Far More Adults Don’t Want Children Than Previously Thought

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Yves here. Given that it’s not socially acceptable in many quarters to say you don’t want to have kids, I suspect that the number of people who would rather not be parents is higher than this survey shows, and also higher historically than past polls would indicate. I know my parents had children because they were expected to, and explicitly to help my father’s career. A childless couple in the 1950s had to ‘splain themselves. And of course there was also the lack of cheap effective birth control and legal access to abortions.

Aside from the questionable future of the planet and the ethics of making more demands on limited resources, other reasonf for not having children include falling marriage rates, generally less stable relationships, along with shorter job tenures. It’s much harder to be sure you can provide well for your offspring even if you want to have them.

By Jennifer Watling Neal, Associate Professor of Psychology, Michigan State University and Zachary Neal, Associate Professor of Psychology, Michigan State University. Originally published at The Conversation

Fertility rates in the United States have plunged to record lows, and this could be related to the fact that more people are choosing not to have children.

But just how many “child-free” adults there are has been tricky for researchers to pin down.

National fertility data provided by the U.S. Census and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lump together all adults who aren’t parents, making it difficult to understand how many people identify as child-free.

As social scientists, we think it’s important to distinguish child-free individuals from those who are childless or not yet parents. People who are child-free make the conscious decision not to have kids. They’re distinct from childless individuals – adults who want children but can’t have them – and from people who plan to have children in the future.

In a recent study of 1,000 people, we found that over 1 in 4 Michigan adults did not want biological or adopted children and were, therefore, child-free. This number was much higher than those reported in the few past national studies that have attempted to identify child-free people, which placed the percentage between 2% and 9%.

Child-Free by Choice

Although we can’t be sure why we identified more child-free people in our study, we suspect it may have something to do with how we determined who was child-free.

Past studies that attempted to estimate the prevalence of child-free individuals often focused only on women and have used criteria based on fertility. These studies left out men, older adults and biologically infertile people who nonetheless didn’t want children.

In our study, we used a more inclusive approach. We looked at both women and men, asking three yes-no questions that allowed us to determine who was child-free based on the desire to have children, rather than fertility:

  • Do you have, or have you ever had, any biological or adopted children?
  • Do you plan to have any biological or adopted children in the future?
  • Do you wish you had or could have biological or adopted children?

Those who answered “no” to all three questions we classified as child-free.

Just Like Everyone Else?

In addition to examining how many child-free people there are, we also examined whether child-free people differed from parents, not-yet-parents and childless individuals in life satisfaction, personality or political views.

We found that child-free people were just as satisfied with their lives as others, and there were few personality differences. However, child-free people were more liberal than parents.

Although child-free people were pretty similar to everyone else, we did find that parents were less warm toward child-free people. This finding suggests that child-free individuals may be stigmatized in the United States.

Looking Ahead

Our study suggests that the number of people who choose not to have children may be larger than previously thought. Although our study focused on Michigan residents, the state’s population is similar to the overall U.S. population in terms of age, race, income and education. So we’d expect to see similar numbers of child-free people in other states.

We hope to continue our research by collecting data over time across the country to determine whether it’s becoming more common to be child-free – and to understand how and why people make the choice not to have children.

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  1. Glossolalia

    There is no mention of whether the study looks at income and education levels. I suspect that like the movie Idiocracy predicted 15 years ago the lower income and education levels are procreating just fine but it’s the well-educated upper income brackets that are deciding not to have kids and/or delaying until its no longer feasible.

    1. Isotope_C14

      It should be painfully apparent that there will be no or significantly limited habitat for humans sometime in the range of 1-100 years. Some fool may launch nukes in the short term, or climate collapse will take care of us in the longer term.

      To bring a child into this type of existence is some kind of cruelty that should not be done.

      Idiocracy was a very good representation of the wisdom of our species.

      1. Temporarily Sane

        The world is not going to end any time soon. It’s certainly not fear of the apocalypse or climate change that’s preventing people from having kids. In my experience a lot of the climate doomsayers are childless liberals who never wanted to have kids anyway.

        But the fact is that a society or a nation in which deaths far outpace births is committing slow motion suicide. e.g. Japan and Germany.

        The west thinks it can tap into an endless supply of immigrants to make up for falling birthrates but this is not a real solution. It’s a terrible idea that’s up there with non-solutions like importing cheap labor in a bid to drive down wages and luring skilled immigrants away from their home countries in order to weaken or outcompete geopolitical rivals.

        Mass immigration, open borders and rapid demographic changes are hugely relevant issues with serious consequences.

        The EU’s open borders policy, for example, means people from poorer countries in the east and south of the Union migrate to the wealthier countries like Germany and France while the areas they are from suffer from gradual depopulation. This is already a serious problem in the rural areas of Romania and Bulgaria where everybody who can leaves their home communities to seek work in a richer EU country. Only old and extremely poor people stay behind and the region stagnates economically.

        A similar, but not identical, dynamic is at work in the countries sending millions of immigrants to North America each year. All those skilled working age people leaving their home countries to live and work in the US and Canada has consequences for both sides of the equation.

        But back to the falling birthrate. I thought it was determined that the primary factors driving low birthrates in the developed world are widespread prosperity (compared to pre-industrial times), widely available birth control and the waning influence of religion? AFAIK this hasn’t changed.

        Italy and the province of Quebec in Canada, where Catholicism was very influential, have seen a huge drop in births since the 1950s. It hasn’t been this drastic in other places but every highly industrialized and prosperous nation has seen birthrates plummeting in that timeframe.

        Germany is an example. The state provides all kinds of benefits and incentives to couples who want to start families but so far not many are taking them up on it. The current German government seems to be following the US, Canada and Australia in promoting immigration as a solution to its birthrate woes.

        The religious right exaggerates the “sacredness” of the familial unit, as anyone who grew up in a badly dysfunctional or abusive family knows, but its concern over the decline of the family is not at all irrational. Since the dawn of humanity families have been the primary building block of stable communities. That doesn’t necessarily mean two parents and 2.5 kids isolated in a suburban home. Hunter gatherers and more communal cultures don’t pair off and raise children in self-contained units but they still have systems in place to ensure the clan or group reproduces itself and that its children grow up to become successfully reproducing adults.

        It seems to me the west has thrown this notion out the window and wants to fix it with dubious solutions like mass immigration or pretending it’s not that big of a deal. Sure, it’s still kind of taboo to openly disdain having children but large numbers of westerners are nonetheless forgoing having children.

        The west needs to stop with the family blogging neuroticism over idpol etc. and “containing” its geopolitical rivals and focus on dealing with the many problems and challenges it wants to deny and sweep under the rug.

        Immigration, falling birthrates and the role of the family, the detrimental effects of massive wealth inequality, the failure of neoliberalism, global warming due to climate change, the state ceding the economic realm to rapacious capitalists…all these things need to be talked about honestly and solutions need to be found.

        Why is this so difficult? The US used to be proud of its ability to innovate and take the lead in trying new ways of doing things. The country was founded on that principle. It kept the parts of the British system of government that worked, ditched the parts that didn’t and designed the other parts it needed from scratch. Kind of like what China did to get itself out of poverty and backwardness and become the ongoing work in progress it is today.

        Unfortunately I don’t have a nice, neat conclusion here. Is the west’s slow slide into chaotic irrelevance inevitable? If not when are we going to take our existential crises seriously? Are there any smart people with influence out there who have given this some thought?

        1. Isotope_C14

          “The world is not going to end any time soon.”

          You might want to have a word with these folks:


          “In my experience a lot of the climate doomsayers …”

          Doomsayers? Didn’t Canada have that town Lytton burn to ash a day after being 120F? Get used to more of that this year.


          “Are there any smart people with influence out there who have given this some thought?”

          Yes, and they are summarily ignored by the oligarchy. Peter Joseph’s book “The New Human Rights Movement” outlines a good plan.

          1. Temporarily Sane

            Nobody who isn’t completely out to lunch is saying that climate change isn’t an extremely serious problem. And it’s going to get a whole lot worse as the planet continues to heat up.

            But the planet isn’t going to spontaneously combust and wipe out every last living creature. Mass death and deprivation are definitely possibilities but life, even if it is diminished, will go on.

            If global warming is going to fry the earth out of existence, all actions to mitigate its worst effects are futile and we might as well just give up right now.

            A doomsday cult is a doomsday cult even if it is secular.

            1. Isotope_C14

              Just curious, what happens to the 400 nuclear power plants when the water is too hot to cool the rods designed for less than 95F?

              Unfortunately there are imaginable scenarios where things go south very quickly.

              I’d suggest looking at Ugo Bardi and the Seneca effect. Fascinating stuff.

            2. Soredemos

              “But the planet isn’t going to spontaneously combust and wipe out every last living creature.”

              This is basically a strawman. It should be self-evident that whenever someone talks about ‘the end of the world’, they aren’t literally saying they expect all six sextillion (or whatever) tons of planet to just disappear. They mean that the planet as we know it will change radically. It’s likely that will range from merely the end of globalized industrial civilization to a massive die-off that leaves little more than microbes in its wake. Both scenarios have happened before, multiple times in fact.

              I don’t think you truly appreciate how bad things are very likely to get in the next couple centuries. The positive feedback loops are already kicking in.

        2. Jon S

          IMHO, money trumps everything. Young women decide the birth rate. They have to be willing to forego a career for a few years to be pregnant and care for a young child. That puts them in a precarious position. That precariousness is generally overcome by having a young man willing to provide for her and the baby who is not in a precarious position.

          The vast majority of young men these days have a problem with precariousness. And that’s not going to change while the rapacious capitalists are in charge. Because getting more money is far more important than reducing the job insecurities of the young.

          And no, we can’t have a conversation about this on a national scale. That doesn’t benefit the rapacious capitalists, and they control the mechanisms for national conversations.

          1. ChrisPacific

            Not to mention that childbirth, like everything else in modern America, is increasingly viewed as a personal choice that should be self-funded (“Don’t have children unless you can afford them”). That’s at odds with the fact that people at the best age (biologically and historically) for having kids don’t typically tend to be working high paid jobs yet or have much in the way of savings. Societies have generally addressed this via a public service framework of some kind that amounts to a de facto subsidy from older, wealthier taxpayers to young families, who then subsidize the next generation in their turn. Modern day neoliberal America is increasingly retreating from all such social contracts, and that has consequences. If young women think that society won’t help them if they run into trouble (or worse, blame it on them and their reproductive choices) then it would be naïve to think it wouldn’t factor into their decision.

          2. coral

            Young women may have to forgo career for more than a few years. And women are clearly discriminated against in many fields, especially in the professions and with promotions to higher levels. Motherhood, even when kids are school age can be a death knell for higher level career aspirations.

            The cost of child care and housing is through the roof. And men have proved to be fairly unreliable partners and fathers, even among the middle and upper middle classes.

            So for a woman to decide to have kids is either a supreme career sacrifice, the luxury of upper-classes, or something for people with few career aspirations.

