Childlessness Soars to 18%

Social pressure to have children has eased, study finds

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 25, 2010 5:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – The percentage of American women who enter their 40s having never had a child has almost doubled since the 1970s to 18%, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data. White women are more likely than ethnic minorities to remain childless, though the gap is rapidly narrowing, the AP reports: Childlessness among Hispanics and African-Americans grew three times faster than childlessness among whites in the 1990s.

The researchers say social pressure to have children has eased and remaining childless is now seen as an individual choice. And while better-educated women are less likely to have children, the study found that women with a master's degree or higher are likelier to have children now than they were in the early '90s (24% of women age 40-44 were childless in 2008, compared to 31% in 1994). Since the '90s there has been "a cultural shift that has made it more feasible to have a career while still also having a family," a University of Florida sociologist tells the Washington Post.

The proportion of Americans who say they don't think people without children have empty lives rose  from 39% to 59% between 1988 and 2002.
The proportion of Americans who say they don't think people without children have "empty lives" rose from 39% to 59% between 1988 and 2002.   (Shutter Stock)
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The fact that nearly one of five women does not have a child of her own—that's an enormous transformation from the past, - D'Vera Cohn, a co-author of the study

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