Sept. 17, 2020

How much money does it take to have a kid?

A lot...in fact, money is probably the most important factor in deciding to have a baby. When we have more money, we feel better about bringing new life into the world. 

But “more money” hasn’t exactly been a defining quality of 2020. We’re in a recession and a global health crisis...having babies isn’t high on the priority list for many Americans. You know what that means for the economy if you listened to our last episode.

Now, get a better understanding of why money impacts the decision to start or grow a family. This episode with Modern Fertility CEO and Robinhood of reproductive health Afton Vechery will give you the answers you need to comprehend what factors influence the decision to have children, especially during these very weird times.

Understanding the motivations for delaying or entirely canceling plans to have kids? It might give us a whole new paradigm for discerning how fertility and GDP are entwined...it’s not just money in the economy, it’s money in your personal bank accounts.

Listen now.


Transcript

Kinsey Grant, Morning Brew business editor and podcast host [00:00:07] Hey, everybody, and welcome to Business Casual. It's me, Kinsey Grant. And we have a lot of ground to cover today, so let's get into it. [sound of a ding]


Kinsey [00:00:18] Did you know that we are facing a birth bust, and that we'll likely see between 300,000 and 500,000 fewer births next year? And that such a birth bust will undoubtedly impact our economy? If you listen to our last episode, you probably did know that. But even if you didn't listen to our last episode, now you know. The one-two punch of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic recession have meaningfully impacted the birth rate here in the United States. 


Kinsey [00:00:43] Turns out people are less likely to pop a kid out when GDP is on the fritz and unemployment just won't quit climbing. Those two factors have exacerbated a trend already at play. People are having fewer kids on the whole. But are those the only two factors? What about the more personal ones, like how much money you make or how old you are or anything, really. My guess is no, those are not the only two factors. 


Kinsey [00:01:05] But instead of leaving it up to guesswork, let's bring in an expert to help explain to us the answer to one very big question: What factors influence the decision to have children, especially during these very weird times? I am so excited to welcome to Business Casual Afton Vechery, co-founder and CEO of Modern Fertility. Afton, welcome to Business Casual. 


Afton Vechery, Co-founder and CEO of Modern Fertility [00:01:26] Great. Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here. 


Kinsey [00:01:28] Yes. I'm excited to have you. A little bit about Modern Fertility. You guys offer at-home hormone tests that are essentially a lot like the ones that you would get if you went to your doctor. But the whole gist here is that they cost a lot less and you can kind of do it at home, use an app on your phone to get the information that you need to empower women and anybody—anybody with ovaries and anybody without them—to feel like they are in more control of their fertility future. 


Afton [00:01:52] Beautiful summary. [laughter]


Kinsey [00:01:54] Thank you. Thank you. I think it's a really interesting company. I'm excited to learn more about it and how you got into this as well. But, you know, I just want to kind of note before we get started here that the fertility rates and birth rates are interconnected with the economy any way you look at it. These are decisions that are often made because of money people have, money they don't have, and the economy has time and again shown us that it does impact when and where people have children, if they have them at all. 


Kinsey [00:02:20] And I know we're talking about having babies, which obviously falls mostly on women, for the most part, and people with ovaries. But it takes two to tango, just to remind everybody. [laughs] And as we talked about last time, this is an economic issue. So that means it's an everyone issue, not just for women to consider. And with that said, let's get started. 


Afton [00:02:39] Yes, let's dig in. Where should we start? 


Kinsey [00:02:42] So, yeah, [laughter] great question. I've got a little idea or so. In my view here, there are two major concerns when it comes to fertility and birth rates that I've run into in all of this research I've been doing. One individual and one economic. I want to parse through both. 


Kinsey [00:02:57] I think it's important to start with this individual aspect of deciding to start a family or have children or have more children. Obviously, it starts with a person, oftentimes [chuckles] two people, couples in some relationships now. But the decision to have a child depends on so much more than just timing. This is more than a timing question. So to you, Afton, what are the largest and most important factors in deciding to have a child in your experience? 


