A recent story in the Star Tribune explores the recently documented trend of women delaying the birth of their first child or choosing to not have children altogether.
More than ever before, women are deciding to forgo childbearing in favor of other life-fulfilling experiences, a trend that has been steadily on the rise for decades. Census data says that nationally, the number of women 40 to 44 who did not have children jumped 10 percentage points from 1983 to 2006.
As University of Minnesota sociologist Ross Macmillan explains, the childless trend is not limited to the United States.
The number of children born is dropping “like a stone in pretty much every country we
can find,” he said, and the United States has seen a 50-year rise in the number of childless women.
There are also a large number of women choosing to delay childbirth. State Demographic Center research analyst Martha McMurry points out that while there has been a decline in births among women in their 20s, the number of women having children in their 30s and 40s is increasing.
This delay is in part attributed to the high cost of having and raising a child, estimated at $250,000 by some studies, as well as the potential negative repercussions in the workplace.
“Actually, while it is true that women can have it all, it is also true that women who have children suffer from some penalties in the workplace,” said University of Minnesota associate professor Ann Meier.
She was referencing Stanford sociologist Shelley Correll’s research that shows that mothers looking for work are less likely to be hired, are offered lower pay (5 percent less per child) and that the pay gap between mothers and childless women under 35 is
actually bigger than the pay gap between women and men.
As the numbers of women choosing not to have children has risen, groups organized around the decision have sprung up.
In the Twin Cities, a one-year-old Childfree by Choice group’s numbers are growing
weekly. On Meetup.com, the site through which it is organized, other such groups are
cropping up nationwide, with such names as No Kidding and Not a Mom.
For many of these women children are simply not seen as the key ingredient to living a good life.
Aleja Santos, 44, a medical ethics researcher who started the Twin Cities Childfree by
Choice group a year ago (greeting members on the site with “Welcome, fellow non-
breeders!”), said she never wanted to have kids. “There were always other things I
wanted to do.”