        3. Astrid

          As one of those “liberal” who was probably never going to have kids (but realization that I’m living in a failing state kinda sealed the deal), I would say raising middle class kids these days is really really hard.

          I was raised as a latchkey kid. My parents didn’t really care how I spent my time as long as I got semi acceptable report cards. My husband had a stay at home mom but even she gave him a lot of latitude to hang out with friends and find his own interests.

          These days, my friends and coworkers with kids are constantly taking their kids from one enrichment activity to another. Helping them with homework. Scheduling playdates. Going to birthday parties. I’ve been trying to schedule an outing for 3 friends and had to restrict it to lunches because the friend with kids couldn’t do dinners since her husband travels a lot for work and she has to ferry the kids after work.

          Another friend has 3 kids and juggles with help from two sets of grandparents and hired a nanny to help during Covid even though 2 of the kids are in high school. We’ve definitely lost friends to kids, though we get them back a bit once the kids are in elementary school, assuming there’s no scheduled activity. Childcare is so expensive that for 2 or more kids, it’s a financial wash whether to stay at home with kids or work a $60k job, but it’s better to work because otherwise you may never get back on the career ladder.

          And the competition for education and prestige jobs is much higher than I remember. Most of our friends went to Ivy’s and equivalents, and they have nice kids, my sense is that most of the kids are going to state schools or places I’ve never heard of. Even with scholarships, they are paying way more for college than I ever did.

          If I ever thought whisfully about not raising our own, seeing my friends lose 20 years of their lives works as excellent birth control.

          1. Robert Hahl

            “I would say raising middle class kids these days is really really hard.”

            That was my experience. I would never do it again. And a friend who emigrated from Africa and recently became a U.S. citizen is now planning to go back, mainly because she found out she does not want to raise children in this country.

            1. vw

              Your friend is extremely wise. I exaggerate in no way when I say I wish I had a realistic option to raise my kids in Africa right now… :(

        4. CanCyn

          To Temporarily Sane “In my experience a lot of the climate doomsayers are childless liberals who never wanted to have kids anyway.”
          I was of childbearing age in the late 80s early 90s. We did not decide to be child free because of the worsening climate but are now very relieved not to have children and grandchildren having to face what is coming our way. I recently listened to a friend go on about mitigating the effects of her frequent flying vacations by purchasing carbon offsets for her flights. She waxed on about all the new carbon reduction technologies she was helping to pay for. She wasn’t buying that we are past the point were carbon balancing is a good solution and that we need to be focusing on extreme carbon reduction to get ourselves out of this mess. It occurred to me that two kids and her hopes for grandchildren almost oblige her to be more positive about the future and live in a bit denial about it. I on the other hand, with no kids or grandkids am more free to see the true state of the world. I used to think I would be dead before things got too bad, I am now thinking that if I live for another 20 years or more (80+), it ain’t gonna be pretty.

          1. Dante's Disco Inferno

            Hot take, but maybe no one sees the true state of the world.

            If I ever start feeling like I do, I think I’ll probably grow increasingly suspicious of myself. Frankly, I can’t be trusted with opinions that big.

          2. bkwilly

            I’ve always said there must be a hormone triggered when one has kids to not be able to accept the fate of the world as anything negative bc thought is too painful to bare.

            I am also, I guess, a “childless-liberal-doomsayer”. But in addition to the absolute devastation of the sixth extinction underway, reasons for not procreating is realizing I would have zero help from my one remaining parent (she is not at all involved with my brothers kids), not wanting to work a 9-5 while also juggling kids (how do people do this?), absurd cost of child care, and the sinking feeling that I would be the primary caretaker based upon my past and current relationships, insane demands on parents now to cater to their kids- the older I got, by the time I could actually “afford” a kid, I just don’t have the energy for this. I enjoy sleeping in, traveling, quiet time, drinks with friends, concerts and basically not have the paranoia and stress of having a kid would bring into your life. I’m 40 now, people ask me why I look so young, and I believe the main driver of this is very low stress bc no kids! And one final thought, the American capitalist “grind until you die” life to me doesn’t seem that great. And if kids are the only thing that bring “true happiness” why should I continue this vicious circle for my offspring? They will then be burdened to have kids to provide some type of meaning. Oh, and it pisses off right-wingers to no end when women don’t want kids so I know I’m making the right choice :)

        5. hunkerdown

          Neoliberalism didn’t fail. It did exactly what it intended to do in the time it was needed: namely, to reproduce a society of an elite imposing non-reciprocal obligations on the mass. Every class society performs this function in whatever way suits teh subjective conditions of the time.

          As for children, who exactly is laying these “social debts” and why is it not more correct to destroy their interests than serve them? The Puritan class system, on which the current iteration of a cultural obligation to breed rests, has no right to exist or be honored. We can end this cycle of abuse.

      2. ilpalazzo

        I wonder if it is a coincidence that we here in Poland had good breeding rate when under commie rule after the war and then it had fallen down when we joined the prosperous West.

      3. Brian Beijer

        Reply to Isotope C_14- This is exactly why I and my wife chose not to have children. In addition to the impeding climate catastrophy, I derive some small satisfaction knowing that I’m denying the elite one less child to be brainwashed to serve as a future economic slave in order for them to perpetuate this hellish system. Having children is about the only thing the elites can’t force someone to do…yet.

        1. Brian Beijer

          Ugh. I meant this as a reply to Isotope C_14. Sorry if it seems out of step with the other comments above.

          1. Isotope_C14

            All good Brian,

            Thanks for starting to post recently instead of lurking!

            “I derive some small satisfaction knowing that I’m denying the elite one less child to be brainwashed to serve as a future economic slave in order for them to perpetuate this hellish system.”

            Indeed, well said.

        2. hunkerdown

          My reasoning exactly. Revolutionnaires can’t afford hostages, and no system has a right to be reproduced.

    2. Carolinian

      Well let’s not be snooty about it (if you are being). Traditionally the poor have more children because of higher infant mortality and need for agricultural helpers. And even now poorer Third World countries have cities full of workers who have come from this same rural environment.

      My mom grew up on a farm with lots of brothers and sisters. Often the older kids would be raising the younger ones. One effect of low birth rate seems to be the over the top child worship that we movie fans encounter constantly these days. You don’t have to wonder too much where “safe space” comes from. It’s certainly debatable whether such a protective environment makes for better citizens even if the love behind it is so entirely human.

      1. Alex

        I have a modest proposal regarding the fertility problem. Legalising child labour would turn little buggers from economic liability to asset and then voila, the market forces will take care of the problem

    3. RMO

      Birth rate (births per 1000 women) of the under $10,000 per year bracket is 66.44, $10-15,000 59.58, $15-25,000 61.59, …. $100,000-150,000 48.49, $200,000 and over 43.92. It goes up and down in the brackets between but overall roughly declines with income but from bottom to the top there’s not really a huge difference.

      I’ve always found the implication that the “dumb, poor, uglies” will outbreed the “superior” (wealthier) humans and doom humanity deeply ugly when I’ve come across it. Besides, I can’t look at our current professional managerial class and elites without coming to the conclusion that they are the greatest threat to humanity and the planet.

      1. everydayjoe

        They once said Irish and Italians were to be stopped as they breed like rabbits…now the boogie man is the poor Mexican, South American , Asian immigrants etc

    4. SE

      This sounds a little eugenics-y. The wealthy well educated people haven’t been doing such a good job running this place.

    5. One Kid is too few, Two Kids are too many

      Anecdotally I see the high income bracket are breeding like rats. In the management sphere at my previous job, most of them had 3 kids.

      A comment about the Idiocracy movie: I believe that we are already there, but the idiots are not coming from the lower class but from the second generation of the upper-classes.


  2. Bob

    Visited a retirement community a little while ago and was shocked to find that there were no children.

    It seemed as if it was a little off. As if in the midst of a beautiful planned community it was a ship with missing timber.


    1. Mikel

      I don’t think the retirement homes are currently representative of a large child-free population. Those children just weren’t there.
      Now the coming decade…that will start to change.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Years ago there was a retirement center in Oz built that had a novel rule – no kids allowed there. They were not welcome so do not bring them as visitors. These are the same sort of people that joke about ‘spending the kid’s inheritance.’ I don’t know what happened with that place but it is a good thing that that could never backfire on the people living there.

  3. Starry Gordon

    By the time I reached parental age — 1960-1980, say — having children had become an expensive personal hobby which many people found troublesome and offensive in others. especially the improperly pigmented. Unless you were well-enough off to hire a nanny or other child-care solutions, your life was pretty much finished until the kids grew up and the dog died, and then you were sort of old. Today, I can’t imagine what breeders are up to, and once upon a time I was one of them.

    1. Lunker Walleye

      As the last child of many, there was no doubt that I would have children. Except I did not. It was not a one time decision but a series of decisions made over several years. It almost felt like society was dictating that I be a mother. My Dad died when I was shy of 13 — that probably sealed the deal for me when I was older and could reflect on how that impacted my life and did not want to have that happen to “my” kid. My spouse also lost his mother at a very young age. Not having children was the right decision for us. Our friends have had so many problems with their children.

      And, My Gosh, I’m older than Slim!

  4. chuck roast

    Spawn free, as free as the wind blows
    As free as the grass grows
    Spawn free to follow your heart

    Spawn free, and life is worth living
    But only worth living
    ‘Cause you’re spawn free

    You’re free as the roaring tide
    So there’s no need to hide

    Spawn free, and life is worth living
    But only worth living
    ‘Cause you’re spawn free

  5. bassmule

    The term “child-free” gives me the hives. As though “not wanting to have children” is some new product. “Childless” sounds a lot less like advertising. I’m childless. I’ve never had children, my family never encouraged me to have children. I do have many nieces and nephews, acquired when I married. Now those nieces and nephews have small children, and yes, as a matter of fact, I do fear for their future.

    1. PHLDenizen

      There’s a semantic difference: “child-free” connotes agency whereas “childless” suggests unwanted consequences of infertility.

      One who arrives at the decision to deliberately remain sans kids has chosen to be “free” from the burdens (prison) of child rearing. One who is “childless” may have a deep longing to birth one, but whose opportunity has been denied either through biology or inability to attach oneself to enough capital to make a meaningful future for her offspring.

      The child-free community adopted that less pejorative and austere nomenclature. Also the same group that coined terms such as “crotch goblins” and “nipple crunchers”. Both are hilarious, although parents as a whole tend to be dour and defensive when you drop those into casual conversation. So humorless.

      My friends who hitched their wagon to parenthood have figuratively died. Their wives hate me because I come to gatherings, bringing stories of freedom like an escaped slave. The husbands sigh, look over wistfully and with envy. Their wives glower at me, convinced that their domestic bliss is so fragile even the faintest whisper of happy alternatives will lead their partners into temptation and break their household. Child-free = occasional loneliness and being persona non grata.