Afton [00:03:23] Yeah. Well, I think that that breakdown is perfect—the individual couple side and the economic side as well. So I think, on the individual or couple side, the decision depends on so much more than just timing. We used to put our entire lives on hold to have kids. Now we put our families on hold to prioritize other parts of our lives, whether that's our career, whether that's looking at the societal milestones to hit a certain salary to own that home, to land a job, to marry the right partner, before we even start to think about having children. 


Afton [00:03:58] And I think now we have so much more opportunity and authority in our lives, but fertility is getting more and more complicated. So today, the stats are that one in six couples will struggle to conceive. And for the first time in history, more women are having their first kid in their 30s than in their 20s. And so we're seeing this just general trend of women and couples just doing other things in their lives before having kids. And that is in turn reflected in the statistics. 


Kinsey [00:04:28] So how do you think this came to pass? How do you think we ended up in, for the first time, more women having children for the first time in their 30s than 20s? That's a major cultural paradigm shift. What precipitated that? Do we have any way of understanding the factors that played into that shift as it happened? 


Afton [00:04:45] Yeah, well, I have a lot of hypotheses and I think a lot of the research that we've done as a company has kind of played into really getting into the psyche of Millennials. And I think that there are so many different things that we can look at as a part of this trend. Millennials get made fun of all the time for our wanderlust on Instagram and travel. But when you really dive into the stats, you do see the desire to travel actually playing into the decision to have kids or not. There are so many different factors. 


Afton [00:05:17] But the one and largest, most important that stacks above everything else is money. We recently did a survey—we partnered with SoFi—and surveyed women all across the U.S. to understand what are these factors that are impacting your decision to have kids. And money stacked at the top of that list: 49% of respondents were delaying kids and the top two reasons had to do with money; 60% wanted to have more money saved; and 51% said that they were waiting to have a higher salary first. 


Afton [00:05:52] And what was really interesting about that higher salary number is that whether you were making $20,000 a year or $200,000 a year, the desire to make more was still delaying your decision to have kids. When you take a step back and look at it, we're in this society that's just so connected and we are constantly bombarded with all these other examples of where we need to get before doing X or where we want to be or achieve before doing Y. And so this constant, oh, you know, I just want to do this thing. I want to travel to this place. I want to make the salary. I want to get this promotion. That's constantly delaying our decisions to take a step back and have kids. 


Afton [00:06:34] And I think with women prioritizing their careers and entering the workplace at higher rates than we have in previous generations, we're continuing to just have other priorities besides just having kids [indistinct] into these larger societal and cultural shifts and trends. 


Kinsey [00:06:52] Absolutely. It's such an interesting concept to try to tear apart here, because on the one hand, it's incredible that women are entering the workforce at higher rates and that we are prioritizing our careers in ways that previous generations haven't. But at the same time, this is a problem [laughs] that we're going to experience a birth bust. And there are economic repercussions of that. 


Kinsey [00:07:11] It also makes me wonder if this is sort of a late-stage capitalism side effect, that this was always kind of going to happen as we come to worship our workplace instead of, say, religion. That's been something that's happened in recent decades, and also that we prioritize work success or career success more than we do, oftentimes, family success. Is capitalism bad for fertility? 


Afton [00:07:37] This is such an interesting discussion. So, I think what's really interesting is when you look at the rates of voluntary and involuntary childlessness, you can really start to parse apart what that looks like. And when you look at the education rates and how those coincide with voluntary childlessness and in cohorts, typically looking at women in their 40s, the higher education and involuntary childlessness tends to overlap to the highest degree. 


Afton [00:08:09] And so I think that, when we're in a society where having a family is a luxury as opposed to, you know, in previous generations, where you had to have kids to care for you when you were older or to work the farm or all of these other factors, we're getting to a point where often you can choose whether to have a kid or not and make an active decision. And it's shifted from being something that you have to do to stay alive. 


