June 28, 2010 Leave a comment
The latest Pew report shows that American women are having fewer children. This is just part of an ongoing trend.
Nearly one-in-five American women ends her childbearing years without having borne a child, compared with one-in-ten in the 1970s.
What’s especially notable, though, is that women with advanced degrees (e.g., Kim) are actually having more children now (Kim is certainly doing her part). Here’s the cool chart:
Though childlessness (there’s a fun word) is still most common among this with more education, the educational differences are flattening out, as the percentages have gone up for less educated and down for more educated in the past decade. The racial gap, too, are shrinking (though white women are the most likely to not have children):
By race and ethnic group, white women are most likely not to have borne a child. But over the past decade, childless rates have risen more rapidly for black, Hispanic and Asian women, so the racial gap has narrowed…
Among all women ages 40-44, the proportion that has never given birth, 18% in 2008, has grown by 80% since 1976, when it was 10%. There were 1.9 million childless women ages 40-44 in 2008, compared with nearly 580,000 in 1976.
The report also offers up some public opinion data on the matter as way of partial explanation:
Over the past few decades, public attitudes toward childlessness have become more accepting. Most adults disagree that people without children “lead empty lives,” a share that rose to 59% in 2002 from 39% in 1988, according to the General Social Survey. In addition, children increasingly are seen as less central to a good marriage. In a 2007 Pew Research Center survey, 41% of adults said that children are very important for a successful marriage, a decline from 65% who said so in 1990.
Being in academia, where most of the women I know are highly educated, I know more than my fair share of women without children. I would never suggest that they “lead empty lives,” but obviously given my life decisions, I think they are missing out. One has to wonder about causality and selection bias, too. To what degree does being a high achiever make it harder and less likely for women to bear children and to what degree is the type of woman who desires high educational achievement simply the type of person less likely to want children? I don’t have an answer, just think its an interesting question.
Finally, it’s worth noting that if the flattening out based on education continues, the future horror hypothesized for the greatly under-appreciated Idiocracy, becomes less likely to pass.