NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 12, 2006

Longer life expectancy, delayed marriage and childbearing, and increased childlessness add up to a longer life without kids, says Barbara Dafoe Whitehead in a new report released by the nonpartisan National Marriage Project at Rutgers University.

Looking through U.S. Census data as well as cultural and social research, Whitehead found:

  • In 1970, 73.6 percent of women ages 25-29 had at least 1 minor child at home; 30 years later, only 48.7 percent did.
  • In 1990, the most common household type was married couples with children. Now, single-parent, childless households are the most prevalent.
  • Today, more women in their 40s are childless, the report says. Only 1 in 10 were childless in 1976; while in 2004, it was about 1 in 5.

Although Whitehead says Americans aren't "anti-child," she suggests that a society indifferent to parenting will further aggravate current attitudes and account for what she calls "the cultural devaluation of child-rearing."

Fewer children "may make for a more adult-oriented society," says Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution's Center on Children and Families, "but it's not necessarily going to have bad consequences for children. Everything depends on how much we're investing in those smaller numbers of children."

Source: Sharon Jayson, "Society switches focus away from children," USA Today, July 12, 2006; based upon: Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and David Popenoe, "The State of Our Unions: The Social Health of Marriage in America," National Marriage Project, July 2006.

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