The Economy is On the Comeback, but the “Baby Bust” Persists. What it means for the toy industry.

I have over the past few months been writing about the decline in childbirths. According to a New York Times article by David Leonhardt, “A Population Bust,” the bust was not just confined to 2020. It is a decade-long phenomenon. As he writes, “The U.S. population grew by only 7.4 percent over the past decade, the smallest increase since the 1930s, the Census Bureau reported yesterday.”

Now that the economy is well on the way back, one would think that the birthrate would be increasing. It’s not.

Journalist, Claire Cain Miller, provides some answers in her New York Times article “Americans Are Having Fewer Babies. They Told Us Why.” According to Ms. Miller, it’s no longer the economy. It’s a personal choice. She writes:

Americans are having fewer babies. At first, researchers thought the declining fertility rate was because of the recession, but it kept falling even as the economy recovered. Now it has reached a record low for the second consecutive year… There’s a lot of concern about why today’s young adults aren’t having as many children. So we asked them.

Wanting more leisure time and personal freedom; not having a partner yet; not being able to afford child-care costs — these were the top reasons young adults gave for not wanting or not being sure they wanted children, according to a new survey conducted by Morning Consult for The New York Times.

Yet, when I review the graph Ms. Miller provides with her article, I find that the recession and economics are very much on people’s minds. The first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth-highest ranked reasons are all about financial concerns.

There are indeed a number of non-financial causes. Yet, economic anxiety predominates, which means that birthrates should edge up once we are further into the recovery.

Yet, I see a warning for the toy industry in the continuing, long-term decline in births. We are in the midst of a protracted era of fewer children. Countries with educated populations and a high percentage of women in careers lead to potential parents limiting the number of babies they bring into the world.

It’s not just the birthrate. The U.S. is restricting legal immigration into the United States, limiting the growth in the child population.

What is the toy industry to do?

We begin by accepting that the days of a gusher of new child consumers every year will continue to decline. Not as precipitously as the last year but still by an uncomfortably large number.

The next step is to analyze which adults are having babies. Who are these new parents? Are they older? Are they more economically advantaged? Are they less worried about the economics of just getting by, and therefore more likely to have children?

The toy industry needs to take a hard look at where we fit into people’s lives. Better toys at higher retails, toys that remain in homes rather than adding ending up in landfills, that provide emotional and educational value, and an investment rather than a purchase may be how we maintain our levels of revenue and even exceed the past.

What are your thoughts?

One thought

  1. Alway love it when you promote legacy over landfill toys. In my mind, it’s where it’s going. It’s not surprising that climate change factored in there around the middle of the stack of reasons. My two younger siblings are both foregoing children in part because of climate change.

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