      Having been mowed down by way too many smug, entitled, narcissistic parents running around with SUV sized strollers — or having to endure them pathologically sanitize the world in the interest of “protecting” their kids — my empathy for parents dwindles rapidly. You ever see some @sshole change a diaper on a table in the middle of a restaurant or on a bar? I have. It was as revolting as it smelled. And yet no one spoke up “because babies and how hard it is being a parent”.

      My mom told me once that “you just get bored with your kids sometimes”. Everyone I’ve shared that with has been appalled, but I didn’t take it personally. Feelings injured slightly, but I absolutely understand that sentiment.

      She also told me “kids and retail don’t mix” and that the only response to your kid throwing a tantrum in a store is to remove yourself immediately. Good manners.

      1. flora

        She also told me “kids and retail don’t mix” and that the only response to your kid throwing a tantrum in a store is to remove yourself immediately. Good manners.

        Certainly that’s what my mom did back in the day, and everyone understood. It was a generally agreed upon thing. That’s how you dealt with toddler temper tantrums. Today, pulling a temper tantrum-throwing, screaming toddler out of a store by the arm might cause someone to call the police on you. Really. The only thing I do now when seeing a toddler throw a tantrum in a store with their exasperated and embarrassed parent close by is smile at briefly at the parent and humorously ask, “Are we throwing a tantrum?” That general elicits a smile of relief from the parent that this “older woman” understands exactly what’s happening and isn’t judging them as parents. And they then general step in and take charge of their fussy toddle. It’s never been easy being a young parent, and never will be. My 2 cents.

  6. cocomaan

    Meanwhile, religious Americans are having kids like crazy, whether black or Latino or white.

    Probably will result in a rise of the religious right again in a few decades.

    1. saywhat?

      Probably will result in a rise of the religious right again in a few decades.

      That depends: the Bible is neither Right nor Left and supposedly is authoritative for Christians.

    2. hunkerdown

      That’s what the weird uncles and non-family friends are for. To subvert Puritan feudalism in every way we can.

  7. antidlc

    Even if offspring can survive climate change, how many can actually look forward to owning a home and retiring comfortably? Decent defined benefit pensions are few and far between and if you work for a company with a 401(k), your “retirement” plan is to invest in a rigged stock market, often paying horrendous fees.

    No wonder depression is so widespread.

    1. vw

      We’re at the moment in society when other reasons to continue living have to be found besides “owning a home” and “able to retire comfortably”. Because… for everyone in their 30s and below, that ship just left the port.

      Obviously, this applies for both those with and without kids.

  8. SteveB

    I have two adult male children. Both are in long term stable relationships, neither want children. I don’t know why and although my wife and I would love to have grandchildren it’s just not in the cards.
    I should mention that we have fine relationships with both boys and their SO’s…

    They just want to live their lives without the commitment to children.

  9. fresno dan

    DO CHILDREN BRING happiness? As someone who has invested heavily in small people over the years—I have two children and two stepchildren—I want to believe the answer is “yes.” But the evidence suggests otherwise.
    Not having children, and being an only child, I have only my observations. But by listening (you can learn a lot by saying only one word for every 100 you hear) it seems a significant amount of brothers hate brothers, daughters hate mothers, fathers hate sons, and parents hate their children. Apparently, a good number of children communicate with their parents as seldom as they can get away with, and children are frequently disowned.
    I don’t know if big turkey has a vested interest in propagandizing the big thanksgiving celebration, but when I was young and invited (coerced) into attending these hub-bubs from people who apparently thought it was a shame that I was alone, it was rather obvious that most of these people would rather have not been there. (Seriously, people would tell me about how rotten their relatives are, and than in the next breath entreat me to spend hours with these dregs of humanity…I eventually flat out refused such invitations, saying I would much rather watch porn and eat corn dogs.)
    The species is no longer in danger of dying off, at least not from what imperiled human survival 20,000 years ago. So we no longer need to reproduce to assure continuity of humanity, and everyone can decide for themselves if having kids is so wonderful.

    1. Glossolalia

      And even if kids don’t hate parents or vice versa there’s good chance these days that the kids will live thousands of miles away and have no interest/ability in moving closer to parents and parents likewise to move closer to their kids.

      True hunting is over
      No herds to follow
      Without game, men prey on each other
      The family weakens by the bite we swallow…

      True leaders gone
      Of land and people
      We choose no kin but adopted strangers
      The family weakens by the length we travel…

      Three Days by Jane’s Addiction

      1. kareninca

        I have a family friend back in my hometown; she and her husband are in their 30s and have two kids. They are all really nice. She is Italian American. Her absolute obsession in life is that her kids – who are about 7 and 9 – not ever move away from the area. She has been fixated on that since they were born, or maybe before they were born. She really hates that I moved away; I am a bad example (apart from that she seems to like me well enough). I do see her point. My family is scattered, and really there will be nothing left of it soon. At a certain point it is too hard to keep track of younger generations from a distance. However I’m not sure her kids will benefit from her passionate desire for them to stay nearby.

        1. Carla

          “However I’m not sure her kids will benefit from her passionate desire for them to stay nearby.”

          My guess is they may benefit from it in some ways, and not in others. Most things worth doing in life require trade-offs.

      2. ObjectiveFunction

        Fantastic lyrics by Jane’s Addiction. A very underrated band (although musically all their songs seem to run together like one ultramarathon jam session).

        So many utterly irreconcilable, though deeply and sincerely held, belief systems are present in this thread. Simply exhausting to read.

        I do notice a lot of comments about the “8 billion”. Mainly carrying the heavy impliction that they (we) are some kind of cancerous infestation on Mother Gaia. And the sooner we cull ourselves the better.

        … I suppose my only observation is that, rightly or wrongly, at least 7.7 billion of those 8 billion people simply shrug off all the philosophies espoused here and and continue competing, exploiting, accumulating and breeding, for themselves and their blood relations and occasionally for their volk (or whatever similar notion).

        So, our personal choices not to ‘add to the problem’, however well reasoned, make no real difference at macro level. Others will simply step into our vacated niches and lands, just as our own unphilosophical ancestors did to countless vanished hominids, species, subspecies, races and tribes to create lebensraum for us.

  10. vlade

    Interesting re “socially unacceptable not to have children”. In my circles, it’s people who say they want more than two kids who are looked at as weirdos. Zero is in my experience as acceptable as one or two.

  11. Val

    Is it unethical to provide a deranged violent criminal oligarchy with more slaves? Seems like it.

    Neighbor admitted recently, over the hedge, that he regretted his earlier reproductive activities. Not that first part, mind you, but all subsequent phenomena that he had since analyzed in a social and economic context. This was novel because typically “parents were less warm toward child-free people” i.e. the resentment eventually if not immediately pours out in waves from the breeders, along with feeble virtue signaling and associated corporate mindwash.

    Anyhow, it is hard to be rid of 8 billion of anything, slave species or not, but hopey changey is eternal.

  12. KD

    All low fertility does is cull the genes for low religiosity, conscientiousness, ambition, and intelligence out of the population. All the behavioral genetics studies show just about every psychological trait has at least 50% heritability. I know no one is supposed mention genetics because we all F$#@in’ love science, but it still exists even if we don’t want to believe in it or talk about it. Are we really supposed to believe that a future population that is disproportionately less intelligent, more religious, and less conscientious is going to bring about a better ecological age? More James G. Watt’s but stupider and more slovenly?

    There are many reasons not to have children, but do not kid yourself that intelligent, conscientious people deciding to take their genes out of the gene pool is going to make the world better.

    I also believe something like “stigmatization” does exist. People with no children have no skin in the game. They are like priests who give marital advice and academics who give investment advice (without any capital at risk). Why should they have the same voting rights as parents, when their only concern is the present? If they cared about the past, they would have children to pass down their inheritance. If they cared about the future, they would be sure that their descendants would be there to have their say. If having corporate managements obsessively focused on short-term performance is debilitating to businesses, then certainly having voters only focused on the short-term can only be negative to the Republic.

    1. nycTerrierist

      generalize much?

      surely the perpetuation of one’s genes, however special, is not the only motivation for concerns about a sustainable future for the planet

      1. KD

        You can look at the demographics of Israel. Something like 60% of Israeli first graders in Jerusalem are ultra fundamentalist Jews, and that share is growing:


        The secular Jews are rapidly dying off, and the Orthodox Jews are keeping pace but losing ground. There are reasons why this is happening faster in Israel then in other Western countries, but you are going to see the same pattern everywhere over a longer time scale, because arithmetic.

        I suppose you can argue that an ultrafundamentalist Israel is going to make peace and deep ecology more likely than a secular Israel. I am not so sure, the Haredim appear to be less open to COVID lock downs and vaccinations relative to the rest of the population.

        Anyways, that is the bright future in Developed Countries unless or until secular individuals increase their fertility rates.

    2. CanCyn

      In my earlier comment, I mentioned a friend with children. She is a profligate consumer, big house, expensive car, multiple vacations per year. Her carbon footprint is huge next to mine. She is the one with children yet I tread far more lightly on the planet than she does. Having no children doesn’t necessarily equate with not caring about the planet. I worry very much about the earth and humanity and try to do what I can to minimize the harm my lifestyle causes. My friend is not the only parent I know who doesn’t seem to care or at least doesn’t worry about earth’s future.

  13. Jeff N

    Now that I’m getting older, and not having had any kids, I’m becoming terrified about aging without kids to help look after me. Neither me, my brother, nor our one cousin; have had any kids. My plan had been to retire with enough savings to make sure I could afford decent care if it was needed, but now I find that “enough savings” ain’t gonna happen.

    1. barnaby33

      So your argument is fear and economic insecurity, not an actual desire for kids. Powerful, but tangential I suppose.

      1. Starry Gordon

        Certainly traditional. Until rather recently, historically speaking, children were economically necessary and the hope of having a decent old age dependent on producing a lot of them. As our states fail and industry and money disappear, maybe we’ll be going back to that arrangement.

        1. Archie

          Interesting thought. I wonder though, given the current state of employment, housing prices, and less “slack” for young to middle age families to adjust their schedules (lest they be cast off into the street), would a more traditional arrangement of children taking care of aging parents even be a possibility? The requirements to live even with basic dignity have skyrocketed. To afford that dignity, it’s often a requirement for both parents to work. Families are also spread much further out across the country and globe. The financial friction is too great to be able to return to yesteryear.

      2. neo-realist

        I have heard this last ditch kind of argument for having kids from a few parents, and I’ll bet that in many cases the kids haven’t been told of such a reason for their existence.

        Hopefully in the future we will see some sort of death closure types of services crop up for people who don’t have others to take care of them so that our property and persons can be responsibly taken care of.

        1. Eudora Welty

          Yes to your last paragraph about “death closure types of services.” I have put thought into how to start such a business. In particular, if I understand you, I’m thinking of the fact that there are childless people who are financially well off, and there are childless people who are not, and there could be a type of match-making service (in the traditional 2-person sense, or in the sense of creating a household of like-minded people) to put them in touch with each other for mutual benefit.

