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Blaze News original: Experts debunk the alarming lies about parenthood driving DINK culture and the declining birth rate
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Blaze News original: Experts debunk the alarming lies about parenthood driving DINK culture and the declining birth rate

The birth rate is declining, and child-free marriages are rising.

There is a silent — but serious — cancer metastasizing in American culture.

In April, the National Center for Health Statistics published preliminary data showing the birth rate in the United States dropped to 1.62 births per woman in 2023, a record-low figure that is below the replacement rate of approximately 2.1 births per woman.

'Living for yourself ends up being often boring and a dead end on so many different levels.'

At the same time, DINKs — an acronym that refers to a married couple without kids (dual income, no kids), generally those couples who are child-free by choice — are flourishing.

Instead of embracing family, an increasing number of American adults in their 20s and 30s are not only delaying marriage, but they’re putting off children once they finally tie the knot.

Whereas the late 20s and 30s were once peak parenting years, now DINKs are spending their time and money on themselves, free of the responsibilities and sacrifices inherent in parenting. In fact, a recent estimate published in “Nature” showed that 21.6% of U.S. adults are childless by choice. That cohort is only growing as the declining birth rate indicates.

The acronym "DINK" is not new. But the phrase and lifestyle are experiencing a renaissance thanks to social media.

Now, DINKs use their Instagram and TikTok accounts to flaunt their flexible lifestyle, racking up millions of views and thousands of followers in the process.

"Being DINKs means we just have a lot of freedom, time, and money," said 25-year-old Natalie Fischer, who boasts a six-figure income and hopes to build a net worth of at least $1 million by age 30.

Mirlanda Beaufils, a 30-year-old real estate agent from Texas, summarized her marriage and DINK lifestyle, "We go where the wind blows."

Travel. Wealth. Career. Freedom. Dogs. Individual expression and self-realization. The radical pursuit of happiness.

Those are the values of America's DINKs, a lifestyle that is now more popular — and less stigmatized — than ever before.

The elephant in the room

The rise in the popularity of the DINK lifestyle colliding with the declining birth rate raises important questions about the pro-DINK narrative that ensnares so many young adults.

Is the DINK lifestyle the path to the good life? Is it where adults find true joy?

And, more importantly: Is the DINK lifestyle good — not only for the individual but for society?

The conventional theory argues that the economic pressures of raising children — which some estimates claim costs tens of thousands of dollars per year — is responsible for the increase in adults choosing the DINK lifestyle. It is true, after all, that the cost of living is getting out of hand for most middle-class Americans, the cost of child care is skyrocketing, and that most industries do not offer their employees meaningful parental benefits.

But Dr. Allan Carlson, a retired professor whose research focuses on family, told Blaze News that "ideas, not economics, drive fertility decline."

Carlson agreed there are economic forces at work, specifically "negative incentives" of capitalism that distort human anthropology. But he explained that secularism and a "shift in ideas" are the mechanism driving an anti-family culture.

The idea shift, he said, is away from the outward-facing values of "survival, security, and human solidarity" and toward inward-facing values that prioritize the individual.

"Individual self-realization, expressive work, pursuit of education all see children as a problem or something in the way of these other values. And so fertility falls continues to fall well below the replacement level," Carlson explained.

'At some fundamental level, we've taken what used to be called the deadly sins and have made them into virtues.'

In many ways, the DINK lifestyle maximizes the American ideal of personal freedom.

The elephant in the room, then, is whether or not pursuing individual happiness and personal freedom to the detriment of family leads to a flourishing life and society.

"People get confused between focusing on short-term pleasure and long-term meaning and don't recognize that yes, it's nice to be able to sleep in on Saturday morning; yes, it's nice to be able to take a trip to Miami Beach, but the sacrifices that you make for having children endow your life with a sense of meaning and deep joy and happiness," Dr. Brad Wilcox told Blaze News.

Wilcox, a professor at the University of Virginia and a fellow at the Institute for Family Studies, said DINKs are buying into a deceptive cultural lie.

That falsehood, he explained, discounts "long-term well-being in favor of a short-term view" that minimizes "the stresses and strains and sacrifices that come with having small children and then kids more generally."

It's a lie that claims parenthood only takes from you.

"People don't recognize and appreciate how much kids bring a sense of meaning and purpose and identity to your life and to your marriage as well," Wilcox said.

"People like the experience of going on a honeymoon ... but after a time, that's boring. If you just sit there stuck on the beach for 12 months, that's not going to be a very rich marriage," he explained. "Whereas once you have kids, there are things to do, [you've] got to feed them, care for them, guide them, direct them, celebrate with them.

"Kids are much more meaningful than a lot of the distractions and dopamine-hit kinds of practices" associated with the DINK lifestyle, Wilcox added.

