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The Evidence on Family Affordability

American Enterprise Institute

April 28, 2023

Key Points

  • A narrative has emerged concluding that it has become too expensive in the US to afford a family.
  • Although different measures of income show different trends, household and family-level income show growth in recent decades after accounting for taxes and transfers.
  • Declining social capital and changes in consumption patterns, preferences, and perceptions have likely driven increased feelings of family affordability challenges.
  • These trends raise questions about the role of government assistance and whether the government should help meet families’ higher expectations and preferences or focus assistance on those low-income families whose incomes have not kept pace with costs.   
  • This report explores whether trends in family affordability are driven by changes in incomes, expenses, or perceptions and preferences.