Thanks for all the responses to the April On-the-Ground question:
What studies would you like to see about the childfree?
Three response themes stuck out:
1. More data on the overall numbers
People want to know more about the real numbers of childfree. The census tracks women without children but does not track the choice factor. The National Survey on Family Growth comes out with data on women who are “voluntary childless” every few years (the last was from 2002 at 6%; more data is due out this year but I have been given a heads up by the folks there that it’s still at about 6%), but what about men? What are race breakdowns? I saw race data when researching Families of Two, but more up to date data is needed. Prior research includes:
A 1998 census study showed that levels of childlessness were the same for Caucasian and African American women ages 40-44 that have ever been married. Regardless of marital status, Hispanics had lower levels of childlessness than both the Caucasian and African American groups.
2. More international demographic data
Folks are curious about the childfree in other countries. In Italy, for example, birth rates are low; how many childfree are there compared to the U.S.? How about other countries like Germany? A few people wanted to hear the opinions of childfree women from these countries and others that have a high standard of living like Scandinavia.
3. How are we different thant the rest of the general population, if at all?
There have been studies, but not enough that are relatively recent. Two more recent studies include sociologist Kristin Park, who did did an analysis of childfree at the time (2005) and previous studies, and found that the childfree are more likely to have managerial type occupations, more like to have both spouses working and making relatively high incomes, live in urban areas, be less conventional in general. We need more study here. In my interviews over the last 10 years, I would not agree with these results.
In 2007 psychologist and professor Christine Brooks did a study of early female articulators and found that the childfree value their autonomy, like to have control over their environment and have economic security. But the question is and for other differences, are they truly different enough from the population in general? On the ground, overall I have found that we are mostly like everyone else–you find us in a myriad of occupations, live traditional and not-so-traditional lifestyles, and span all income levels and personal styles. The autonomy streak I would hypothesize might have statistical significance. Well funded studies would shed statistical light on these questions and others!
What do you see out there re how we are different or not so different than parents? If you had unlimited funding, what would you study about the childfree?
I would like to see a breakdown of childfree by religion, including how religous the childfree are and how many are atheists (which I am).
Hi Deegee–Great idea! There has been research on this but it not real up to date and some of it more trend data in nature. Indicated that childfree tend to be less religious than those with kids but it was not broken down by religion. In 2005 sociologist Kristin Park came out with a study showing similar results. In my own interview research I talked with lots of folks considered themselves Christian, some more involved with church than others.. More studies are needed. ~L
How about a study that focused on happiness or contentment? i.e. Is one group happier than the other? What is it that truly makes people happy (not just what they SAY it is that makes them happy).
I think a study has to go deeper than the basic characteristics of better jobs, higher income levels, better retirement portfolio (those are mostly givens).
I think in many ways the two groups are very similar; it was just one choice that made us different (yet not better or worse). For me, it comes down to the “choice” — choosing what’s best for me. How many people can really say they’ve done something they haven’t regretted? Ah, I digress!
Re the groups being ver similar–I could not agree more! That is what I have found in talking to hundreds of childfree…If more people saw it like you, the childfree would have true social acceptance! ~L