When Amr Sharaf thinks about having kids, he pictures the typical things: having secure finances, stability in his personal life and owning a home.
For many, that is the ideal vision for a future family.
But Sharaf, a computer sciences graduate student at Ryerson University, is among a growing number of Gen Z-ers who see this ideal as increasingly out of reach.
More young adults are considering not having children, according to studies.
While research shows that the younger generation is predominately looking towards affordability and practicality as the primary factors of influence, some also cite climate change as a major deterrent in having children.
This remains consistent with overall trends, as Canadian birth rates have been steadily declining over the last 10 years. A recent report from Statistics Canada showed that 2020 had the lowest number of births since 2006, with the data remaining consistent across the country.
While a multitude of factors have played a role in this decline — including the COVID-19 pandemic, to which StatCan attributes the latest drop in birth rates — many young people say affordability is their biggest concern.
Sharaf says that being in a secure and comfortable situation is vital when considering having kids, since it will affect the child’s quality of life.
“People should ask themselves if it’s moral to have kids in their current situation,” said Sharaf. “If the kids were [able to], would they choose to exist, or is having kids just a selfish decision [for people] to not be bored?”
He said that finances in particular would influence his decision to have children, pointing to the housing crisis in most major cities as an obstacle. In Toronto, the prices of homes and condos have continued to climb over the last year, making Sharaf less likely to see the purchase of a home as realistic.
For many, the current economy in general makes secure finances feel unattainable. A study conducted by the Urban Institute in 2020 reported that one-third of Gen Z-ers are struggling financially, an issue that was exacerbated by the pandemic.
Affordability is a major factor that had previously influenced many millennials to either delay having children, or choose to not have them at all. A 2020 survey by the pollster Morning Consult revealed that nearly three in five childless millennials in the United States say affordability is a reason they don’t have children.
“It’s about practicalities, about prudence,” said Samantha Brennan, a professor of philosophy and dean of the college of arts at the University of Guelph.
Brennan — who is a co-author of Permissible Progeny?: The Morality of Procreation and Parenting, which examines the morality of bringing children into the world — says that for some people, the decision to have children is less about ethics, more about practicalities.
For some, these practicalities take the shape of concern for the future of the world.
“I keep reading things that say we have less time for ourselves and for future generations,” said Kareena Aranha, a third-year journalism student at Ryerson.
Aranha says she worries about what state the world will be in by the time she seriously thinks about having children, largely because of the rapidly accelerating impacts of climate change.
Brennan says that because of issues like climate change and poverty, having children isn’t necessarily the most ethical thing for people to do. She notes that for those who deeply wish to parent, adoption is the “ethically preferable route to forming a family.”
Adoption is something that Aranha has considered. But even in this case, the topic of affordability comes creeping back in.
“Being [a part] of a gay couple, it’s even more expensive to have a child,” she said, pointing to the at-times costly fees of adoption or medical procedures that some gay couples use to have biological children.
Beyond the financial costs of having children, Brennan notes that our choices at times have greater impacts than intended. She says there are lots of things that people should morally be doing, like donating more money to charities or cutting back on meat consumption, but choose not to in exchange for doing what makes them happy.
“For many of us, having children matters a great deal,” she said. “We have to weigh those choices about what’s essential in the context of living a meaningful life.”