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JT from Class Consciousness Project

Jan 14, 2024

On 4th January 2024, the conservative commentator Matt Walsh reported on the continued rise of DINK couples – couples with Dual Income and No Kids. It was the latest in a series of commentaries that Walsh and others of his ilk have made on the phenomenon recently and, like many public figures of the conservative persuasion, he correctly identifies the issue whilst misdiagnosing the cause of that issue.

To be clear, the issue that Walsh correctly identifies is that more and more couples, whether they are married or not, are opting against having children. The declining birth rate is a challenge which is not just isolated to the United States – the ‘replacement rate’, that is the rate of births per woman required to maintain the population at their existing levels, is 2.1 in ‘developed’ countries, yet in the USA it is 1.7: In the UK it is 1.6, in Italy and Spain it is 1.3 and in South Korea, it is just 0.9.

Whatever your political viewpoint, a declining birth rate in any country creates a real long-term problem that has to be challenged. In imperialist nations, including Britain, it means that the ruling class are compelled to either try to bribe people to have more children, a strategy that has no guarantee of success, or to import people from other countries to meet existing or projected labour shortages, as we have covered in our article The Immigration Question in September 2023.

In essence, DINKs are people who have identified the rearing of children as a lifestyle choice, so have decided to opt out of this perceived choice in favour of other more ‘rewarding’ pursuits. It should be stressed that the acronym ‘DINK’ is used to set these people apart from other couples who, for reasons beyond their control, are unable to have children. The evidence available for us to view online on the topic indicates that DINKs are focussed on, in the main, just two alternative pursuits: Financial security and unfettered consumerism.

A recent viral video on TikTok featured a couple giving their account of the benefits of having dual incomes and no children. Apart from telling us that they could sleep in late if they so wished and leave parties whenever they liked, the majority of the benefits that they claimed to enjoy were more materialistic in nature, included visiting grocery store Trader Joe’s, going to the gym, enjoying ‘expensive’ hobbies such as golf or skiing and going on trips together at short notice. Another video on CNBC reported on another DINK couple who claim that they were deterred from having children because of what they saw as the prohibitive cost of child rearing.

The figure quoted in the CNBC video, with the Brookings Institution cited as a source, was a staggering $310,000 to raise a child born in 2015 from birth to the age of 18 which, at least on its face, is a figure which, even in a country without universal healthcare like the United States, seems to be a hugely inflated one. Whether or not this figure reflects the true reality of the cost of raising a child, and it’s highly likely that it doesn’t, it is feasible that couples may be deterred from having children were they to see this gargantuan figure, and this is reflected in the myriad of explanations that DINKs make for opting not to have children, including that they feel that they would be financially ruined as a result of becoming parents.

“Children are the death of net worth”, to quote Shannon McLay, founder of the oddly-named The Financial Gym, an online financial ‘coach’, in her contribution to the CNBC video. Children, according to DINKs, are considered an avoidable expense which only clear out one’s bank account and condemns parents to a lifetime of penury. In some ways, this is not an entirely inaccurate assessment – the website reported that over 12% of all bankruptcies in the United States are people over the age of 65, for reasons including skyrocketing medical expenses, the collapse in retirement savings and, pertinently, elderly parents defaulting on their children’s student loan debts.

Women certainly face real financial disadvantages in a society where both parents have to work – one of many reasons why women are paid lower rates than men for the same job is that women who have children are often out of the workplace for extended periods of time when compared to men. In jobs where pay is calculated based on performance, anyone who spends long periods of time not at work, even on maternity leave, will not be paid as well as their counterparts who have not been out of the workplace. It is also the case that some women who have children do not return to their previous job after maternity leave. This is for a whole range of reasons, including but not limited to their previous job not being sufficiently flexible to return to after having children, the job no longer existing or being backfilled and the prohibitive cost of childcare when the salary of the job is taken into account.

The persuasive and pervasive power of Consumerism to deter people from having children should also not be discounted. DINKs repeatedly claim via videos like those released by CNBC and social media that having no children means that they can enjoy short-notice holidays, eat out as and when they like, have nice cars and gym memberships: All things that they believe they would be deprived of were they to have children. This is a far cry from the attitudes of couples in the post-war period, who committed to have children almost without regard for the potential costs involved and without the plethora of expensive consumer goods to act as a potential distraction.

The truth is that neither late-stage capitalism nor conservative commentators have any answers for the declining birth rate and the dawn of the DINKs. In 2024, telling people that child rearing is rewarding regardless of the cost does not seem to wash with a small but growing group of young people more focussed on the accumulation of money, assets and consumer goods than leaving any lasting legacy.

Creating a genuine workers’ state could go some way to alleviating this looming crisis: It would provide free healthcare for birthing mothers, nursery care, schooling and university education and, for their parents, a dignified retirement unsaddled by their own children’s debt.

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