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There's a baby bust in California, and it's hurting the economy




Right now, Tara Tyson has a sitter watching her 15-month-old son during the day. As he grows, she's wondering if group care would be better.
Right now, Tara Tyson has a sitter watching her 15-month-old son during the day. As he grows, she's wondering if group care would be better.
Priska Neely/KPCC

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Having a baby just isn't a priority for a lot of Southern Californians right now, and baby, that's a problem.

The state has hit a record low birth rate that's even lower than during the Great Depression.

While that means fewer diapers to change, it can also lead to adult-sized economic problems.

"I think what's pretty clear is that with the cost of living," says Joel Kotkin, professor of Urban Studies at Chapman University, "people are looking at their situation and saying, 'I can't afford to have a kid!'"

Kotkin gave Take Two an explanation of how a low birth rate has pros and, mostly, cons.

Con: 30-year-olds are more likely to leave

On the one hand, SoCal has no problem attracting young 20-somethings drawn by the scenic beaches, great food and warm weather.

The economy suffers, however, when 30-year-olds start thinking about buying a home and having families.

"Employers are finding it very hard to hold on to people in their 30s," says Kotkin. 

If the state can't hold onto those people as they head into their prime earning years, it loses out on their productivity, spending and tax contributions.

Con: any "boom" you see right now only benefits the rich

California's economy recently grew to become the world's fifth-largest economy if it were its own country.

Sounds like great news, but that wealth mostly benefits the very rich in the tech sector.

"Almost all the income growth and high-end job growth took place in Silicon Valley," he says.

Con: communities are less likely to support each other

With fewer children in a city, a community's commitment to education for everyone wanes. 

There's less of an investment in parks, too, and fewer neighbors meeting each other through their kids.

"It's really a self-absorbed society," says Kotkin, who's written more in the article, "The Childless City."

Pro: kids aren't great for the environment, or avant garde communities

"Each one of those little kids are [greenhouse gas] emitters," says Kotkin, echoing a sentiment by some environmentalists. "Plus, there's a certain advantage to not accommodating children."

People won't be annoyed by crying children in restaurants, for example. And taking part in NSFW festivities gets easier. "You can be a little edgier."