Skip to main content

Family Affordability in America: A Story of Decline or Achievement?

American Enterprise Institute

June 24, 2023

On June 22, AEI’s Scott Winship and Angela Rachidi were joined by Oren Cass of American Compass and Idrees Kahloon of the Economist to review the evidence on family affordability in America.

Event Summary

The event began with presentations from the three panelists, each presenting original research on changes in the ability of the average American to afford a family. Dr. Rachidi presented research on income and cost trends, in which she found that income has risen dramatically over the past several decades and the costs have barely changed. Mr. Cass then presented his Cost-of-Thriving Index (COTI), which shows that it has become much harder for sole-breadwinning men to afford the costs typical of a middle-income lifestyle. Dr. Winship then presented research from an original report, criticizing the methodological and theoretical approach of Mr. Cass’s COTI.
After the presentations, Mr. Kahloon moderated a discussion, in which he teased out the sources of disagreement among the panelists, focusing specifically on how to measure changes in cost of living.

—Thomas O’Rourke

Event Description

Is it more difficult to afford raising a family in today’s economy than in generations past? The prevailing view is that it has become more challenging, but a series of recent studies offer different interpretations of the data. Some scholars conclude that income has generally kept pace with costs, suggesting that having a family has not become less affordable over time. Meanwhile, others conclude that costs have outpaced earnings, making family life out of reach for many Americans. The policy solutions, and whether there is a role for government at all, depends on these interpretations.

Join AEI’s Scott Winship and Angela Rachidi and American Compass’s Oren Cass to review and debate the evidence on family affordability in America.

Event Materials

Event Transcript