Afton [00:08:39] And so, I think that there are so many different arguments to be made across, you know, how the fertility rates [indistinct] are impacting the U.S. and the environmental health of the U.S. and the cultural and societal. There are so many dimensions and arguments to what's happening. But I think that this dynamic of voluntary and involuntary childlessness as it relates to women and couples that are delaying this decision and then having trouble, those are the kind of two interesting factors to look at. 


Kinsey [00:09:13] For sure. I feel like my history nerd might come out a little bit, but this shift from the agrarian society in which you literally had to have children to tend to the crops. Like that was your lifeline—if you didn't have enough kids, your business would go under, to what we consider to be the norm now—that for so long it was what, like 2.2 children and the house and a dog. And it's completely shifted time and again as we go through number one, economic shifts and number two, generational shifts. 


Kinsey [00:09:41] To see the two play into each other, at the same time, right now, I think specifically, is really, really compelling. So as we think about this, this exact moment in economic history with COVID and a recession, how do you think that these changes have either accelerated or decelerated? What has been your experience in the last, say, six months? 


Afton [00:09:59] Yeah. So I think we were really lucky. When we did the survey at the beginning of the year of just how career and fertility and finances were tying together—this was before COVID and the mandatory shutdowns had happened—and so what we were able to do is actually go back to those same respondents and survey them, and understand how had COVID shifted their family planning decisions. And I'll caveat all of this with we did this right at the beginning of COVID. So this was early March. 


Afton [00:10:27] And I think that there have been some studies and different companies and research organizations that have done research since that has tied with our research and says the same things. But the reality is, we still don't really know where things are today. But what was really interesting is that a lot of these trends and reasons for delaying were just exacerbated. And so with the economic uncertainty and joblessness and just finances playing such a role in the decision to have kids to start, COVID just increased that uncertainty. 


Afton [00:11:03] And what we found is that so many more women and couples were choosing to delay their decision to have kids because of that uncertainty. And then close seconds where just uncertainty about the healthcare system, you know, would it be safe to go in and meet with my OB/GYN and have a kid? And so this kind of supposed fertility boom that everyone was anticipating from work, from home, and all of that just hasn't really exploded in the way that was hypothesized, which we thought was really interesting. 


Kinsey [00:11:36] So as somebody who has obviously spent a lot of time focused on research and talking to people out there and getting a lot of [chuckles] numbers and stats, but also anecdotal stories. And also as a business owner/entrepreneur, I'm interested to hear your perspective on how exactly the economy and fertility play into each other. 


Kinsey [00:11:55] When we think about the reasons to postpone having a child, so often it's, I want to save money or I don't have the salary, like you said before, that I want to have when I have my child. Do you think that people are basing those decisions on the economy, quote unquote, in general, or is it just a personal decision that I haven't reached the salary threshold at which I would feel a lot more comfortable having a child? 


Afton [00:12:18] I think that's such a great question and I don't know if there's a right or wrong answer. I think that so much of Modern Fertility and my experience is this one-on-one conversation with women, people with ovaries, couples that are just talking about this constant decision of there's never a right or perfect time to have kids. And so, to me, it is much more that the individual circumstances of folks are often a reflection of what's happening in the society and these kind of broader shifts and trends. 


Afton [00:12:51] But I think that just this, you know, with Millennials, especially this constant striving for what's next or the next raise or next promotion, are trying to find that perfect time is there. And then, I think, as we think about the individual circumstance, we think about the economy, but then we think about, like, human life and longevity. You know, we're living longer. We are spending more time getting higher education. We're spending more time working. And we're living longer lives. 


Afton [00:13:25] Yet the age of menopause hasn't changed. The age of menopause for American women, is on average, it hits at 51 years old. And that number hasn't shifted. And so, as we make all of these decisions to delay, delay, delay, what we find is that, you know, when you might want to have your first or second kid is now overlapping with your menopausal transition, and it's not possible anymore. And yes, we have amazing solutions, like IVF and egg freezing in the fertility field. But those are not totally accessible to the broader population. And so you just see this really interesting dynamic with a lot of these choices just not able to coexist with biology. 