          1. flora

            Well, god forbid it’s a PE owned, AI driven, if-then-else decision making process. You know, the process where the “resulting decisions” that are “most economically advantageous” to the PE owners of the AI + medical facility rationalization of financial returns decide the outcomes.. Trusting one’s future to that “rational man” algorithmic, cold decision making is ever so slightly terrifying… at least to me.

            1. The Rev Kev

              Same here. Can you imagine the match-ups they would suggest? Would any such algorithm have to be intersectional as well? I can see it happening.

          2. neo-realist

            Assuming the spouse and other dependable relatives are dead or unreachable, I’m thinking a service that will ensure that left over savings (assuming old age care hasn’t eaten them up) are distributed to the proper charities and relatives, that my remains are placed where I want them, that treasured pieces of property are either given to selected people or sold off to charity.

            And depending on my condition prior to death, possibly hook me up with a Kevorkian to ensure that I go gently into the good night.

            1. flora

              The service already exists. A lawyer, a will, and a trusted executor. Not free. What decent service is free?

      3. vw

        The condescension dripping from your words doesn’t change the fact that Jeff N is in a tough situation. The legions of childfree, while having an understandable position (given how awful raising kids has become in 21st century America), have not put even 10% of sufficient levels of thought into how their old age is going to go.

        Given the current and continuing rate of inflation, first off, any savings currently held are likely to be decimated. Furthermore, without a trusted younger person to help keep an eye on things, growing dementia (a very common outcome) or any other type of ill health puts the individual with sufficient wealth at great risk of having it stolen in one way or another. This isn’t even getting into the chances of a huge financial shake-up in the next few decades that changes our concept of what wealth even is – but let’s leave that aside for now.

        As of right now, the US is a popular enough destination/rich enough country that we can lay claim to sufficient immigrant workers to provide care for the elderly. This might continue – this might not. In the best of the situations, it will be an extremely complex task for the aging, sickening individual to deal all by themselves with the revolving door of aides that a company will be sending them, all of different cultural backgrounds, English-speaking abilities, and of course temperaments etc. The more medications or specialized care they end up needing, the more complex the juggling act will become. I bet Yves could expound on this for several paragraphs…

        Should the cheap immigrant care situation ever fall through, the situation of most childfree individuals will become a living nightmare. It will be impossible for most to pay a sufficient amount to an otherwise-uninterested individual with sufficient medical training to keep up a reasonable level of caregiving for more than a few years, if that. Bear in mind that overnights, weekends, holidays, will all be needed, relentlessly. The outcome of dropped care? Dying alone on one’s kitchen floor after a fall, with nothing but the tick of the clock to mark the hours while you wait for the inevitable. My father is a landlord – being a caring and social individual, he went in to check on one of his renters that he hadn’t seen in a few days, and found him lying on the floor in just this way. If he hadn’t done so, he would have had to call corpse clean-up for the unit, as the elderly renter had literally no one else in the world who thought to visit him…

        That doesn’t mean there are no options for the childfree – I would suggest observing the experience of depopulating small towns in Japan, where there is no one left in the houses but the elderly and very elderly. They form their own tight community, where the most mobile go from door to door to keep up with and check on everyone, and to discover/announce any deaths. They are helped out by the local government–who has a literal “depopulation” plan in place to smooth the town’s transition, and has build cheap but comfortable public housing for the poorest–doctors that journey out to provide the most basic care (national healthcare), and kindly younger volunteers from near-ish cities that drive all the way out to do what they can for the townspeople. This is difficult to recreate in America but not impossible. It requires an immediate, serious, and long-term commitment to a community that includes members at least one generation younger than oneself, however.

        Alternatively – there is always physician-assisted suicide. Someone will still have to drive you to the doctor to get the prescription, though – perhaps it can be arranged through an app? Black humor aside, I intend to take advantage of this service myself once I can tell I am more of a burden than a help to my own children. I will wrap up all my affairs, make sure they know that I have always loved them, and show them what it means to be brave. I encourage all the child-free people in these comments to seriously contemplate this potential end for themselves, and to find the honor in it. We all have choices in this life, and it is best practice to accept all the consequences of the choices we make with dignity. Never too early or too late to prepare, either. I wish all here, Jeff K certainly included, the very best outcome possible.

        1. Soredemos

          Wow, talk about arrogance. So having kids is a survival strategy for old age? What makes you think you’re entitled to create someone just so you can put demands on them later in life?

          Anyway, in the US context anyway, the culture is very much “leave home as soon as you can at 18, resent having to even have phone conversations with your parents, then fight with your siblings about who ‘has’ to take care of dad when he gets too old”.

          The response to covid abundantly showed what the US thinks of old people.

    2. AndrewJ

      This is the only reason I can think of why I’d have kids. It’s a reason as old as time, too – who else is going to work for free to maintain the homestead or the farm, and take care of you when you’re old?
      Seriously, what’s my other option? The way things are and are heading, I’ll be working until I physically can’t, and invalid and end-of-life care are structured to extract as much savings as possible before I kick the bucket, so I better hope I don’t linger and end up thrown to the street.
      Frankly I expect to join our population of houseless once I get too old to work. Just another broken old man, ranting at the world.
      It’s either kids, or an appointment with Dr. Kevorkian. And I think it’s irresponsible as hell to bring children into this world unless you’ve got something tangible to pass on – a craft, lots and lots of cash, or productive land. Just raising good people is not going to cut it.

      1. flora

        And I think it’s irresponsible as hell to bring children into this world unless you’ve got something tangible to pass on ….

        So…. slow generational genocide for the poors ?

        Sounds harsh, I know, and sorry for that, but think about the results of what it is you’re suggesting. And again, sorry to make the semi-inflamitory comparison, how is this idea that only the relatively well off should procreate not a new Social Darwinism idealation ?

        1. Objective Ace

          >slow generational genocide for the poors ?

          I dont think this is a suggestion so much as an observation. Seems pretty valid to me– so simple and elegantl and yet absolutely descriptive of what’s happened over the past 30 or 40 years

    3. Astrid

      It’s much harder to retire if you do have kids. My parents have tried that line with me. I point out that my husband lives 400 miles from his parents and see them 3 times a year and talk to them about once a month. Ditto his brother.
      And they have good relationships with their parents.

  14. Ignacio

    Next steps: allow increasing numbers of immigrants to come and do the jobs, particularly take care of the elder, then protest why so many migrants.

    1. Pelham

      Good point.

      Also I wish the study had delved a bit into the economics of these decisions. One poll found that women of childbearing age would like to have 2.3 kids on average but planned to have only 1.8 due to various constraints, mostly economic. I doubt the drumbeat of bleakness, race guilt and tribalism added anything positive to their calculations.

  15. vw

    As the only person in my generation in my family who has had a child – aside from a few far-away cousins – I think my experience might be illustrative.

    At the age of 20 I was “told” (by who? by what? still don’t know) that I would have children. I remember slowing down and stopping right in the middle of the sidewalk, with the weight of that revelation. I knew at that very moment that it would be the work of a lifetime. And so it has been. I worked intensely for the next 10 years just to prepare – finishing my education, launching my career, and finding the right partner.

    Even back in 2015, I knew that I would have a child OR a house. I deliberately chose the child, who came along two years later, and indeed, no matter what we tried afterwards, we did not manage to get on the housing ladder, and it’s pretty clear in 2021 that we never will.

    I deliberately chose an employer with a good maternity policy, and worked my way into a position in which I could take advantage of it. I did indeed get 5 months off with my son after the birth, fully paid, which is probably the most generous policy in America! And we paid less than $10,000 for the medical expenses (also very carefully planned).

    And… 5 months after I returned, I was pushed out, as management changed the way that metrics was done to a standard I could not meet and pump breast milk (room all the way across the largest office building in America, taking 30 minutes to walk to) and being sleep-deprived, I did not recognize the game until it was too late. Fortunately I was able to get another (contract) job immediately, but I have never been salaried since.

    My mother had promised herself blue in the face that if I had children, she would help; this turned out to have been a lie, and she backed out two weeks before the end of my maternity leave claiming that she needed to keep working full-time to “afford acupuncture”. It is no exaggeration to say that I will never forgive her for this. The other grandparents, being better people, never promised any help at all other than occasional babysitting. This promise they have kept, but we have had to rely on daycare to keep afloat financially.

    I don’t want this comment to be cut for length, so will go on in a Part 2…

  16. QuicksilverMessenger

    You cannot know what it’s like to have children until you have had children. Seems a bit trite to say but it’s the truth. I have lived both lives and both were very good- I lived a happy single life for a long time (into my 40s), traveling, I sort of retired ‘early’ to live in Europe, then came back here to the states to start working for real. Then we had a daughter, pretty much unplanned, and I would not trade this for any of the stuff I did when I was on my own. But of course, to each their own.

    1. juno mas

      I think this illustrates why most surveys on “child free” expectations asked only women. (That is who decides whether men have children.)

      1. eg

        This fits my situation. I didn’t have any interest in being a father, but the woman that I love did, and this was important to her such that I had to choose between a life with her and children or a life without her. I chose the former. Once the children are there, the only just choice for a childless-preferrer such as myself who has acquiesced is to pitch in to the best of one’s ability. We are partway through launching two into the world, so it’s too soon for me to evaluate the bargain with any certainty, but fortunately up to this point I feel that I made the right decision.

        I also think that it helped being a little older, not marrying until our mid-30s.

    2. Holden

      I think your case is interesting because you became a parent after living life on your terms. So many people jump into parenthood while they are still young and naive and totally unprepared. Many studies show that children with older parents are much happier than children with younger parents.

  17. vw

    Part 2 to the comment above.

    In the metro area in which we lived, daycare costs were exorbitant; without the opportunity to get on waiting lists, I pounded the pavement and called every number I could find. I distinctly remember taking the bus with my baby on my chest and walking down streets without sidewalks to suburban homes to interview immigrant homemakers who were doing it as a side gig. We eventually found a Chinese-immersion daycare, also run out of a suburban home by a grandma and grandpa and non-English-speaking assistant who all loved little kids, which was affordable. My husband and I are fluent in another East Asian language and very comfortable with that culture, so we sent our son there.

    However, 2 years in, we ran into another problem: our kid wasn’t talking. It turned out that he spent the overwhelming majority of his waking hours listening to Chinese, thanks to how far we had to drive out of the city core to drop him off; he responded to Chinese recordings on a phone, lol, but no English words were forthcoming. (The grandparents were, of course, quite concerned and recommended we get him on government assistance, etc etc. If you can’t taste the salt in my words, here, let me sprinkle a bit more…)

    We moved states to try and get on a housing ladder in a more affordable area and ended up in an extremely crowded living situation with other family. Then… COVID hit. The daycare (English-speaking this time) closed for 6 weeks, and my husband who had lost his job was full-time childcare. He wasn’t prepared, everything and everyone that helped stay-at-home parents cope became illegal, and none of our family members stepped up to help in any significant way. I watched in horror as his mental health declined, and put our child in danger as a result. The moment the daycare opened, we put our child back in, despite the risk of COVID transmission and despite the extreme disapproval from the rest of the family. I offered to move out, but my father, the homeowner, decided he would just live out in the backyard in a tent instead. Rain eventually drove him inside, the remaining relatives (my brother and his wife) thankfully departed for their next life plans, and the rest of us lived together tensely. That was 2020 for our family.

