers and mothers cited too much tech use as a concern, ahead of issues such as bullying, mental health, divorce, and pressure to use alcohol or drugs.

"Parents estimated that their teenage sons spent a little more than 24 hours a week playing video games, while parents of teenage girls estimated that their teenage girls spent a little less than 24 hours a week on social media," the survey found.

The survey also examined views on migrant families who cross the border illegally, requesting asylum. Eighty-three percent of those polled said parents and children should be kept together.

Overall, the survey's publishers said, this year's poll shows that "respondents continue to have positive views of their own relationships and families, though they are far less optimistic about the state of marriage and families generally."

It found that "people place much more importance on their identity as a parent or partner than other identities, such as their religion, political party, or career."

"In this time of deep partisan identities and divisions, it can be easy to label someone as 'right' or 'left,'" said Boyd Matheson, opinion editor of the Deseret News, "but our survey shows that personal experience and family life can greatly influence a person's political beliefs, and not on strict conservative or liberal lines."

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