Kinsey [00:14:04] I think we have a video stream here. I'm sure you can see the panic washing over my face. [Afton laughs] You think about, you know, my grandmother used to always say that she got married at 27 and she was an old spinster lady. [laughs] Her family was worried she would never get married. And now, I think, married at 27. Like what? You know, I'm not at that point in my life. 


Kinsey [00:14:23] And we have spent so much time on education and career, like you said, but our bodies just aren't keeping up. We are even in our office the other day having a conversation about how old we would want to live to, like that is a thing that we can say now. Like, I want to live to be over 100. We have the technology and the medical wherewithal to make it happen, but we just can't stop the biological clock from ticking. 


Afton [00:14:46] Yes. Not yet. [laughter] And I think that, yeah, that's what it really comes down to. And I think with everything that we do, it's really about education. And it's starting this dialog and helping everyone understand that these are just the realities of the human body. Here are the realities of biology. Here's what your odds look like at every age. And while technology and lifespan and all of these things have accelerated, there are just still certain things that happen. 


Kinsey [00:15:17] Right. 


Afton [00:15:17] And so I think this conversation of how all of these things tie together that, you know, we can even talk about how the U.S. compares to other economies and, you know, childcare, having kids. We're one of four countries in the world that don't mandate paid parental leave. And so I think that there are so many dimensions involved and kind of the economic discussion here that has put us in the position that we are in, I don't know if we'll be able to unpack it all today, but we can start. [laughter] 


Kinsey [00:15:53] Absolutely, we can start. And before we get into some of these more solution-oriented questions that I want to ask you. Just a quick one. A lot of this conversation we've been talking about Millennials. It's so often Millennials are putting off starting a family. Millennials are putting off buying a house, getting married, what have you. What about the next generation? Do we have any way of knowing it? Will Gen Z just [sound of fingers snapping] snap back into having kids at, you know, 22 and getting married, and what happens? Do we know? Can we guess?


Afton [00:16:19] We don't know yet. I think that Millennials are waiting longer than any generation in the history of the U.S. to start their families. And I think when you talk to fertility doctors, and you look at other countries, you just continue to see that age of first birth continuing to increase. This is something I ask every fertility doctor that I talked to, of just, you know, what's going to happen? And it's so interesting. I think the majority of them, and again, this is anecdotal, say that this is just still going to increase. 


Afton [00:16:51] But then you see these interesting kind of celebrity trends of different couples that want to be young-care parents and have kids younger. You see a shift of kind of the typical American family really changing. I think, you know, we know that 20% of Gen Z identifies as LGBTQ, where just the traditional pathways of fertility don't apply. And so I think where we're seeing a massive shift in just what is normal. But I think it's still a bit too early to say exactly how that's going to play out. Or maybe I just don't want to say it quite yet. [Kinsey laughs]


Kinsey [00:17:29] I suppose they have a little aging into their generation to do. We can't all be Kylie Jenner. All right. [Afton laughs] We are going to talk more about some shifts and, more specifically, the international stage and some COVID stuff as well. But first, a quick break to hear from our partner. — 


Kinsey [00:17:45] Now back to the conversation with Afton Vechery. So Afton, we've talked a lot here about the experience in the United States. Is that representative of the fertility experience in the broader global sense of fertility? Is this representative or are we experiencing something different from, say, other countries across the globe? 


Afton [00:18:03] Yeah, that's a great question. I think that there are kind of three main points that come to mind. One is in the U.S., having a baby is not a right. It's a privilege. There is no national coverage for infertility. If you are actively trying to conceive and cannot, there is no government-sponsored plan that will step in and mandate or provide coverage to any type of infertility service. Individual employers can do that. There are certain state-mandated policies, but just nothing on that level. And that is not the case in many countries across the globe. 


Afton [00:18:38] I think that the second area I would point to is just infertility rates where that age of first birth, the voluntary and involuntary childlessness where the U.S. is actually a little bit behind select countries in Europe. And I find it very interesting to look at those countries and kind of understand where the U.S. might be in a few years. 


