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What do you think is the ultimate symbol of wealth? A huge mansion? A six-figure vehicle? A private jet? No, it’s none of those.
Today, the ultimate symbol of wealth is having a lot of children. This is according to Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., author of the book Primates of Park Avenue. Martin says, “Three was the new two, something you just did in this habitat. Four was the new three — previously conversation stopping, but now nothing unusual. Five was no longer crazy or religious — it just meant you were rich. And six was apparently the new town house — or Gulfstream.”
We are constantly inundated with news coverage about celebrities and famous people having babies. Their families are rapidly expanding. For instance, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have six children, Steven Spielberg has seven children, and Mel Gibson has eight children. Hollywood families are growing bigger and bigger, but they’re not the only ones.
The Top 1%
Steven Martin, Senior Research Associate at New York University, says, “Families in the top 10% or even top 5% of household earnings aren’t having detectably larger families.”
However, in terms of Americans in the top 1-1.5%: “There has been a significant rise in the proportion of three- and four-child families among the super-rich.”
He also went on to say that the number of affluent American families with four or more kids increased from 7% in 1991-1996 to 11% in 1998-2004.
In 2008, author Pamela Paul said, “The Analysis of Current Population Survey data by the Council on Contemporary Families found that in the past 10 years, the top-earning 1.3% of the population has seen an uptick in families with three or more children. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 12% of upper-income women had three children or more in 2002, compared with only 3% in 1995.”
Average Children Born per Woman
Take a look at the CIA World Factbook list below. As you can see, the top 10 countries hardly have anything in common with the bottom 10.
Top in Rankings
Bottom in Rankings
Rich vs. Poor Countries
We see more children per mother in developing (poorer) countries versus developed (richer) countries.
One might assume that the richer the country, the more kids women would have since they have access to better resources. However, there are explanations as to why fertility rates drop as countries become wealthier.
In wealthier countries, many women choose to work outside of the home and also have greater access to birth control to allow women the choice of when to become pregnant.
In addition, the pressure of raising children in a materialistic society may quell the desire to have more children. It’s already hard enough to keep up with the Joneses as it is. Most parents want to maximize the opportunities they can provide for their children.
Finally, wealthier countries typically have nationalized social security systems, so there is lesser need for parents to depend on their children for future care.
Rise in Birth Rates
According to Dr. Mikko Myrskyla, we mainly see a rise in birth rates when parents can afford additional children without compromising care for the ones that they already have.
New York City
Actress Tina Fey said, “I thought that raising an only child would be the norm in New York, but I’m pretty sure my daughter is the only child in her class without a sibling. All over Manhattan, large families have become a status symbol. Four beautiful children named after kings and pieces of fruit are a way of saying, ‘I can afford a four-bedroom apartment and $150,000 in elementary-school tuition fees each year. How you livin’?’”
In the New York City, having a big family is truly a status symbol. While it’s expensive to raise children in U.S., according to the latest figures- $233,610, it’s even more expensive in New York City. USDA economist Mark Lino stated that due to New York City’s overall cost of living, he anticipated parents would need to pay nearly $500,000 or twice what the average US household pays to raise a child.
This figure makes sense. Some of New York City’s top K-12 private schools exceed $50,000 a year in tuition, according to the Wall Street Journal. Could you imagine having five children in a private school? You’d have to shell out a quarter of a million dollars every year just for schooling.
Is there any upside to having lots of children, other than the symbol of wealth?
According to Dr. Bronwyn Harman of Australia’s Edith Cowan University, the happiest parents are those with four or more children.
Parents of large families were found to have the highest life satisfaction. Interestingly enough, even though large families have more chaos and expenses than smaller families, Dr. Harman’s research shows that these children have higher levels of independence at younger ages. They are also rarely bored since they always have a playmate.
Of course, I am not necessarily advocating that you should have more children. It is simply interesting that children are the latest status symbols, when previously these symbols were the latest jet or vacation house.