Couples posting viral social media videos showing the perks of living the Dual Income No Kids (DINK) lifestyle triggers new conversations about the choice to live child-free.
Since 2009, the overall birth rate in the United States has declined by about 23%, though recent data shows a slight increase in 2022. This decrease has sparked concern about whether Gen Z and millennial couples will produce enough children to replace themselves after they are gone. For example, fertility data in the U.S. indicates 3.58 births occurred per woman in 1958, but that number fell to 1.78 births per woman in 2023.
Yet, despite future population concerns and the societal pressures to have kids, some young couples are choosing not to bring children into the mix, identifying as "DINKs" — an acronym for Dual Income No Kids.
And some are voicing their decision on social media platforms like TikTok. In one viral video, a DINK couple explains why they believe being child-free is living the best life.
"We're DINKs. We have disposable income to spend on whatever we would like and don't have to spend it on the kids," the woman says. She also points out that because they're childless, they don't have to ask for financial help from family members or ask them to watch their kids when they want to go out.
"We're DINKs. I'm going to go to every football game and play 18 holes whenever I want," the man claims.
@lillyanne_ Living the best life, the D.I.N.K life 😎 #dink #nokids #couple #fyp ♬ original sound - Lilly
The DINK movement also includes young couples who call themselves "DINKWADs," or Double Income No Kids with a Dog, and "DINKWAHs," or Double Income No Kids with a House.
TikTok videos tagged #dink, #dinks, and #dinklife have more than 425 million views on TikTok.
However, some individuals oppose this child-free trend. For instance, Elon Musk, who supports having children, expressed his opinions on one specific DINK lifestyle TikTok video reposted on X.
Commenting on the video, Musk said, "There is an awful morality to those who deliberately have no kids: they are effectively demanding that other people's kids take care of them in their old age. That's messed up."
There is an awful morality to those who deliberately have no kids: they are effectively demanding that other people's kids take care of them in their old age. That's messed up.undefined Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 5, 2023
Why are more couples living a child-free lifestyle?
A 2021 Pew Research Center report found that 44% of people ages 18 to 49 say it's not too or not at all likely that they will have children someday. This number increased from 37% in 2018.
The report also found that 56% of people in this age group are unlikely to have children because they just don't want to, 19% say it's due to medical reasons, 17% claim it's financial reasons, and 15% say it's because they don't have a partner.
Moreover, 10% of respondents said it's not likely they'll have kids because of their partner's age, and 9% don't want children because of the current state of the world.
DINK couples on TikTok say they want to remain child-free for several reasons, including the freedom to do what they want, to spend money how they please, and not rely on other people for support.
However, the reasons why couples choose not to have children vary.
Healthnews spoke with John Miller, a 27-year-old business manager from the Midwest. Miller and his fiancé, an engineer, are not planning to have children.
"Life today is too expensive even for one person, so to be able to have a kid and support it is harder than ever," Miller says.
However, finances aren't the only reason they have chosen not to have kids.
"Society (schools, public sports, social media, other parents) spend more time with your kid than the parents do, and you can't control what they are being taught," Miller explains.
Challenges with building a life together may also impact the decision to bring a child into the world.
"It takes longer to progress through college and work, so you're not able to get to that level where you can settle down early enough," Miller says.
Why is choosing not to have kids so controversial?
Aside from financial and societal challenges, selfishness appears to be the 1,000-pound elephant in the room when examining the DINK lifestyle controversy.
Moreover, Musk says that people without children are essentially "demanding that other people's kids take care of them in their old age."
While a 2018 study suggests that selfish people tend to have fewer children and earn less money than unselfish individuals, in an article for The Guardian, author Jill Filipovic calls the choice to be childless "admirable, not selfish."
"Parenthood is difficult in very particular ways. It should only be entered into entirely voluntarily. There is no 'voluntary' in a culture where parenthood is a required part of adulthood," Filipovic writes. "For some folks, childrearing is a wonderful challenge; for others it sounds awful. For still others, parenthood is entered into involuntarily or even angrily; too often, children suffer the consequences."
Still, Miller's reasons why he and his fiancé chose not to have kids are more about the challenges of raising children in today's society. And this suggests that the debate over whether childless couples are selfish or unselfish overshadows bigger, more concerning issues.
- AXIOS. The birth rate ticked up in 2022. Can the reversal last?
- Macrotrends. U.S. Fertility Rate 1950-2023.
- StudyFinds. Child-free generation? 1 in 4 young adults already ruling out having kids.
- Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Generosity pays: Selfish people have fewer children and earn less money.