    Over the course of the rest of that year and 2021, between my husband’s intensive care whenever the daycare closed for a few days on the regular, and the English-speaking daycare itself, my child has blossomed into an intelligent little boy who speaks in full sentences and is developing normally. We broke COVID isolation multiple times further during the last 18 months, ironically, because despite warning the grandparents of the risks of seeing him, they came down frequently anyway. I think they were surprised at how much they loved him… for all of our parents, he is their only biological grandchild thus far.

    Anyway, our siblings have bet their financial security on industries that are actively contracting – academia, science – and they need every resource they can scrape together to hang on by their fingernails. (It’s a question as to whether they will even make it at all – half of them are still technically spending money to work in the field, as students, and we will see whether they make the transition to the other side…) Obviously they cannot afford children. And fortunately for them, they have not been “called”, or at least in the case of my sister-in-law, enjoy being in the presence of children whatsoever. They have declared themselves to be childfree. My child will never have any cousins.

    At one point I worried for my son, being the closest living relative for 6 (!!) individuals of the previous generation, as even the siblings of the marriage partners are either non-existent or also stridently childfree – but after seeing how determined they are to have nothing to do with him, I have relaxed. I think the grand total of his responsibility to them will be to inherit… a couple of pieces of furniture… after they die.

    Ironically, I am also the only member of my generation which is completely comfortable with physician-assisted suicide, and if the time comes when I can no longer take care of myself or contribute to the family in any meaningful way, I will have no qualms about quaffing the cocktail. My only wish is that it be fully legal and done in an organized way, so that the situation can be less terrible for my son, and I hope his sibling soon to come.

    A few more things to say, actually, so there will be a Part 3.

  18. Eye 65

    If you want to save money raising children, then keep them away from high school guidance counselors talking about ‘dream schools’ and ‘reaches’ on College Night.

  19. Glossolalia

    From an article I read many years ago:

    SITCOM: Single Income, Two Kids, Oppressive Mortgage
    THINKER: Two Healthy Incomes, No Kids, Early Retirement

    I need to find an acronym for my situation: two healthy incomes, one kid, work until dead.

  20. vw

    Part 3 in this mega-comment.

    I’ve focused on the grim outcome of choosing to have children in this era, at least as a member of the middle class – I think that’s the most pertinent to the topic at hand. But I have to say that my son is also joy and light itself to us, and even to the grandparents who didn’t help and were skeptical of our choices. I don’t know that I would have come through 2020 in one piece without him. I chucked aside parenting “advice” and cuddled him to sleep every night starting last summer. It was wonderful for us both, and we have read so many books together now that he is able to read signs and sound out words on his own, at 3.5. I love him as my child and as an individual, and I am eager to help him develop and grow into his own person, and to help him achieve his own dreams.

    In 2018 as I was on the verge of losing my job, sitting in the dingy pumping room, I had the thought that I would have to give up on having any more children, as it was just too hard. At that moment, a voice rang though my head very clearly: “I WANT TO LIVE!!!” So… I am contracted, as it were, to have a second child. Perhaps one with a different personality?! After the miseries of 2020, the more reliable grandmother (in the medical field) is ready to retire, and I have arranged with her to provide regular part-time childcare as soon as that day comes. She dearly loves my son and is very excited at the prospect of a granddaughter, who would be the first girl in the extended family.

    But it cannot be denied that every extra child is a harsh bump down the class ladder, and this one will be no different. After my last experience, I will be leaving whatever job I have at the time to care for the new baby for a year, no exceptions. We live with my father now, and will probably move in with my mother-in-law once the next child arrives. I have taken up cooking the majority of our meals. We shop only at Goodwill for clothes now. We travel only to see relatives. I have literally no patience for all varieties of virtue and class-signaling – I get almost an allergic reaction. We have quit all social media. I have joined a spiritual practice and am looking about for a home church, to provide a community for us.

    And finally – I have put off COVID vaccination until 2022, after the next child will be born. (The rest of my family is vaccinated.) I have gotten this close, fought this hard – I will not risk infertility from an insufficiently trialed vaccine at this point. I’m so close, and I just have to risk a little more. I accept the public opprobrium, and the limits in my social circle as a result. Many of my former friendships, I’ve let go of completely, with this as the final impetus. Parenting has opened my eyes to the fact that life itself is risk… there are no guarantees. We can’t predict or control the future. Nothing good is easy. I don’t begrudge my siblings their choices (though watching them refuse to help my poor husband last year, well, there’s some distance that’s been put between us there, no lie). But I feel like I have a connection as a parent to the past and the future – that I have a greater understanding of the former, and a greater responsibility towards the latter.

    Anyway, to end with a generalization: civilizations which are winding down have a demographic collapse for many reasons, and what is being measured in the article is the start of that. I counted through my entire extended family, aunts uncles cousins etc, to see how many children I would have to have for the reproductive rate to break even, and realized that I would have to have EIGHTEEN to get out of the hole. Eighteen!! So arguments that I am bringing too many kids into the world make me laugh now. My family is doing more than their part to contribute to the general depopulation of America. I’m the only one of the entire bunch who hears spooky voices, and so I am the only one who will play a role in the future beyond my own life. So it goes, no? Life is an interesting thing!!

    1. Utah

      I like your comment on this. I’m childless. Mid 30s. I tried to have kids in my late 20s and found that I couldn’t without lots of drugs that increase my already high risk of breast cancer. My ex husband was not willing to be a foster parent, which is a thing I would like to do, and didn’t want kids to begin with. We didn’t divorce for this reason, but I felt pretty mad when he told me he didn’t want kids. My current partner is female and younger than me, but in college for God knows how long. If we have kids it won’t be for another ten years, right on the cusp of her fertility. She isn’t keen on fostering either, which is a shame. I’m working on a graduate program to be a teacher. It’s not great pay, but it feels steady in a climate of unsteadiness. And some high schools have childcare programs that give teachers free childcare, which is what I will look for down the road.

      All that to say, I would love to have kids. I just don’t know if it’ll ever be in the cards. I could have a whole brood and be happy about that. Not 19 kids and counting style, but more than two. If I don’t, though, it will be okay.

      1. vw

        I’m so glad to hear that you’ll be getting into teaching – our society needs people like you in those jobs! I can already tell you are well-qualified :)

        Also, even if your partner doesn’t choose to have children herself, I would not be surprised if you find yourself “acquiring” children through your job – I’ve observed that especially in the upper teens, a lot of kids clash unavoidably with their parents and desperately need alloparents to shelter them for a bit at a distance, while they figure out what to do next with their lives. A loving teacher can be a literal lifesaver. (I’m mentally preparing myself to shelter a few of my son’s friends, too, when the time comes – I really have seen this happen a lot!) So worry not… if children are meant to be in your life, they’ll find you! Best wishes on your new career and may it provide the stability you are looking for, as well.

    2. PHLDenizen

      “But it cannot be denied that every extra child is a harsh bump down the class ladder…”

      Nor can it be denied that every child is a hostage in case of divorce. I’ve watched my girlfriend and her 3 girls get kicked down the class ladder simply because their father woke up one day, decided he hated his life, and effectively abandoned them all. He was a POS during most of the marriage — they all have varying degrees of PTSD and heart break. And a bigger POS during and after the divorce.

      The toughest thing has been watching the security and opportunity an intact household evaporate and then being constantly told they’re failures, disappointments, how it’s all their mother’s fault they exhibit severe emotional distress, have learning disabilities, and need a fair amount of out-of-pocket medical to keep them from suicide, get them through high school, etc.

      Dude is a narcissistic French POS who’s a VP at a pharma company, making a little north of 400k/yr.

      The divorce agreement granted his ex-wife a little less than half of that for spousal support and child support for 3 kids. He has only himself to support, goes on living his merry little life, and rubs everyone’s face in how happy he is. He has more than half of his income to support only himself, his house already paid for. The other half goes to support a partially disabled ex-spouse and 3 special needs kids. That’s 4 people, all of whom have sizable medical costs living on 40% of what they did before.

      20k in arrears? Happens several times a year. Shelling out for half of psychiatrists, psychologists, special education consultants, school supplies, clothing? Nope. Have to engage a lawyer regularly to file contempt motions? Yep. Show up at graduations? Offer to help with college? Nope: “you can go to school in France for free” — verbatim what he said to a very unimpressed judge. And how does that work logistically, particularly since his kids are not French citizens and grew up here?

      These are kids who grew up in nice homes, all 3 were on the Olympic track for free ski, never once worried about anything financially. Private ski school. Vacations. Lots of things that come with being in the PMC.

      And absolutely no one at the outset predicted he would turn into a monster. Not his ex, not the kids. It’s awful to wake up one day and realize your own father despises you, seeing you as nothing more than a liability on his balance sheet. They’ve asked their mother why she even bothered having kids if this is how their lives turned out, future viciously annihilated.

      The child-free vs childed dichotomy is facile and reductive. Children are a long-term enterprise and it’s not enough to simply have them and assume that the bond they foster with the other parent is durable.

      It’s the same bull$h!t I call the pro-life people on: where’s your concern about the child after it comes out? Ok, new parents. What happens if you get divorced? What’s your plan to pay for college? “We’ll figure it out! All children are blessings, so it’ll be fine.” Uh huh. Right.

      My involvement in all of the above has convinced me that the US is hostile to children for anyone making less than 300k. Kids have a price tag, kids should have a contract attached to guarantee them dignity and security, and love just ain’t enough. It’s eugenics as practiced through income inequality.

      The question should really be “are my sperm the lottery ticket that will guarantee a good life for my children?” If not, think extra hard about having them. Or at least plan for the worst, lest you end up in the precariousness and broken heartedness of my girlfriends and the three little people that are now entirely her responsibility through no fault of her own. Children who were wanted are now hostages to buyer’s remorse.

      If you want really want kids, move to a place that really wants you to have them. Europe, the Scandinavian countries.

      1. vw

        Those poor girls :( I will keep them in my prayers, that they may know peace and freedom as they grow.

        No one can know the future, but I selected my husband for his family almost as much as his personal qualities – I figured out that my mother-in-law would always support her grandchildren in some way, no matter what her son chose to do. (I “dated” her as well while I was seriously dating him, going out to get nails done together to get to know each other… I hate getting my nails done, but needs must…) I also observed that my husband was a hard and cheerful worker even under difficult circumstances – that’s carried through so far! Also, we know quite well that neither of us can have decent lives as single parents – there’s an economic incentive that I was very aware of when I made my choice. More money isn’t always better. I find so far–9 years in–that we love each other more deeply every year. May that continue as long as possible.

