Why Gen Z Refuses to Start Families

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: Feb 29, 2024

Gen Z is reshaping the concept of the American dream, prioritizing personal fulfillment and environmental sustainability over traditional markers like marriage and children. Unlike their parents’ aspirations for a house with a white picket fence, today’s young adults seek a different form of success.

They are more inclined toward achieving personal goals, traveling, and making a societal impact. This generation is also more concerned with personal and global well-being than acquiring material wealth. The shift reflects a broader change in societal values and a response to the world’s current challenges.

Economic Uncertainties

For many in Gen Z, economic instability is a significant barrier to starting a family. They’ve grown up in a world where jobs seem less secure, the cost of living is constantly rising, and student debt is a widespread issue.

A hand is placing a red arrow pointing upwards against a background of stacked coins, depicting a rising trend in financial growth. The scene includes a calculator and paperwork on a desk

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These financial hurdles make the prospect of adding children to the equation daunting. High living costs and uncertain job markets contribute to the feeling that now is not the time to take on the additional financial responsibility of raising children.

Climate Change Concerns

Climate change is a pressing concern for Gen Z, deeply influencing their life decisions, including the choice to have children.

Two people holding signs regarding climate change that read “Time to Act” and “Save the Planet”

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Many young adults are troubled by the thought of bringing new life into a world facing environmental crises such as global warming, pollution, and biodiversity loss.

The Housing Hurdle

The dream of homeownership is increasingly out of reach for Gen Z, affecting their willingness to start families. With real estate prices soaring and the housing market becoming more competitive, many young adults find themselves unable to afford a stable, permanent home.

A group of houses in close proximity.

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The uncertainty and instability associated with renting or living in shared housing are not conducive to raising children, adding another reason to delay or forego parenthood.

Reimagining Success

Success for Gen Z doesn’t necessarily mean climbing the corporate ladder or owning property. Instead, it’s about living a life aligned with personal values and passions.

Woman checking her email on a laptop

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Many in this generation define success by their contributions to society, personal growth, and the balance between work and life. This redefinition of success influences their decision on family planning, as traditional milestones like marriage and children are seen as optional rather than obligatory.

Work-Life Balance Woes

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is a significant concern for Gen Z, impacting their views on starting a family. In a world where career demands often clash with personal time, many young adults struggle to see how children can fit into their busy lives.

Five people looking at a laptop

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The desire for personal time, career advancement, and hobbies leaves little room for the responsibilities of parenthood, leading to a preference for child-free living.


The Social Impact Ideal

Gen Z is known for its passion for social justice and desire to make the world a better place. Many young people are actively involved in movements for environmental conservation, social equality, and political change.

Large crowd takes part in a 'Walk For Your Future' march on October 23, 2022

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This commitment to societal improvement takes priority over personal milestones like starting a family. For some, the idea of dedicating time and resources to activism is more appealing than the traditional path of parenthood.


The Role of Role Models

The changing nature of family structures and the diversity of role models in Gen Z’s lives influence their thoughts on starting their own families. Many come from nontraditional households and have seen the challenges and complexities of various family dynamics.

Daughter explaining elderly mother how using smartphone

Source: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

This exposure leads to a more nuanced understanding of parenthood and family life, making the decision to start a family a more considered and less conventional choice.


Mental Health Matters

Mental health is a major concern for Gen Z, impacting their decisions about family life. The awareness and prioritization of mental well-being are higher than in previous generations, with many young adults focusing on their psychological health.

A black hoodie with the phrase "BOYS GET SAD TOO" printed in bold, white capital letters is draped over a railing

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The stresses and demands of parenting, viewed through the lens of mental health, make the choice to remain child-free more appealing to those who prioritize their mental well-being.


Financial Freedom First

Financial independence and freedom are big factors for Gen Z, influencing their attitudes toward starting a family.

A customer is seen paying a cashier for his grocery shop with a credit card

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With the burden of student loans and the desire for a debt-free life, many young adults are postponing or rejecting the idea of having children. The financial strain of raising a family is seen as a significant barrier to achieving personal financial goals and maintaining a desired lifestyle.


The Digital Generation's Dilemma

As the first true digital natives, Gen Z’s perspectives and decisions are heavily influenced by the online world. The constant exposure to global issues, diverse viewpoints, and the lives of others shapes their values and life choices.

A close-up view of a smartphone screen displaying a folder named 'Social Media' containing app icons for Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, an app labeled 'X' with a notification badge, and Instagram

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This digital upbringing contributes to their cautious approach to starting families, as they weigh the realities of the world against the idealized versions of family life often portrayed online.


Vision for the Future

Gen Z’s vision for the future includes a more sustainable, equitable, and kind world. Their willingness to start families hinges on significant societal changes such as serious action on climate change, improved wealth distribution, and a more stable global economy.

Family of three generations takes a selfie

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Many express that they might consider parenthood if these global issues are addressed, pointing to a future where their decisions could align more closely with traditional life milestones, should their vision for a better world actually start to take shape.