Having lots of children was, at one time, an economic good. Back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when America was a far more agrarian culture, children were free labor for farming families. Today, in an urban culture, where having a child is far from an economic good, having a child is a pure act of love. It's expensive.
Any drop in the birthrate first hits the maternity sector, then the baby business and then its the toy industry's turn to feel the impact. That was why a survey by The New York Times, "Americans Are Having Fewer Babies. They Told Us Why.", caught my eye.
Here is how the Times positioned the survey:
Because the fertility rate subtly shapes many major issues of the day — including immigration, education, housing, the labor supply, the social safety net and support for working families — there’s a lot of concern about why today’s young adults aren’t having as many children. So we asked them.
Here are the five reasons most frequently given in the survey:
- Child care is too expensive
- Want more time for the children I have
- Worried about the economy
- Can’t afford more children
- Waited because of financial instability
What is most obvious is that the cost of having children is an overwhelming concern. Underlying this, according to the New York Times piece, is that women have a choice and they are opting for fewer or no children. The article makes the interesting point that there is no gender equal country in the world that is also high-fertility.
How low is the U.S. fertility rate? Well, according to the article: "The total fertility rate…is down to 1.8, below the replacement level in developed countries of 2.1." In other words, any growth in the American population will be due to immigration.
What do we do with these figures? I think a couple of things:
The one age group that showed an increase in births were women 40 to 44. That means that they are more than likely better educated and have more expendable income than younger parents. Sell them higher quality, higher priced toys.
Fewer births means more money to spend per child. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and parents will more than likely over-indulge the few nephews, nieces and grandchildren they have. Again, sell them higher quality, higher priced toys.
Yes, the toy industry needs to up its game and stop seeing toys as an inexpensive throw away and more as a family investment in a greatly loved child.
What do you think toy companies should be doing? Let us know either by commenting here or on the social networks.