Why do people have more children when a big family is financially not viable?

Answered Jun 28, 2018

Originally Answered: Why do poor people have many children even though they cannot afford to raise them well? · 

A few reasons, which relate to each other.

  • There is a pervasive assumption that, everyone has children. That it is just an automatic part of a standard, universal life-trajectory. This assumption is present all across the economic spectrum. I have met adult women who acted confused upon encountering a middle-aged person who simply didn’t have any kids. Lack of desire to have them, lack of a spouse/partner, lack of support systems, and lack of money just weren’t seen as meaningful factors.
  • Having children at an early age (e.g under 25) is highly conducive to being and remaining poor. The existing child impairs the parent’s (usually the mother’s) ability to work in paid employment, or to pursue higher education.
  • Peer pressure from other young people making bad reproductive choices.
  • Lack of positive role-models, such as women who were able to better their lives by not having any children early (or at all).
  • Poor people may have received low-quality education in high school, including basic sex education.
  • There may be some correlation between poverty and religion. Which may degrade sex education.
  • Assumptions of being able to rely on extended family for money, housing, food, free childcare and other resources. A related point is some cultures (e.g. pacific islanders) have a combination of high poverty rates, high reproductive rates, and willingness to cram excessive numbers of people (including multiple related families) into crowded, unhealthy housing.
  • Assumptions of being able to rely on the baby-daddy for child support payments.
  • Poverty is correlated with having unstable relationships, which may include the aforementioned baby-daddy (or multiple baby-daddies) failing to contribute financially. Thereby perpetuating the poverty for the single mother and children.
  • The unstable relationships may lead to the idea of bonding with the current partner by having a child together, despite having children from previous relationships.
  • Lack of planning and self-control is conducive to being and remaining poor. And is also conducive to having unplanned children.
  • Poverty recycles, with numerous mechanisms. Including the intelligence impact of poor nutrition, maternal smoking/drinking, etc. This may lead the poor child to grow into an adolescent or young adult with poor planning and self-control, leading to another generation of poor children.
  • Some of the answers here mention that, contraception is too expensive for poor people. However, if you cannot afford contraception, then you certainly cannot afford multiple children. It comes down to self-control.
  • Plenty of children are conceived after the parents-to-be have had a little too much alcohol, and aren’t thinking very clearly. This applies across the economic spectrum, although problematic alcohol consumption may somewhat correlate with poverty.
  • Magical thinking, and black-and-white thinking, regarding actions→consequences. The person has unprotected sex repeatedly, without any resulting pregnancy. They then conclude that the two things aren’t really connected. Or may assume themselves to be infertile.
  • Lack of anticipation of how severely a child will restrict their lives.
  • Lack of anticipation of how much a child costs to support.
  • Availability of welfare benefits. Including multi-generational welfare dependence, and social environments where such dependence is normalised.
  • Pervasive social attitudes that it is somehow oppressive (or at least politically incorrect) to openly state that people shouldn’t be having children they cannot afford.
  • The first unplanned child is generally the one with the largest life-derailing effect (e.g. inability to work or pursue education). After that line is crossed, having an additional child isn’t seen as having as much incremental effect. So there may be less motivation to avoid having additional children.

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