a pew survey at the end of last week found that 44% of Americans between 18 and 49 who are not parents say it’s very unlikely or at all unlikely that they will have children – an increase of 7 percentage points from 2018,
why it matters: This change could lead to smaller family Thanksgiving dinners and major social and economic changes, as children become scarce in many parts of the country and more American adults reach old age with no families to support them.
By numbers: The effects of high childlessness are being felt in US fertility numbers, which were already at a record low has continued to fall prior to 2020 and during the pandemic.
- ,[T]The decline in fertility in the United States is primarily due to an increase in childlessness at each age, rather than a decline in second or third births. writing Lyman Stone, Research Fellow at the Institute for Family Studies (IFS).
- More adults are reaching retirement age without children, and increasingly without a partner. Data released by the Census Bureau This year found that 19.6% of Americans between 55 and 64 reported being childless, compared to 15.9% of those 65-74 and 10.9% of those older than 75.
- in San Francisco — where are you more dogs than kids – children make up only 13% of the population, down from 13.4% in 2010 and the last dead in the 100 most populous US cities.
big picture: Most people in the Pew survey who report that they are unlikely to have children is because they do not want to have children. But Americans, in general, are even more interested in smaller families.
- Search Gallup poll data The ideal number of children Americans has has dropped from about 3.5 in the 1930s to 2.5 today. and it is still well above the current actual level of 1.7 lifetime births per woman,
- Fear about the environment, believed to be overpopulated and the general state of the world getting a lot of the press, Analysts at Morgan Stanley this summer said concerns are “affecting fertility rates at a faster rate than any preceding trend in the area of declining fertility rates.”
- yes but: Only 5% of expected non-parents in the Pew survey cited environmental reasons, a figure largely unchanged from earlier surveys.
What are they saying: The increase in infertility is a result of what Stone calls the “causal stage of life”, which includes Decreasing rates of marriage and coupling,
- Another factor is the belief among many Americans that modern parenting is particularly time- and labor-intensive, meaning that picking up children means giving up on leisure and work.
- “People who say they are concerned about how good a parent they will be and those who think parenting is really important tend to have lower fertility rates,” Stone says.
description: Such parental concern is an example of one of the most powerful forces behind changing fertility norms: social contagion.
- a 2012 study found that in Brazil, where TV soap operas portrayed families smaller than the norm, increased access to television was associated with significantly lower fertility.
What will happen next: Increased financial support for families promotes fertility, but largely marginalises.
- Scandinavian countries with liberal family leave policies high fertility rate Compared to southern European countries without them. but Births are still down”replacement rate“Out of 2.1 children per woman – the number of births needed to sustain the population – and roughly equal to the US
- Democrats’ Build Back Better plan includes significant subsidies for child care, but a number of commentators The case has been made that this would actually significantly increase the cost of child care for the middle class.
what to watch: There is a growing political and cultural divide in America regarding family size.
- While religious Americans marry long ago and have more children than secular Americans, the differences were much smaller since 2000 in the 1970s and 80s.
- a Report co-authored by Stone last month Regarding the pandemic’s impact on family formation, religious Americans are three times more likely than secular Americans to plan to have a child in 2021 or 2022.
- At the same time, religiosity is declining substantially in the US – less than half of adults say they belong to the house of worship Leaving fewer Americans exposed to child-rearing norms.
Bottom-line: Whether or not it is right to bring a child into the world is a personal decision, but one that is highly influenced by changing social attitudes – in either direction.