Afton [00:18:58] And then I think the third just general point is the just economic health of a country and just developmentally where a country is does tie to birth rate and number of kids per capita to a family, as we might expect. And so I think just keeping kind of all of those things top of mind is it's really interesting to just see where the U.S. stacks up. 


Kinsey [00:19:26] Yeah, it has been a, I think, increasingly global conversation, especially as we see the different ways that different countries are responding to the health crisis happening right now. We are taking perhaps a bit of a closer look at the healthcare resources that are available in any given country. And when we see hotspots crop up at one time or another, it really does, I think, shine a light on what is there, but also, more importantly, what is missing. 


Kinsey [00:19:51] Another part [chuckles] of my segue here, but another thing that I think is missing from this conversation often is gender roles. When we think about, especially in light of COVID-19, where responsibility has fallen by and large for families that already have children, it's on women. And that hinders women in their careers. It hinders them in personal lives in a lot of ways. How should we consider gender roles when we talk about this shift in fertility rates, especially in light of home schooling and working from home and everything that's happened in the past six or so months? 


Afton [00:20:23] Yes, I am so glad you brought this up. I think that we need to look, within families, at both partners. If there are two partners being equal parents and not having the burden and responsibility and falling completely on the female. And I think that that extends even upstream to thinking about fertility and infertility. For so long, fertility and infertility has been thought of and considered a female problem and a female burden. And that's not the case. When you really look at fertility and infertility and the amount that is tied to a male factor and, you know, as you led with it takes two to tango. [Kinsey chuckles]


Afton [00:21:04] You know, that's up to half the reason why and where something could go wrong. And so I think from when we start to talk and think about fertility, it needs to be thought of as both sides, the sperm and egg, and how those come together. I think that when you think about sperm health and you think about egg health and you think about just where the research is on both sides of that, the gap on the women's health side is just so much longer. And so in terms of my time and Modern Fertility as a company, we started with focusing a lot more on the female side of the equation because there was just so much more education to be had there. But part of education and just having these conversations is talking about both sides. 


Kinsey [00:21:51] Do you think it's realistic to expect that we would reach a point at which it's a 50/50 conversation and also a 50/50 responsibility in the household? 


Afton [00:22:02] I think we need to be striving to a point where we try to get there. I think that reproductive health and equality, I think is truly the last and most important frontier in women's equality and that movement. And so I think that the reproductive health and fertility side of the equation is just so important in getting to total parity on every dimension. 


Kinsey [00:22:30] Why do you think that that gap exists for women in terms of reproductive health? What exactly gives men, I guess we'll call it like a leg up, in terms of information. Is it just because they can have children for [laughs] a longer time? 


Afton [00:22:47] Women are born with all the eggs they're ever going to have at birth. And that number goes to zero by menopause. And so when you look at just the decline of fertility, it's that, you know, as those eggs get older in your body, you start to see a more significant drop-off after the age of 35. It's not off a cliff, but it does accelerate a little bit faster, dependent on a lot of other factors. But the egg quality, the chromosomal abnormalities, and the rate of those abnormalities in every egg go goes up. 


Afton [00:23:19] And sperm also has age-related effects, but they don't hit for a bit longer. And so I think that because time is more important for women than for men, often it starts there. And because the woman carries so much of the responsibility throughout pregnancy and every dimension of that process, I think that there is so much mental and physical burden that kind of extends from that through the fertility phase. And I think that it's these types of conversations that can eliminate the fact that there needs to be the education-focused conversation and dialog that encompasses both sides upfront. 


Kinsey [00:24:03] And it's also such a huge domino effect. We talk about the economic implications of fertility rates and birth rates falling. They're enormous. But all of that starts with whether or not we are armed with the kind of information that we need to be empowered in whether or not we want children. As a man or a woman or whatever gender you identify with, this is a conversation that has to start early, hopefully, which to me as, and maybe this is because I talk to people who are in business all the time, but to me, that seems like a wide-open business opportunity, like with Modern Fertility. 


Kinsey [00:24:33] So we'll talk more about the business prospects in detail in just a moment. But first, a word from our partner. — And now back to the conversation with Afton Vechery. So Afton, what drew you to this space in the first place? 