Importantly, research consistently corroborates Wilcox's point: Married parents are the happiest cohort of all Americans.

And yet, culture tells young adults the opposite.

"At some fundamental level, we've taken what used to be called the deadly sins and have made them into virtues — pride, greed, lust, those things which used to be properly understood as symbols of serious social and moral disorder," Carlson said. "They're the new duties of our culture. You must enjoy yourself, pursue your envy, pursue your greed, pursue your pride, pursue your lusts."

The end result of expressive individualism that prioritizes "me" at the expense of "we," Carlson warned, is "the disappearance of children."

Consumers consume

Two of the benefits of America's capitalist economy are the wealth and freedom it generates. But it also creates negative incentives that encourage individualism, consumerism, and the DINK lifestyle.

In interviews with Blaze News, both Carlson and Wilcox talked about how the Industrial Revolution, which forever changed the economy and brought an end to economic households, changed family culture.

According to Carlson, the "ideal human being under industrial capitalism" includes three values: being helpless, mobile, and childless.

  • Helpless: "By helpless, I mean not capable of doing anything. They can't feed themselves, they can't take care of themselves, they can't shelter themselves. They're functionally helpless, so they have to buy everything from the system. They have to buy everything from their food to their shelter to their clothing. Everything has to be purchased from the system."
  • Mobile: "That is, they need to pursue whatever their little specialty is — whether they're writing code for the computers or whether they're running a dishwasher for a restaurant, they need to find the place where they're providing maximum efficiency with their one little skill."
  • Childless: "Marriage is bad for the system because marriage involves bonds and obligations and responsibilities that track the person from a focus on their work. And they also don't want children because children again take time and take time away from what could be done from a pure focus on doing two things, working for the system and buying from the system."

This industrial human anthropology has created generations of consumers and, now, consumers who prefer consuming and career over cultivating a family.

"There's kind of a deeply consumeristic message too that is now being telegraphed to young adults," Wilcox told Blaze News. "I think it just discourages them from settling down, getting married, and having kids because there's always some other kind of step you need to take.

"Status and money and jobs — these things are good up to a point," he added. "But if they distract us from focusing on family and friends, then they end up being obstacles to our capacity to flourish."

Carlson, in fact, said the economic system is designed to create consumers to consume.

"The capitalist system — the great capitalists don't think about it this way, but they do think in effect, it's where they wind up — wants people to consume. And it is true. Babies can consume things, but they'd rather have them spend money on cruise ships or trips abroad or fancy cars or second homes," he said. "I know so many people that have two or three homes. They have no children, but they got a lot of homes, a lot of bedrooms."

"Those messages are all the economic system telling people what they want," he added.

"Again, they want people who are helpless in terms of doing things themselves but will spend lots of money to buy stuff," Carlson explained. "The system penalizes people with children."

The rewards of sacrifice

Contrary to the cultural lie that children only take from you, Wilcox said the truth is that reward and accomplishment come with the sacrifices and suffering required of parents.

"No suffering is also bad for us," he told Blaze News. "That if your life is very cushy and easy, it tends to be both meaningless and your own strength of character is pretty minimal.

"The point is that some degree of suffering is good for us emotionally and spiritually, especially when it's attached to something that's meaningful to us," Wilcox explained. "It seems like having a spouse — especially having children — does entail suffering and sacrifice, but it's meaningful suffering and sacrifice."

Wilcox said the economic household before the Industrial Revolution epitomized the type of suffering that is full of reward. Sharing in meaningful work, he explained, produces a true sense of accomplishment.

This same principle applies to the sacrifices required of parenthood.

"Do you want to live a meaningful life? Would you like to flourish? Would you like to be happy? Being a parent apparent opens up new horizons for us of care and concern — a sense of the future extends beyond your death," Wilcox said.

"There's something incredible about seeing a child who is your own flesh and blood excel when it comes to a sport like soccer or an instrument like the piano, or a challenge like starring in the school play, or caring for the poor and the sick, and they're vulnerable," he explained. "So I just think at the end of the day, living for yourself ends up being often boring and a dead end on so many different levels."

As the old saying goes: Anything worthwhile requires sacrifice.

"If you invest yourself in becoming a good father or a good mother, I think the rewards are immense," Wilcox said.

Carlson agrees. The truth about parenting, he said, is that raising children and cultivating a strong family is one of the greatest purposes for your life.

"It's what you're supposed to do. That's what your human destiny is," Carlson told Blaze News.

"If you want to be healthy, wealthy, and happy, what should you do? Get married, have babies, create a family," he said. "The gifts that will come back to you are amazing. You'll live longer, you'll be happier."

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Chris Enloe

Chris Enloe

Staff Writer

Chris Enloe is a staff writer for Blaze News
@chrisenloe →