Almost half (49%) of the thousands of people with ovaries who we surveyed want kids one day, but are actively delaying parenthood — and the top two reasons why were both money-related. Making time for travel came in third, with 47% of these respondents listing that over reaching a certain title or levels in their career, buying a home, or too demanding of a job.
Going into this year's Modern State of Fertility: Career & Money report, produced in partnership with SoFi, we had a hypothesis that careers, money and fertility are inherently linked, and our team became obsessed exploring these intersections. Modern Fertility was actually built on these (sometimes colliding) factors. Why? As women assume greater levels of power at work, they’re also delaying parenthood.
As a female founder and CEO, I am well aware of the trade-offs that people face when weighing their timelines for kids against careers, interests, and relationships. While there’s been significant research about how being a parent impacts careers and finances, there’s not much about how careers and finances impact fertility decisions in the first place (and nothing comprehensive about how trends vary by profession, to our knowledge). So, we decided to dig in.
In March 2020, when we were wrapping up our survey analysis, COVID-19 changed the world in ways no one could have predicted. Our data highlighted a real tension between financial security and fertility decisions. As 22 million people have now filed for unemployment, this issue is on our minds more than ever, so sent a follow-up survey to better understand how COVID-19 may be changing fertility plans.
What we found: about 1 in 3 respondents said they’ve changed their fertility and family planning decisions because of COVID-19. Of those who are changing their plans, nearly half said they were concerned about access to prenatal care, and about 1 in 5 said they’re delaying kids because their fertility clinic has paused treatments. There are many stories about how COVID-19 is changing our daily lives, and it’s particularly interesting to pair those experiences with data into the shifts at a more macro level.
Some more of what I found most compelling, related to careers, money and fertility:
- About half of all respondents are actively delaying having kids (quite significant, even if not totally surprising).
- Marketing, advertising, and media professionals were tied with finance as the most likely professional groups to be delaying children — more likely than lawyers and doctors (who you might think are the usual suspects).
- Personal finances are still a surprisingly taboo topic at work, with people feeling about as comfortable discussing money issues as they are crying in the office. (On the plus side, fertility taboos seem to be subsiding — nearly 30% would talk about fertility treatments, infertility, and/or miscarriage at work!)
But what’s really stayed on my mind is how the issues and concerns related to money, careers, COVID-19, and fertility seem to be universal — impacting people with ovaries of all ages, careers levels, job titles, and income brackets. Our report shows that money is the single most important reason why we are delaying having kids, with 60% of those delaying saying it’s because they don’t have enough money saved, and 51% saying they want to earn a higher salary first.
Where this really gets interesting: this sentiment didn’t change significantly based on individual income, whether they’re making less than $25,000 a year or more than $200,000 a year.
For all income brackets, about half of respondents said they were delaying because of financial concerns, with variations of only a few percentage points at most. Bottom line? We seemingly never have enough — no matter how much we have.
"I'm in a same-sex marriage and my wife and I have been trying to start our family for 2.5 years. During this process we had to pay for medical testing, sperm bank costs, ovulation kits, insemination tools, everything! It has been very expensive to fund our treatments: We paid $10,000 for IUI and then took out a $30,000 loan to begin the IVF process.” — Precious, 29, entrepreneur and hearing officer
Modern Fertility was founded on the principle that, while we may have been told our whole lives we can have it all, we often make life decisions without insight into our own bodies and unique fertility curves. Having endless opportunity and options is great, but it makes certain things more complicated. In a literal sense, it makes fertility complicated because we're waiting until we're older to have kids — if we have them at all. In a more amorphous sense, it makes our definition of success more complicated, leaving us feeling like we never have (or are) enough. This is only exacerbated by the shiny moments we see portrayed on social media.
I believe that unbiased, reliable information — paired with community and support — is the most powerful antidote to these mounting complexities. The data says we’re not alone in these challenges. Clinically sound, objective information about our bodies enables us to play more active roles in shaping our lives.
“I’ve spent $15,000 on egg freezing and IUI to become a single parent — now, I can’t decide if it’s worth it to keep trying. I keep asking myself: ‘Do I spend the next $10,000 and try IVF? If that doesn’t work, do I call it a day?’” — Kandace Proud, 41, marketing
If this economic downturn is anything like the last one (and some even say it'll be worse), birth rates are likely to drop. And if that’s the case, information about reproductive health is even more essential. My hope is that by sharing data and personal stories, we can learn from each other’s experiences, advocate for what’s best for each of us, and get what we need to live the lives we want.
Check out the Modern State of Fertility: Career & Money report — there are all kinds of goodies for you to explore. You can sign up to get a bonus guide for navigating fertility and career decisions while dealing with financial stress (featuring advice from SoFi, Career Contessa, Fairygodboss, Kunik, Tech Ladies, HerFirst100K, Empower Work, and experts) as well as a collection of 1000+ stories from people with ovaries about what it’s like to navigate fertility and career choices.
Have an idea for what Modern Fertility should research next? I’d love to hear it. Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.