EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

The American family is shrinking. And not necessarily by choice. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that births in the United States fell by 4 percent in 2020. The pandemic is likely compounding this decline, but the trend began long before the current crisis: Last year’s Census showed that the US population increased by just 7.4 percent in the 2010s—the slowest rate of growth since the 1930s.

It’s no surprise why. For young American families, having both kids and healthy finances can feel nearly impossible. Thanks to our uniquely byzantine health care system, the average delivery costs more than $4,500 with insurance. To make matters worse, parents may not get any paid time off, since the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world without paid family leave. When parents return to work, they’re saddled with exorbitant care costs, with center-based infant care averaging over $1,200 a month. And many balance these expenses with crushing debt; the average student loan borrower has over $39,000 in loans.

Clearly, American society is not structured to help families thrive. Democrats have an important chance to change that by meeting the two most obvious needs for parents: paid family leave and affordable child care.

Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.