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Don’t Blame Expensive Housing for Falling Fertility

Lower birth rates in expensive cities are more likely due to how Americans self-sort by income, education, age, and other factors.
Mothers and babies in New York's Central Park
Mothers and babies in New York's Central ParkLucas Jackson/Reuters

On Tuesday, I woke up to a story that was going viral on social media. The story, based on an analysis by Jeff Tucker of Zillow Research, showed a correlation between the housing prices in expensive cities like New York and Los Angeles and the change in fertility among women aged 25 to 29.

The idea that high housing prices would impact fertility comports with a certain intuition we have these days about how hard life is in expensive cities, especially for younger people. As housing prices go up, people can afford less space, so the higher price of the housing needed to accommodate kids leads people to delay having a family, to have fewer kids, or to have no kids at all.