Afton [00:24:49] So my first job out of school, I was working in New York City at a healthcare private equity fund. My job was to look at sectors of healthcare that were interesting, growing, had some consolidation potential. And I ended up spending a lot of time in women's health because I was personally interested in the space. And so I started looking at fertility from a private equity mindset, where it was really attractive. 


Afton [00:25:07] On the private equity side, it was high margin, self-pay, which meant, you know, it was coming out of pockets as opposed to providers. And so that was really attractive from a financial perspective. It was rapidly growing. The [indistinct] every year was great. And so I was 22, a year out of school, kind of going into all of these factors. And it was really interesting. And so as part of that process, I had to go in New York City, across the U.S., go into infertility clinics and talk to not only the doctors, but the patients. So I learned the business. I learned the science. But it was really the emotional aspect that stuck with me. 


Afton [00:25:45] I was talking to all of these executives in New York City who had never been told that fertility declines with age or had never been told that IVF wouldn't work for every single person. And I felt like at 22, I had this really unique window into conversations I probably wouldn't be having with my girlfriends for another decade. And then there was a part of that, that the private equity dynamics that didn't really sit right with me. You know, why is this so expensive? Why is it so inaccessible? Why isn't it covered? 


Afton [00:26:15] I kind of later left finance and went back to my operational roots, moved out to San Francisco, and worked at a variety of healthcare companies before Modern Fertility. I was at 23andMe and realized that I was waiting until later in life to start my own family. And I went to my OB/GYN and I had remembered these baseline tests that I learned about back in private equity. And I asked for the tests. But they said that because I wasn't actively trying and failing to have a child, that I just couldn't get the tests. 


Afton [00:26:48] And so I had to go into an infertility clinic to get the tests. Story for another time, but it was really hard to just go through that whole process. But when I finally got the information, it was so empowering to have that conversation with my partner, my doctor, myself, and think about my timeline. And so that was really the information gap [laughs] that created Modern Fertility. 


Afton [00:27:11] It was the fact that as I talked to my girlfriends about this experience, I realized that culturally, we were entering this new phase where women wanted to talk and learn more about what was going on inside of their bodies so that they could own the decisions impacting their bodies and futures, whatever those decisions might be. 


Afton [00:27:31] And so culturally, economically, as we have so many more opportunities, so many more decisions [laughs] to make, how can we have more information upfront to know and kind of be an active participant [laughs] in the trade-offs that we're making, or at least acknowledge that this is a trade-off or this is a decision and not have this super-reactive conversation about fertility down the line. 


Kinsey [00:27:57] Right. So it seems like there are businesses like Modern Fertility trying to fill this gap in terms of information and access. Are there systemic changes that could be made to address this? We've established that a birth bust would be a problem for several reasons. But what kind of systemic changes could be made to address this, if any? 


Afton [00:28:15] Yeah. So I think, you know, when you look at fertility coverage and you look at the reasons that our system is the way that it is right now, you know, right now, it is not an insurance provider. It's not incentivized for any member of their plan to have a child. It's very expensive for that to happen. But if it does happen, they want it to be a low-risk pregnancy as opposed to a high-risk pregnancy. 


Afton [00:28:37] So when you just look at the incentives, you look at the political nature of fertility, you look at all of the just complicated components around it. It's really hard for change to be made efficiently, but it needs to happen. But when I look at kind of the future of fertility, I think a lot of the conversation recently has centered around reproductive health treatments, really solving both the reactive side and solving the proactive side from a treatment basis. 


Afton [00:29:07] And so we hear a ton of buzz around egg freezing. There are subway banners. There's conversation. It's talked about as this insurance policy. But I do not believe that egg freezing is going to be the technology that gains mass adoption. I think that we need more proactive information. I think that there will be advances in technology. But I don't believe that egg freezing is, while amazing and wonderful for some women, isn't going to be the technology that just gains mainstream adoption and changes the game. 


Kinsey [00:29:43] It's very expensive. 


