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Fewer Babies – More Pets

May's deep economic dive for the state of Colorado


While fertility rates in America are declining, the rate of pet ownership is increasing. According to Lynman Stone of the Institute for Family Studies, the rate of growth in pet ownership is rising especially fast among single women. 

What is causing this phenomenon?  That’s up for debate, but we know industrialized countries are seeing declining fertility rates worldwide and raising a pet is cheaper than a child.  Other areas of the world such as Russia and Latin America appear to have an even greater affinity for pets than we do. 

The implications of shifting from babies to puppies and kittens will have dramatic impacts on specific markets. The pet craze was not very sensitive to the Great Recession while new births was negatively impacted. Overall since 2006, pet expenditures have grown at an average annual growth rate of 5.9 percent (doubling from $36 to $72 billion).  See the adjacent table for the type of expenditures. New jobs like dog-walkers are growing fast. Veterinarians and their assistants and technicians are among the fastest growing jobs with 10-year increases in excess of 18 percent. Drug shortages have been a problem for most of this decade. Large companies looking for growth opportunities are increasingly focusing on the pet industry for acquisitions.     

Households that love pets typically have more than one and, just like children, we have to plan our lives around pets.  It impacts our lifestyles from the cars and houses we buy to the friends we select.  It also impacts public policy at the local level – like walking dogs off leash.  Boulder clearly has the most dog friendly laws where dogs can be certified for voice control; whereas in other communities in the west an owner can be charged with a felony for having a dog off leash. 

For more details on pet ownership and human fertility see https://ifstudies.org/blog/fewer-babies-more-pets-parenthood-marriage-and-pet-ownership-in-america

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Tom Binnings

Tom Binnings is a senior partner at Summit Economics in Colorado Springs. He has more than 30 years of experience in project management, economic and market research, real estate development, business analytics and strategic planning. He can be reached at (719) 471-0000 or tbinnings@comcast.net.

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