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More Women Opting To Be Childless

June 26, 2010

More American women are opting to not have children than thirty years ago, according to a new report released by the Pew Research Center.

Nearly 20 percent of older women today do not have children, compared to 10 percent in the 1970s.

“In recent decades, social pressure to play traditional roles has lessened in a broad variety of ways and there is more leeway for individual choice. This could play a part in lowering pressure for people to get married and bear children,” D’Vera Cohn, a co-author of the report, told Reuters.

Also, women have more choices available to them than they did in the past to build good careers, which allows them to “exercise the choice not to have children,” she added.

Cohn said another reason for the increase is that couples feel a successful marriage works just as well without children. A Pew survey from 2007 found that 41 percent of adults said children are very important for a good marriage, down from 65 percent in 1990.

In 2008, one in five white women between the ages 40 and 44 were childless, compared with 17 percent of black and Hispanic women and 16 percent of Asian women. Between 1994 and 2008, childlessness rates rose by nearly a third for black and Hispanic women, much higher than the 11 percent for white women.

Education also seems to be a major factor in childlessness. The more educated women are, the higher the childless rate is. For women with a high school diploma, the rate is 17 percent, compared to 24 percent of women with a bachelor’s degree. However, childlessness rates have decreased for women with advanced degrees from 31 percent in 1994 to 24 percent in 2008.

Another possible reason for childlessness tied to education, is that “most educated women also tend to marry at older ages,” Cohn said.

The report findings are based on data collected from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

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