Afton [00:29:44] It's very expensive. [laughter]


Kinsey [00:29:47] I think it's, what, like $5,000 or something, or around more? 


Afton [00:29:51] It's more, yeah. The rates are changing, but often the cost of medication alone for one of your cycles can be a few thousand dollars. And so I think on average right now, it's around $10,000 to $12,000. That can vary from anywhere from five or above. You're looking closer to 20 for the cost of IVF. But yeah, it's a really expensive and invasive process that can change the odds. It can increase them, but it is not a total insurance policy. And again, wonderful for some women but not the perfect solution for everyone. 


Kinsey [00:30:32] Yeah. The wheels are kind of turning in my head right now. I'm thinking about the economic barriers for women who have trouble getting pregnant or who want to put off that decision until later in life. You essentially have to opt into very expensive procedures. That means that wealthier people are having more children [indistinct] contributing to this cycle of late-stage capitalism again. And here I am tying in all of these economic themes to whether or not we're having children. 


Kinsey [00:30:57] But I think it really ties a bow around this conversation—that this is something so deeply entrenched in our everyday lives. The fact that we even have lives to begin with—that we are here. It took somebody having a child and we are actively contributing to a system in some way or another. And that is kind of blowing my mind, to be totally honest. [laughs] 


Afton [00:31:15] I mean, I just got chills when you said that. I think that, you know, that's why these conversations are so exciting, like fertility, like we can talk about, you know, the economy. We can talk about capitalism. But this is like the fundamental essence of life, of human existence. And, you know, as we talk about these rates and what's going to happen in the future, I think it's fascinating, and I think the first step is information and education and really thinking about our own bodies. And then from there, it's extrapolating and understanding all of those different dimensions as a part of society, trade-offs, you know, everything. And I think, yeah, it's life. [laughs]


Kinsey [00:31:54] Yeah, it's life. It's a big one. So do you think that more awareness in terms of fertility leads to more or fewer babies being born? 


Afton [00:32:05] Wow, that is a great question. So I think that what we see is so many women that are, you know, in later in life that think because they are healthy, because they go to yoga and drink green juice, that their fertility and reproductive health is on the same page. 


Afton [00:32:25] And I think that, as a society that focuses on preventing pregnancy and our education system, as opposed to planning for it, as a society that has, you know, 15-minute well visit appointments with your OB/GYN and where it's really, really difficult to get into the nuances of family planning and that broader discussion, where we haven't created the system or society that enables women and people with ovaries and men and couples to have the information at their fingertips to make an active decision. 


Afton [00:33:00] And so, when you look at the fertility information gap, when you look at the rise of voluntary and involuntary childlessness, I don't have the perfect crystal ball that's going to kind of predict how all of those factors tied together. But I do think that more information upfront and earlier in life will play a factor in the involuntary childlessness cohort that is increasing as we see that one in six couples having trouble getting pregnant number continue to increase as well. 


Kinsey [00:33:36] And information is the name of the game. It's why we have conversations like these. And I personally have learned so much from this conversation and also just even preparing for this, trying to read up on the stats and understand this concept as a whole. Myself, I think it all boils down to a lot of really big, important factors. Like you said, the most important of which is money. Money contributes hugely to these decisions, whether or not we're having children. 


Kinsey [00:34:03] So thank you so much, Afton, for coming on Business Casual and shining a light on all of this and helping us understand this better. I hope that everybody, no matter your gender identity, recognizes the importance of understanding birth and fertility rates as important facets and factors in our shared economic well-being. 


Afton [00:34:22] Well said. Yes. Thank you so much for having me. This was so much fun. I'm really excited to continue the conversation. 


Kinsey [00:34:38] Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Business Casual. I loved learning about this topic and I got really passionate about it in my weekly column. If you want to hear my very much impassioned hot takes on this and every other big theme that we take on here at Business Casual, subscribe to my weekly op ed. It's easy. Just go to businesscasual.fm/signup. That's businesscasual.fm/signup to get my weekly column every Sunday. Thanks. And I'll see you next time. [sound of a ding]