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Should I raise my kid on Mars? A helpful guide for parents.


Earth is a terrible place to grow up. 

Many of us know this intuitively, but there is also plenty of data on the subject. Areport released by UNICEF today shows how bad things were for the world's children, just in the past year. A press release announcing the report declares that as many as 15 million children around the world were caught up in armed conflicts this year:

“This has been a devastating year for millions of children,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “Children have been killed while studying in the classroom and while sleeping in their beds; they have been orphaned, kidnapped, tortured, recruited, raped and even sold as slaves. Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such unspeakable brutality.”

Life was not nearly so brutal for children in the United States. But, for millions of kids, life still wasn't great. More than 7 million kids in the United States live in extreme poverty. About 1 in 8 American kids lives in a neighborhood with concentrated poverty. About 60 percent of kids in the U.S. are exposed to some type of violence each year. One in nine American girls, and 1 in 23 boys, will report being forced to have sex, before they even graduate high school. 

With such terrible conditions for children, even in developed parts of the world, many parents have to ask themselves: Is Earth even the right place to raise my children? Should I just raise them on Mars? 

Any parent confronted with this decision can undoubtedly come up with a long list of reasons why Mars might be a better place to raise their kids than Earth is right now. Consider:

  • Last year, there were zero wars on Mars that we know of.
  • There is no economic inequality on Mars. 
  • On Mars, children hold the same economic, social and political power as adults. 
  • No child has ever been physically or mentally abused on Mars.
  • No one has ever forced a child on Mars to join an army, or go to work in a factory.
  • No child has ever gone hungry on Mars. 

I could go on, of course. But the point is that Mars offers many compelling benefits for kids that Earth just doesn't offer. Before you pack up all your things, though, there is a case to be made for keeping your kids here on our home planet. 

First, ask yourself, what nation do I live in?

Despite the many dismal statistics cited above, many children do manage to grow up happy on this planet. And, if you're a parent, you can largely predict whether your child will be one of the lucky ones. 

First, ask yourself, what nation do I live in? If you live in Finland or Norway, or even Japan or South Korea, you might want to just stay put. If, on the other hand, you live somewhere in Central America, the Middle East or certain nations in Africa,the statistics do not look good for your child's chances. You'll definitely want to consider raising your kids on Mars.  

If you live in the United States, the decision is more of a toss-up. Sure, children in the U.S. are killed at rates comparable to Cambodia, Pakistan and Nicaragua (Table 3.2). But not every kid in America has it that bad. And, in the U.S. as in most countries, it's relatively easy to predict which kids are going to have an easier time of things. 

Here is a list of questions any American parent should ask themselves before making the decision to move to Mars: 

1. Am I at least middle-class in America? Most kids born into middle-class families in this country remain middle-class as adults. The vast majority of these kids will never feel what its like to go hungry. They'll never be abused or neglected. They won't be suspended from school. They won't drop out. They won't go to prison. Many of them will make it to college, get a nice job and have a nice, stable family of their own. If you are at least middle class in America, the data suggests you should stay right where you are; don't even consider Mars.

2. Do I, or will I soon, have a college degree? Even if you're not quite middle class right now, there's a good chance your children will be if you at least manage to obtain a bachelor's degree in college. A parent's college degreeis one of the best predictors of how successful that child will be as an adult. A bachelor's degree is like a golden ticket to the middle class. It can even insulate you from economic shocks like the one we all experienced a few years ago. 

3. Am I white? This is a biggie in America. Even if you're middle class, and even if you have a college degree, you'll still face a lot of challenges raising your kids in America if you're not white. If you need evidence of this, consider the research on infant mortality in America (which we've covered extensively). Studies have shown that if you control for both the income level and the education of the mother, black mothers still endure a higher rate of infant mortality than white mothers. Race predicts many more things than just birth outcomes in the U.S. And it's not just a black and white issue. My colleague Jennifer Guerra recently reported on the extremely high rates of suicide among American Indian teenagers.  If you're not white, you have to consider the impact of entrenched, institutional racism will have on your kids. That kind of racism simply doesn't exist on Mars. 

If you managed to answer "yes" to all three questions above, you have an easy decision ahead of you. Just don't move to Mars. Your kids will have, in the words of comedian Louis C.K., " ... awesome, boilerplate great lives." 

If, on the other hand, you are poor, not-white and you don't have a college degree, America - and Earth - is going to be hard on your kids. You might want to consider raising them on Mars instead. 

There will be challenges, of course. You've heard Rocket Man

"Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids In fact it's cold as hell And there's no one there to raise them, if you did. "

There's also no food, no air, no water and no shelter. 

And even in that distant future when those things might exist on Mars, traveling there will still be expensive. The people most likely to be able to afford to get to Mars will be the people most likely to be able to raise their kids in peace and stability right here on Earth. 

Maybe they'll create the same kinds of societies we already have here. Maybe there will be inequality and hunger and war. But right now, there's none of that. And if there's any way at all for us to raise kids in a world without inequality, hunger and war, we should find a way to make it happen.

Even if it means moving to Mars. 

Dustin Dwyer is a reporter on the State of Opportunity project, based in Grand Rapids. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.