scorecardMeet the DINKWADs: The TikTok legion making everyone jealous with their double incomes, no kids, and a dog
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Meet the DINKWADs: The TikTok legion making everyone jealous with their double incomes, no kids, and a dog

Juliana Kaplan   

Meet the DINKWADs: The TikTok legion making everyone jealous with their double incomes, no kids, and a dog
PolicyPolicy5 min read
  • There's a new American Dream: Becoming a DINKWAD — double income, no kids, with a dog.
  • DINKWADs on TikTok are exemplifying how the economy has changed people's aspirations.

Matt Benfield and Omar Ahmed are proud DINKWADs.

No, it's not an insult, just another acronym in a culture that loves to divide people into buckets. It stands for double income, no kids, with a dog. You can also be a DINK — double income, no kids — or a SINK, meaning single income, no kids.

"The allure of the DINKWAD lifestyle is solely based on financial and personal freedom from any responsibility," Ahmed said. Instead, Benfield and Ahmed love to travel, and are both passionate about not having children. They have a beloved rescue mutt named Yvie instead.

It's the latest economic and lifestyle trend to take over TikTok, with couples flaunting montages of their DINKWAD lives over an audio that goes: "I just learned the phrase DINK, which means double income, no kids, and I was like, that sounds pretty lit. And then I heard the phrase DINKWAD, which is double income, no kids, with a dog. Bro, sign me up."

A scroll through the TikTok sound will yield numerous happy couples, out adventuring or shopping with their dog in tow. The comments are often effusive, expressing viewers' desire to join the ranks of the DINKWADs.

"GOALS. Humans kids? BLEGH. Dog? A THOUSAND TIMES YES," reads one comment on a TikTok video of Benfield, Ahmed, and Yvie dancing in celebration of being "a DINKWAD household forever."

"Ideas spread rapidly on social media. There's an increasing acceptability of not having children; there's a decreasing stigma around not having children," Pamela Aronson, a professor of sociology and an affiliate of women's and gender studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, told Insider.

On top of that, over 48 million American households own a dog, and 23 million households adopted a pet during the pandemic. That's more dogs joining households during a time when birth rates stayed low.

It speaks to how economic and societal conditions are reshaping the new American Dream and aspirations of younger adults. Millennials are getting married later in life, with some delaying it for economic reasons, or not getting married at all. Homeownership is likely out of reach. Parenthood is costly, and birth rates are down. Instead, today's adults are crafting a new normal, one that replaces a white picket fence and kids with two incomes and a dog.

"Our generation, and Gen Z coming out of college, just don't have the money to support themselves and, like, much less a child," the millennial Benfield said. "They can barely afford rent. They can barely afford utilities, like grocery bills are through the roof. This idea of the DINKWAD is you have to just look out for yourself first before going for a kid or anything else."

'It's a life of choice'

Nicole Valdez, a 37-year-old publishing publicity manager, grew up thinking she'd get married and have kids — or at least that's what she was told she was going to want someday. After she first moved out of her parents' house, she got a dog for companionship.

"I always see continuing to have dogs in my future," she said.

As she got older, and faced the economic realities, she never even bothered to think about kids — because she always felt it would never be financially feasible. When she met her current partner, she truthfully said she did not see herself wanting to have kids, although she still enjoys being around children.

"In my early twenties when people would talk about kids, and I would talk about the fact that financially I can barely support myself, how am I going to support a kid, people would always kind of be like, well, you find a way," she said. "I thought that was such a strange phrase to say, because you don't find a way — you have to have a real plan."

For years, she and her partner came up against stagnant wages, only recently seeing a significant income boost. With how hard it was to "even just live" and pay rent, kids didn't feel feasible; a house is just now potentially coming into view.

"Deciding not to have kids, and instead deciding to just focus on our interests and our desires and what we want out of life has just given us a little bit more freedom, essentially, to take advantage of the world now, versus having to wait until our kids are grown or until we retire — if we retire," she said.

The cost of raising just one child has spiraled to $310,605, according to Brookings estimates, and that doesn't even encompass the potential cost of college. Some of that is driven by childcare that's unaffordable nearly everywhere in the US.

On top of that, income growth has stagnated. At current growth rates, it would take over 100 years for a typical family to double its income, compared to a doubling every 23 years from 1943 to 1973. With income growth low, and the costs of parenthood high, the around $2,000 you shell out every year for a dog is a bargain — and won't chip away too much at the precarity of a double income.

"There's a lot of inequalities in young adulthood today, and the pandemic actually worsened it," Aronson said. The concept of the DINKWAD, then, is something that's "financially aspirational" — with all of the economic blows that millennials and Gen Z have weathered, "those financial and economic insecurities impact what people even think is possible." Instead of a house and kids, it's just a financially stable and happy lifestyle.

Jasmen Rogers is a 33-year-old consultant with a Portuguese water dog and is currently watching her sister's shih tzu mix. Being a DINKWAD has meant her and her fiance can take care of themselves in ways that make them "our best and most whole" — and also be able to take care of their dogs, homes, and even sometimes their families "in really beautiful and abundant ways."

As a Black woman, both social and economic factors have influenced her decision not to have children. She's well aware that Black women are more likely to die in childbirth, and both her and her fiance — who's Puerto Rican — face racial and gender wage gaps.

"When our powers combine, we have a household where our children will be disadvantaged just based on who they are, and in a world that is both freezing and melting at the same time," Rogers said.

Instead, being a DINKWAD has been all about freedom — the ability to travel spontaneously, for instance, or even just sleep in on the weekends. It means that they can put their money into causes and people that they care about.

"It's a life of choice. The freedom and the power in being able to choose to remain childless, and to also have jobs that we both really enjoy that afford us a really great life," she said.




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