        Boy! I wish Europe was an option :/ When I looked into it seriously last year, I saw price tags of $100,000 even to apply. Do you happen to know of any countries that cost less? I’m still in the market…

        1. ДжММ

          To apply for what? Residency in the Baltics (well, alright; I can’t speak for Estonia) is fairly easy to get, and if you’ve got proof of income or provable a stash of on the order of 30 grand to show that you can support yourself while you get situated and employed, it’s quite inexpensive. Like, less than two thousand euros, fees and all.

    3. Geo

      Thanks for sharing your experience here. I only wish there were more parents like you that are as thoughtful about the responsibility toward the child (as opposed to the “I want someone to carry on the family name” or “who will take care of me when I’m older?” crowd).

      I know a few other wonderful parents who I admire for how devoted, caring, and determined they are in building a future for their children. And, a few that seem to have other priorities… to put it kindly.

      For myself, that was always the primary factor and what lead me to getting a vasectomy many years ago: was in a relationship and my partner had decided she wanted kids but knowing my views said, “I’ll take care of them, you won’t have to do anything.” To which I laughed and said, “I don’t want to have kids but I definitely don’t want to be a deadbeat dad!” I like to believe that if I’d been a parent I’d have been as devoted to it as you are but that is why I didn’t want to. Maybe it’s selfish but there’s other things in this life I wanted to explore. All the talk of the future (while relevant) feels more like justifications more than reasons. If anything, being a parent should motivate more to do all they can to better our world (sadly, it seems to make more people become conservative “I got mine, screw you!” types, which makes sense on a primal survival level). But, knowing there are more parents out there like you raising compassionate and cultured kids give me hope. Thank you.

      So happy for you and your children that you have each other. All the best!

      1. vw

        Thank you for your kind words! :) We’re all called to do different things in this life – in a way, I’m grateful that there was never really any question in my mind. The future is so uncertain right now, I honestly can’t predict my son’s life in any way… it’s going to be an adventure (hopefully with plenty of good parts!). All we can do is love him unconditionally, teach him everything we know, and be in his corner. Fate has the rest in its hands.

        But if he ever wonders why he was brought here to this life… ideally, long before he has such questions… I will tell him all about the spooky voices. That’s a pretty good origin story, no?! I hope he takes as much strength from it as I did. And I wish–but don’t dare hope–that he won’t need as much strength as I did to face the questions of his own life path.

    4. hickory

      I actually liked all three of your comments very much except the last line of the 3rd. Childless adults can contribute to future generations without having children if they truly decide that’s important, and not to just be self-centered.

      A healthy society is one where people plant trees under whose shade they will never sit – childless or not.

      That’s my path too. But I have much respect for the attitude you’re showing to your kid(s). I wish you well!

      1. vw

        True enough – I was trying to wrap up quickly. Of course childless adults can have a hugely positive role to play in society. I do think that it’s important that whatever they choose to do with their life, to qualify for the above, it have some interaction with or support of the younger generations (i.e. not just burning up the Earth’s oil resources traveling the world and making an Instagram). Otherwise… they’re going to get some sour-faced reactions from parents etc. here and there, of the type much complained about–and not just because the parents are killjoys! I wish you the best in your pursuits also and hope that you plant many, many trees :)

        1. Jason

          not just burning up the Earth’s oil resources traveling the world and making an Instagram

          Most parents are doing this too…and their kids are learning the behavior through osmosis.

          This is not a parent/childless adult issue.

          1. vw

            Really? Most of the parents you know are spending months of the year jetting about to exotic locations and bragging about their FIRE credentials or influencer status? You know some pretty rich parents!!

            I won’t argue the Instagram part (I don’t know why people spend so much of their damn time on that service) but I’d say in the circles I run in, even one kid firmly closes off this possible avenue for living one’s life. It’s still just possible, though, so long as one has a “good job” and no family ties. Therefore it came to mind…

            1. CanCyn

              Checking back here belatedly to see where this thread went.
              I don’t think having children or not makes you a problem for the environment. It is a class issue, it is about money. I know many childfree people who do not add to climate change in a significant way, some by choice, others because they simply can’t afford to. And vice versa. We used to live across the street from a young couple with two kids and one on the way. Their consuming and waste creation added an awful lot of carbon to the world. Not because they have kids but because they have money. In other words, it seems to me that people who have lots of money are the carbon creators, regardless of whether or not they have children.
              In the end I remain glad to not have children. I am glad for others who are happy to have their kids, but, boy howdy, don’t envy them their future on this planet.

  21. Sutter Cane

    I know my parents had children because they were expected to, and explicitly to help my father’s career.

    Same, I grew up on a farm, and it was expected for my folks, as well as providing additional free labor for the farm so I guess I was helping my parent’s career, too! And they sure did put me to work. Now, having children is all expenses with few monetary benefits for the parents. It really is more of a hobby for those who want to commit to it.

    I have one sibling who procreated, while I never have. My mother candidly confided that she pretty much had kids because that’s just what people did in those days, and somewhat envied my childless existence. I didn’t take this as a slight – I have a good relationship with my folks and I wasn’t a “problem child” but I’m sure that I was a pain in the ass just the same. We’re just not very sentimental like that, so we were able to share a laugh over my sibling’s childrearing travails.

    For those wanting children in order to provide some security in their twilight years, with the way the economy is going, younger people today will have a hard enough time taking care of themselves much less taking care of any elderly relatives, so I wouldn’t count on one’s kids to keep you off of the ice floe.

    Add to that, my positive relationship with my parents seems to be an anomaly among most people I know. I know a fair number of friends who have cut ties entirely with their parents in recent years. Watching them turn into hardcore Trump supporters, Fox News watchers, or Qanon cultists seems to have put a strain on many parent/child relationships.

    1. PHLDenizen

      In my old age, I’ve come to embrace the notion of tolerance and understanding over exile — with a very small set of exceptions, such as Kissinger, Pelosi, Schumer, Epstein and a few others. Obama.

      I once happened across a comment from a NC reader (I apologize for not knowing whose) that said conspiracy theories are interesting and important in the sense that they make manifest how one makes sense of the world. Restated, “conspiracy theories” are metaphors for how people see and interpret reality. To ignore that is ensure alienation and tribalism. Privileging distaste for a relative’s “kooky” and unpalatable ideas over their life experience and the wonderful things to bring to YOUR life is to be mean, petty, and self-aggrandizing.

      My dad probably voted for Trump, though he never talks about politics. And certainly only voted for him because he, mistakenly, thinks Dems are NOT the party of the wealthy. He’s trapped in the Reagan Republican era. Fiscally conservative, dedicated to wealth preservation, low taxes. Votes for an ideology that exists only as nostalgia.

      My mom is “liberal” and we get into knock down, drag out brawls over how awful today’s Dems are. She embodies the TINA mindset.

      There are certain things I don’t understand about them. Certain things they don’t understand about the kids. But I could never, ever conceive of an occasion when I would abandon them or excise them. Particularly over stupid political disagreements.

  22. David

    I doubt if there has ever been a time in modern history (at least) when it was more difficult to have children. Partly it’s economic: bringing up children is increasingly a long hard, financial slog, which may not finish until they buy their first house (if they ever can) and can involve supporting them financially for decades. Partly it’s social: economic pressure forcing poorer women out to work, and peer group pressure forcing middle-class women out to work, together with the scattering of the traditional extended family, means that combining education, childcare and work can be a financial and organisational nightmare. Partly, it’s political: within a decade or so, the traditional family has lost its “normal” status, and the move to Rent-a-womb, and adoptions by homosexual couples will become presented more and more as the norm by the Woke even if it remains very much a minority case.

    If I were of a suspicious mind, I would think there was a conspiracy here. The family, after all, is inefficient as an economic unit: nobody makes a careful cost-benefit decision to have children, and it’s obvious that any economically rational human being would decide that they could maximise their lifetime utility by remaining not only childless but single. And how nice for employers not to have to worry about maternity leave, sick children, and the like. So the various arms of the neoliberal octopus have a lot to gain not simply from making it more difficult to have children, but increasingly making it seem like an old fashioned relic mumble mumble patriarchy. That way, you’d have a totally alienated, totally flexible, totally interchangeable, absolutely mobile workforce, whose members might cluster together in temporary emotional relationships of various types, numbers and durations, but which they would leave as soon as they had a better offer.

    Of course, if this happened on a large scale the human race would die out, but I’m sure Elon Musk or someone has an answer for that. Next, test tube babies?

    1. Thuto

      I couldn’t agree more David, the cultural winds are blowing in the direction of stigmatizing anything “traditional” that doesn’t align neatly with the vision of the future imagined by our woke overlords. One can hardly watch anything on tv without subtle political or ideological messaging inserted to reprogram the audience’s worldview about embracing the new standards of “normal”. Even football, which for a long time was exemplary for leaving politics completely out of sport, is starting to yield to the relentless pressure to display flags outside stadia or have have said stadia illuminated in certain colours. Equality, which no fair minded individual would oppose, has/is being used as a trojan horse for a social power grab the likes of which we’ve probably never seen before, to say nothing of it being used as the tip of a spear to ram through other agendas. Workplaces are being measured on “inclusivity” indices, the pre-school curriculum is squarely in the crosshairs of the wokerati, multiple people can now form loving “polyamorous” relationships, divorce is glamourized, and on and on it goes.

    2. flora

      So, the money making focus of the nations takes for granted the non-money making work of the family? Profiting on the older, necessary human life work without acknowledgment of same? Wouldn’t surprise me if that’s the case.

    3. PlutoniumKun

      When you take the long historical view of demographics, its pretty clear that people like and want children, and are willing to make sacrifices for them, but only small sacrifices. If birth rates are dropping rapidly, this generally means that the sacrifices are too much. This has happened surprisingly often through history (we tend to assume everyone had huge families before the birth control pill, this isn’t true). I was just reading last week about how it took centuries in medieval Japan to persuade people to have more children (the favoured birth control method was infantacide – known as mabiki).

      The huge drop in family sizes/numbers was led by what are usually considered very family-oriented societies, such as Italy, Spain, Japan, Taiwan, etc. From the 1990’s onwards, there was also a huge drop in eastern Europe. The ‘link’ seems to have been that the cost (for women especially) of taking a break from work was too much, and the traditional backup (grandparents as free childcare) became less viable for all sorts of reasons. Family sizes stayed slightly higher (relative to prosperity) in the Anglo countries and northern/Central Europe, which was generally seen as the result of either better public childcare policies or more flexible labour policies, giving more option to working women (or those who didn’t want to work full time).

      Its broader of course than ‘neoliberalism’, since we have seen the same processes at work in all the capitalist countries, including Japan and China. It comes down to an obsession with growth, which inevitably means shifting womens work from ‘its great to have the choice’ to ‘you must work your entire life if you want a home and reasonable lifestyle’. Neoliberalism undoubtedly pushed this (with its odd alliance with early generation feminists), but it was a process seen elsewhere too.

