Women Without Children Increase
Special Report - July 2, 2010
Since 1976, the number of women who end their childbearing years without children has nearly doubled, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. The report shows that number of childless women ages 40 to 44 increased from 10 percent in 1976 to 18 percent in 2008. Childlessness has increased among women of all races, among women who have been or are currently married, and among women of every level of educational attainment up to and including a bachelor’s degree.
The exception to this trend was among women with advanced degrees. Whereas 31 percent of women with a Master’s, doctoral or professional degree were childless in 1994, only 24 percent were childless in 2008. Nevertheless, never-married women with advanced degrees still possessed the highest rate of childlessness85 percentthan other groups of women, indicating that unwed childbearing may be concentrated among those women who are less socio-economically prepared for children. Women with the least education (with less than a high school diploma) experienced the greatest increase in childlessness, from nine percent in 1992 to 1994 to 15 percent in 2006-2008.
While the number of women who have been married but never had children increased, the number of women who had never been married but did have children increased as well. In 1992-1994, 71 percent of never married women had no children. In contrast, by 2006-2008, only 56 percent of never married women remained childless. This may indicate that cultural disapproval of unwed childbearing is on the wane.
It is likely that this increase in childlessness is partially fueled by changing societal attitudes towards the value of children. The Pew Report mentioned that in 2007, only 41 percent of adults said that children are very important to a successful marriage, compared to 65 percent who valued children highly in 1990. Childless women in the 40-44 age range seem to be divided evenly between those who were involuntarily childless, and those who were voluntarily without offspring.
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