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Move over, American dream: The goal of many Gen Z and millennial women is now to be a DINK—with dual

Move over, American dream: The goal of many Gen Z and millennial women is now to be a DINK—with dual

May 13, 2024

America's vision of success is changing. Once upon a time, U.S. adults may have aspired to have a nuclear family, their name on a property, and maybe even a white picket fence.

Not anymore—at least, not for a growing number of millennial and Gen Z women who are prioritizing their careers and finances over having children.

New research from personal-finance experts Intuit Credit Karma found 45% of millennial women are not following the "traditional" societal timelines of getting married, buying a home, and having kids.

A further 41% of Gen Z women—those born from 1997 onwards—say they won't follow this path, with 32% saying their goal is to have no children at all.

Instead, they want to be 'DINKs'—having dual income with a partner but no children.

It's part of a growing trend in the U.S. In 2022 there were 38.1 million married, childless households—an increase of 140% compared to 1960.

DINK couples Fortune spoke to previously said their choice was prompted by a range of reasons: pursuing passions, financial freedom, or a focus on their careers.

These factors were all the more pronounced in Credit Karma's report. It found a quarter of American women are delaying having children in order to focus on their careers, a figure that correlates to the number of women who earn more than their partners.

While jobs and careers form one major reason why women aren't having children right now, another is financial situation and savings.

For the 35% of millennial women who told Credit Karma they didn't want children, money was often a significant factor: 40% of that group said they couldn't afford children, compared to 35% of Gen Zers planning to be DINKs.

On top of that, getting a plan in place to potentially have children in the future comes with a hefty price tag. Nearly one-third of the millennial women surveyed said that the eye-watering sums which come with fertility treatment, egg freezing, adoption and surrogacy is what has stopped them family planning.

"The past few decades have shown that societal norms don’t look the same as they used to, and millennial women played a major role in that shift,” said Courtney Alev, consumer financial advocate at Intuit Credit Karma. 

"As a result, women today aren’t tethered to the timelines set by those before them, as many choose to prioritize their careers above being young mothers. In some cases, that means prolonging family planning until they become more established in their careers, while others don’t see children in their future at all. Regardless, both camps are highly influenced by money and the high costs associated with conceiving and raising children."

Economic power players

The importance of millennial women in the economy is only going to get more pronounced in the coming years, according to Ned Davis Research (NDR).

Last month, a study titled The Rising Influence of Millennial Women found prime-age female job participation rate hit record highs in a handful of developed economies in 2023.

Among the nations where women are now having an outsize impact on the economy was the U.S., Australia, Japan, Italy, South Korea, and Germany.

This increased participation comes with higher levels of education, NDR chief economist Alejandra Grindal and senior analyst Patrick Ayers found, with women therefore more likely to be employed in productive roles.

Grindal explained the correlation between education, employment, and productivity, writing: “The unemployment rate tends to be lower among people with higher education, which helps explain the greater take-up of women in the workforce. People with greater education are also more likely to have full-time jobs and to be employed productively.”

c.2024 Fortune Magazine. Distributed by The New York Times Licensing Group.

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