The Census Bureau issued a new report yesterday about the increase of childlessness among American women and, although they provide only a press release and XLS data (rather than a full report), the highlights of the data are perhaps ominous:
Non-Hispanic white women were 64% more likely to be childless than Hispanic women, whereas Hispanic women were 61% more likely to have at least three children.
Considering so-called “replacement level” fertility (2 children per woman), we see that Hispanic women are 14% more likely to be at or above this level, whereas non-Hispanic white women are 40% more likely to be below replacement level.
If you’ve studied population demographics, you realize that trends like these generally take decades to develop, and that finding cause-and-effect correlations is difficult. That is to say, people’s beliefs developed in childhood, their behavior as teenagers and the prevailing cultural trends in their young adult years will have an effect on whether they eventually have children. Today’s 40-year-old woman was born in 1975 and turned 18 in 1993, so if she is childless now, this necessarily implicates her choices and behaviors in the 1990s, as well as the belief system with which she was raised in the 1970s and ’80s.
Women’s behaviors are necessarily affected by men’s behaviors. If men are avoiding marriage and fatherhood — as Dr. Helen Smith’s Men on Strike documents — it will be more difficult for women to become wives and mothers. It may also be the case that men who might want to be husbands and fathers lack either the social skills or the financial resources needed to attract wives. Alternately, we may theorize that a general social climate of distrust and hostility between men and women make marriage and parenthood more problematic.
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