      China is an interesting case of how the response can be confused. The one great ‘benefit’ people get in China is early retirement. But of course, now that they are starting to panic over demographics, there is pressure to increase the retirement age. But they don’t seem to have noticed that the only free childcare available to most Chinese women is their grandparents. Make them work longer and you’ll end up with even fewer children. As Michael Pettis has been pointing out on Twitter, this is a classic example of the sort of linear thinking that plagues Chinese policy makers.

      Western capitalism has driven itself into a similar cul de sac. Economic ‘growth’ as defined by corporations and economists assumes a constant increase in consumption and production, which means more people working and consuming. But there comes a point where people just can’t do both and breed. Its really that simple. I’m sure someone, somewhere, is wondering if there is an app that can solve the problem.

  23. Duke of Prunes

    These responses are thoroughly depressing.

    I guess I’m the odd one out, here, as I’m happily married with two great kids who are in the process of blossoming into fine adults (with careers and everything). I don’t know if they plan to have kids, but I didn’t really have much of a plan in my early 20s, either. It’s their decision. I’m not going to push, but if they ask, I will encourage them both to have kids. Yes, they’re expensive and difficult at times, but my life would feel very much empty without them. As someone said above, you don’t know until you have them, and, unfortunately, I guess not everyone feels this way after the fact. They turn your life upside down, but in a good way.

    My advice on parenting is to raise kids whose company you will enjoy. Put the time in when they’re young to correct annoying behavior, expose them to the world (both good and bad parts of it), help them appreciate the beauty of simple things (a flower, a sunset, a mountain) and you’ll reap rewards. Within my family, I see too many parents who seem to dislike their kids. They seem to resent the young ones for “cramping their style” and celebrate when they send them to grandmas or camp for the summer. Is it any wonder a kid whines and annoys when that’s the only time they get any attention?

    I have friends who are childfree and that life is not for me. Yeah, they travel to exotic places (pre-Covid), and have better “stuff” than we do, but travel and stuff don’t necessarily make one happy (had my taste of that pre-kids).

    To each their own.

    1. Geo

      Being the “zany uncle” to many friends’ kids I love seeing young families and watching as their kids develop into unique and exciting people. And seeing the sparkle in their eyes both gives me some hope for our future as well as keeps me determined to do what I can to help them have a better one.

      That said, being childless isn’t just about having nicer things. To me the primary thing we humans can do to better our experience here is to create: create life by having a child, create ideas and understanding by being a scientist/artist, create infrastructure by being a craftsman or designer, etc.

      For myself being without a child allows me the time and ability to explore, develop and create art, take risks that would be insane if I has the responsibility of a child, and to pursue my passions no matter where they lead.

      As the author Jeanette Winterson wrote: “What you risk reveals what you value.”

      We each make our own sacrifices based on our own values. Neither of us have fancy things or Instagrammable travel photos but we both can be proud of the beauty we bring into the world through our sacrifice and effort. :)

    2. vw

      We might be the only two happy parents in these comments – but we two are mighty! :) Hey, given how few kids our society seems likely to pump out in the next years, maybe our kids will travel far enough to have the opportunity to meet and become friends?? LOL!

    3. s.n.

      to the duke of prunes: hear!, hear!
      I too am very much an odd one out in this crowd. Having children was the high point of my otherwise pointless existence. There’s nothing like a baby. Nothing. No words can convey something as sacred as the responsibility of babymaking and babyraising. And there is no greater joy than the development of a toddler. Yes, teenagers are a pain, but for such a short time, until they blossom into their adult selves. Parenthood locked me into the great chain of the ancestors, of whom I am now one, and whom I often think of, ca. 3 AM [the struggles and self-sacrifice of my father’s father & mother, who had 11 children, the youngest of whom was my father…and his father’s father,… backwards through the ages…] My own aged-30-something children are– in one instance– parents themselves. Yes, parenthood involves self-sacrifice, but “child-free” freedom … isn’t that just another word for nothing left to lose? ps, after the two decades of relative poverty the kids leave home anyway and then we get to travel to all those exotic places … Having your cake and eating it too….

    4. Harold

      I enjoy my adult children. They are the joy of my life, I would say. And I have friends my age who say the same of their children.

      It was so different with our own parents when we were young, for some reason. We couldn’t communicate with them most of the time.

  24. Meadows

    Lots of astute comments here, I enjoy the anecdotes…. We are parents of 2 30 something sons, both married, one couple does not want children, the other couple has a 6 year old, they live nearby and we are very involved Gparents. I just love kids, not so much teens, when the culture buries the parents alive no matter how hard you try.

    A lotta work, a lotta money, chaos, confusion, pleasure/pain and change. The change part is what throws people. That life itself is ever-changing and having kids accelerates the process. You can’t hold back the river. The biggest problems in parenting are the gaps between expectation and reality. I am, like Yves, a child of the 50’s/60’s, when people got married and had children. No wondering, “Hmmm, do I even like kids?” For husbands of that era the Wife/Mom did the heavy lifting. She was expected to magically know how to do this massive undertaking… what a mess.

    When Our Mom was dying her 3 adult children collaborated to help her go. We were a team.

    So I say, family is almost everything to me but be ready for a steep learning curve on the Changeway Road. It’ll happen with or without the progeny.

  25. 430MLK

    More anecdote: I have 1 child (the May Day Kid, born May 1), relatively later in life (mid 30s) with my longtime wife. Several reasons influenced the late-ness, including mid-20s disinterest, waiting until I finished a PhD at 32 and securing a job, couple of miscarriages. In our case, my wife is the more economically stable and larger bread-earner (a nurse). I get summers off to do Daddy Day-Care.

    Several things influenced the limit to 1-child, including lateness of first child, reticence on my part for global warming, waiting on my economic security (tenure, which I got near 40), cost of child-rearing and child-saving–and of course, the lovely unpredictable drift of life and time.

    I’d write more, but I’m off to a swim meet! The Kid’s in the Butterfly, Free, and a couple Relays.

  26. Sound of the Suburbs

    We worry about demographics, but do everything possible to exacerbate the problem.

    1) Sky high housing costs
    2) Student loans
    3) Low wages and precarious part time jobs
    4) A minimum wage specified at an hourly rate that won’t pay a living wage in a part time job
    5) Both partners need to work to pay the bills

    Hardly anyone should have the money to be able to start a family now.

    Not having children does look like the sensible choice as it’s going to be tough if you do.

  27. KD

    In thinking about this question, it becomes clear to me that having children, at least children who grow up to be tax paying members of society whose names stay out of the court docket are essential to the continuation of society, and the preservation of any culture, nation or heritage those children come from.

    It would then be a general duty of citizens to bring such children into the world and raise them to be successful, to the extent that means permit. Those who shirked that duty would be immoral or unvirtuous. Likewise, because children on track to become successful adults represent a public good, society and the state has a duty to parents to create social, economic, and political conditions that foster healthy child birth and child rearing, even if it means raising capital gains rates for oligarchs.

    However, the argument that children are like hand bags, and your production of children should be choice like one exercises in picking out a hand bag, or that you should be “happy” in your choice of child or child free, just like with any other consumer purchase, sounds like the kind of neoliberal commodification of human relations that I have come to expect. The “happiness” derived from children is the same happiness derived from any other form of ethical conduct necessitating personal sacrifice, like monogamy, not cheating on your taxes or not using public office to enrich yourself.

    1. Holden

      Why is it anyone’s responsibility to further the continuation of society? I trust in God and I don’t believe my existence depends on this material form – just like in a dream, when I wake up, consciousness doesn’t go too.

      And so what, we will die anyways. Why shouldn’t I enjoy and celebrate this life how I want? I do my best to be a kind, compassionate human being to others – is that not enough? Must I really sacrifice and suffer more? If so, then is my life even worth preserving?

      Also, the continuation of society is done not only by raising children, but by creating and sharing theories and philosophies – everyone is playing a part in life, and there is no wrong way to do it.

      1. KD

        In looking for the roots of morality, the conclusion is that morality promotes the cohesion and survival of the group. Traditional customs, those that survived, are retained by groups that survived, presumably because they contributed to those groups. A group that can’t replace itself can’t survive, especially against a group that can.

        There is obviously a tension between individual desires and what benefits the group. Why should an individual do what is in the interest of the group, especially if it threatens the survival of the individual or significantly stifles them? I think this gets towards the roots of the divine authority structure.

        Because God says so, and only perverse people would defy God’s command. Be fruitful and multiply. Question over. Respect my authority.

        How do you get people to breed and survive in the absence of faith, or accept conscription or even progressive taxation? Its not clear. Perhaps the decline of faith represents the gradual demographic destruction of a form of life.

        Daniel Bell hypothesized the collapse of American society as a result of the adoption of 1960’s hyper-individualism, but he never supplied a vector of causation. Eric Kaufmann went further and attempted to establish that the roots of destruction in hyper-individualism where driven by demographic disparities. This is at the level of sociological hypothesis, and we are slowly and steadily building the evidence of correlation between “traditionalism” (for want of a better word) and fertility, and, at least for anyone paying attention to Israel, the increasing importance of demographics as it relates to hard and soft power is getting clearer. [Kaufmann claims that no empire has ever conquered a rival unless it had a higher tfr, but I did not find a citation.] Ultimately, I don’t know, but I am curious.

        It gets back to the problem of suicide I guess. Why should I not kill myself? Why should I not let the group(s) I happened to be born in die out? I feel an obligation to attempt to honor my ancestors and attempt to carry on what I received from them. Not only the gift of life but the cultural form I received. I think we should be grateful for the love and sacrifice of those who preceded us, and pass it on. I think that gratitude is the basis for meaningful happiness in this life. I must confess that this sentiment strikes me as fundamentally a religious instinct, even if it is common enough in the lot of humankind.

        1. kareninca

          “I feel an obligation to attempt to honor my ancestors and attempt to carry on what I received from them. ”

          I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to hold that view.

            1. KD

              I think you are being unfair, I did not say that you had to reproduce. You can adopt, you can be a teacher, you can be a mentor, but you can also reproduce, which is more accessible to most people as it takes less training. Both/and not either/or here. It remains that there are long-term major social consequences if a large subsection of the population stops reproducing, especially if they have a significant political skew (most people generally end up voting like their parents).

          1. FrankW

            It’s nice to hold that view. Much better than the nihilistic, hyper-individualism on display elsewhere in this thread.

            1. hunkerdown

              And the Puritan class system, in which it is every [head of household]’s responsibility to institute a manor house, rears its normative head.

            2. Soredemos

              Wait, what’s the hyper-individualism supposed to be in this context? Not having kids? Because, sorry, but in my experience the vast majority of people who have them either put literally no thought into it at all and just do it because that’s what you’re expected to do, or because it’s an ego trip for them.

