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The U.S. counties that saw some of the steepest increases in home values also saw some of the steepest declines in fertility rates, according to a recent study by Zillow Research.

Expand chart
Reproduced from Zillow Economic Research; Chart: Axios Visuals

Why it matters: The housing trends do not necessarily mean that increased home values are a cause for the decline in fertility rates or vice versa. It could be that people with careers who can afford expensive homes, but can't afford or choose not to have children before 30, cluster in certain counties, researchers say.

"Cultural factors are mattering more than they used to," Eric Kaufmann, a demographer, author and professor at professor at Birkbeck College at the University of London, told Axios. "A lot of the economic rational for having kids has fallen a way. It becomes much more of a choice."

By the numbers: "On average, if a county’s home value increase was 10 percentage points higher than another county’s, its fertility rate fell 1.5 percentage points further," according to Zillow.

Between the lines: Housing expenses is the largest and fastest-growing cost for child-rearing, according to a 2015 report by the United States Department of Agriculture, which could potentially impact families who need more space or want to buy a home before having a baby, according to Zillow.

  • This comes as the average age for a first-time home buyer has increased from 32.5 in 2013-2015 to 35.2 in 2017, and women are generally waiting longer to have kids.

Big picture: Fertility rates have been declining consistently in the U.S. for years, and most notably during the financial crisis in 2008. While home values have recovered since then, the fertility rate has not. In fact, birth rates are still falling among women even in their early 30s, according to Richard Jackson, president of the Global Aging Institute.

Why it's happening: Before the Great Recession, America had higher fertility rates in part due to the relative ease with which young people could start careers and establish independent households compared with young people in other wealthy countries, Jackson said. "That advantage has largely evaporated," he said.

  • “Millennials are more risk averse than earlier generations at the same age," he added. "People 50 or even 25 years ago didn’t wait to be ‘financially well established’ before starting a family. Now it’s considered irresponsible not to.”

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