              If you actually try and pin people down about why they had kids you often get answers to the effect that they feel some need to continue their legacy, as if their genes or family name are particularly noteworthy, or because it provided various forms of emotional fulfillment for them (I’ve been told something to the effect of ‘having a kid was great for her’ of various women multiple times in my life. Oh, it was great for the mom, I see. Because that’s the most important variable in this equation, gotcha /s).

              People naming their kid literally after themselves is the biggest red flag for me. Oh, yeah, I’m sure that’s great for the psychology of ‘Junior’; he’s not even given the dignity of a unique name.

              I don’t think I’ve ever, not once, encountered someone who said they thought that this was an amazing world and they wanted to share it with a new person. Having a kid is always some form of fulfillment for the parents.

          2. KD

            What about, here I am, its my job to extract as much money, resources, pleasure, and novel experiences out of everyone and everything else and put it on my side of the ledger, even though, boo hoo, at the end of the day, I’m going to die anyways and the ledger will go to zero. Children are expensive and a pain in the ass, so I’ll pass.

  28. Vander Resende

    Expanding opportunities for women and economic uncertainty are both factors in declining US fertility rates, at The Conversation, by Ann M. Oberhauser (Professor of Sociology, Iowa State University)

    July 6, 2021 8.09am EDT

    The overall decline in fertility rates has far-reaching effects on society and future generations. In the early 1900s, college education and a career were not options for women like my great-grandmother. Advances in reproductive health and women’s expanding access to education and employment have produced a demographic shift with implications for work, housing, health care and education.


    1. HotFlash

      Not to mention that two incomes are *required* now, just to keep heads above water, pay student debt, pay mortgage or rent and (maybe) save for a house. When I bought here in the early ’80s it was a working class neighbourhood. Small single-family houses, although many had or had had tenants or rented rooms, most people first or second gen immigrants to Canada from the UK and Europe, especially Poland. Many/most had children, a few were retired and had grandchildren, too, but nearly all had only one breadwinner, the other partner, if any, being the breadmaker, often literally. Occupations included janitor, welder, machinist, plumber, retail clerk, and teacher. Some of the breadwinners were women. The widow lady across the street ran her 3-story semi as a rooming house for students, her neighbour (with no visible husband) worked in a high-end women’s wear shop — very elegant dresser — , and the neighbour on the other side was a retired dietician. Her husband was disabled, heart attack, don’t know what he did before that. My point being, that through the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, it was possible to own a modest but adequate house and raise a family including sending one, two or three kids to university or similar on one middle-class income.

      What is rarely included in comparisons of then to now is that the value of women’s labour since the Great Feminist Emancipation has been appropriated by Them at every income level. The ‘choice’ of having a career instead of being ‘just a homemaker’ seemed so glamourous in the 70’s! Now two jobs per household is the minimum to hold onto your house, and often more are required. ‘Freedom’ to have a career? Ladies, we was had.

  29. Nikkikat

    My husband and I chose not to have children. I never really wanted any, as a child I told most any one who asked me about it that I didn’t want any kids. When I got married, we had discussed the issue. My husband didn’t care either way. The day before we married 39 years ago. I panicked because I didn’t want to get married and find out that he had changed his mind and wanted children. Again, he assured me that it would not change. His family went nuts! We got lectured about how we would some day regret our decision. My parents were disappointed but said it was our choice. His family continued to harass us. Every where we went people lectured us about how we were missing out and that when we got old, we wouldn’t have anyone to look after us.
    These same co workers and friends constantly talked about how great it was to get rid of the kids and take trips.
    We have never regretted the decision. We are in our sixties and are glad we have no ties and no grand kids. The one thing I have noticed with the people we know is they seem out of touch and act like they are eighty instead of 65. We were hassled a lot but I am happy we did what we wanted. Not what was expected.
    Funny thing, my husbands brother and sister each have one child out of three that decided no children. I hope we set an example.

    1. Vicki H

      I applaud you and your husband sticking to your guns. The pressure from family can be enormous. It’s a personal decision though many families are insulted and feel their grandchildren have been stolen from them. Ugh. I am also very glad I did not have any. Mixture of having zero maternal instinct and having so many goals that I could barely handle even with a husband that it was the last thing I wanted to tackle. He had a child from his first marriage so he was satisfied. I see people my age now struggling financially, as well as this nutty new helicopter parenting that seems to be its own career as well as how it can easily kill a marriage or at least severely stress it. In the U.S. there is a lot of lip service about family and children but there is no help from any quarter. You are on your own and need a very substantial income to not be miserable as far as I have observed. And yes to other comments, the planet does not need any more people. We’ve already destroyed so much. Give it back to the critters.

  30. Wukchumni

    My mom told me that when I was a toddler and she was shopping just after the Cuban Missile Crisis that a woman practically accosted her and asked how she could bring a child into a world bent on blowing itself real good. I could barely hold my neck up and spoke exclusively in a baby talk dialect so I was no help in justifying my existence, the onus was on her.

    The world is always coming to an end for all of us, and kids aren’t our bag, but it seems like we’re an outlier as we zero in on 8 billion of us here on this good orb.

    1. flora

      Me thinks the earth can easily support 8 billions if the few oligarchs don’t hoard it all for themselves. /heh

  31. just_kate

    I wanted to have kids but I had a really good childhood and ultimately didn’t find myself in a position to be confident that we could provide a similar life for any children we might have – gen X with multiple job layoffs during the many economic shit storms. Now in my 50s I’m grateful for ignoring everyone who said you never feel ready and should just go ahead and have kids.

  32. Charles 2

    The only way to really reap the per capita productivity boost of educated women is to have a few women having a lot of children and the majority of them having none so that they can concentrate on their careers. In child rearing as in many other activities, specialisation works !
    This could be helped by government incentives, where child tax credit for, say, a dozen of kids should be the monetary equivalent to a middle class job full career, but it mostly require societal shifts, such as
    – allowing easier adoption, because a woman contemplating a career of raising a dozen plus kids may not want to undergo a dozen plus pregnancies ; as a matter of fact, lesbian couples have a competitive advantage for raising big families, as pregnancies can be split between the two members of the couple !
    – allowing adoption schemes that do not sever completely the link with the biological parents, as it exists in Napoleonic Law, because, conversely, people who wants to focus on a corporate career may still not want to forgo passing their genes. In particular, such adoption schemes should be easily accessible to raise cousins together.

    To smooth that path to big families, government incentives should not only linked to the absolute number of children but also to the pace and the age at which the family adds new members. This way, young couples would enjoy a full income even when they are just getting started.
    One could even imagine a credentialed path to such a child raising career, with a diploma giving priority to multiple adoption, so that a freshly minted graduate can immediately start her (or his for that matter) career with three or four children.

    This being said, I am realistic : it will take decades or even a full century before big families become the solution for sustainable demography, which is just as well, because there are really too many people on planet Earth.
    For the twenty first century, demographic management will be mostly migration and most importantly migrant integration management, but that is another story…

  33. Ram

    In India where not having a child is a big taboo, a movie about women’s choice to be child free got released last week. Being child free may be a real choice for next Gen Indians

  34. Even keel

    Parenting has taught me what love really is.

    Before kids, I thought I knew how to sacrifice for, and care about, others. Now I know I had no idea.

    I have become a better citizen, friend, son, businessman, and husband, thanks to these experiences.

    PS – I’m not sure I buy the demographic doom theory that economists are always pushing. We have a lot of bullshit jobs. Plus, less people should mean less traffic, lower home prices, and more room. It would be interesting to hear someone smart, and without a hidden agenda, analyze that issue.

    1. kareninca

      My father told me many years ago that people who don’t have children never grow up fully, like people who do have children. He was a psych professor and a wise man. My reaction was “YAY!!! I don’t have to actually grow up!!!!” And so I never had kids and am pleased to be permanently immature. I am not much interested in sacrifice, but I do try to be considerate of others. Perhaps the love I feel for my dog could be matched or surpassed, but I’m not sure that I’d like to feel greater love. I am not so unusual for GenX.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I don’t buy this pop psychology for a second, particularly since I was told I was an old woman at the age of 3 (I did look like I was 8 at that age, both size and demeanor). I hated being a child and wanted it to be over as soon as possible.

        1. Arizona Slim

          Oh, my goodness. Another one. I also wanted to grow up and get away from childhood as soon as I could.

  35. Late Introvert

    I never wanted kids, they frightened me. As a person at odds with the world already it seemed like way too much. And it has been.

    But like Even keel above I never knew I could take care of another person until my daughter was born, or the ability to love another person so much that you would literally do anything for them. I consider myself a bit on the spectrum, so these were life changing events for sure. I also lost a lot of hair in those first few years.

    It helped a lot that I was 42 and financially secure (not even close to rich, but no risk of homeless either). It kind of hurt that other parents were in their 20s at school, and that 6th graders were (still) taller than me.

    My point is that it has been a net positive for me, despite the challenges. She’s a beautiful person and a gift in every way. I understand other people not feeling the same, but that’s my story.

  36. Brunches with Cats

    When people ask me if I have children, I tell them that my unborn children thank me every day for not having them.

    Even the cat complains constantly about my inadequacies as a parent.

  37. B flat

    The reasons fertility rates have plunged in the United States may be particular to us, but birth rates are falling sharply around the world now. The same factors could be offered up as an explanation, but I think we’ve reached peak humanity. There are so many of us some biological deadman’s switch has been triggered.

    1. Erelis

      Interesting point. In terms of evolution, sorta strange to consciously not want to reproduce. Is living to work yourself up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs so strong a pull to forego reproduction? Has humanity become so separated from our mammalian past and instincts to start a cycle of evolutionary death by not reproducing?

      1. Anat

        Evolution doesn’t require a desire to reproduce. In the absence of effective contraception a desire for sex does the job. When beings that desire sex more than they desire babies invent effective contraception that’s exactly what you expect to happen.

    2. eg

      I think the pandemic is also part of the biosphere’s response to our demographic overreach. One way or another, our share of the biomass will be readjusted. Perhaps even rapidly enough to slow the climate crisis to the benefit of all species.

  38. Jeremy Grimm

    Late to the party … I have two children, and looking back on the many years before now the times I remember and remember most fondly are the times I spent with my children. The most beautiful sound I ever heard was my daughter’s first cry. I miss my children now that they are grown. I suppose my experience with children is best encapsulated by this comment by Kamin [Captain Picard] from the Star Trek episode “Inner Light”, “I always believed that I didn’t need children to complete my life. Now I couldn’t imagine life without them.”

  39. ScottB

    Even later to the party than Jeremy, and totally agree with his comments, which mirror my experience with may now-grown children. I have no criticism for anyone who chooses not to have kids.

    I will say that there was a lot of doom and gloom among the comments. Professionally, I am known as Dr. Doom. And I also fall back on Gramsci: pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will. I remain hopeful despite everything. Reading Kim Stanley Robinson also helps.

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