Fertility rates reportedly dropped to record lows in 2020, and may be related to more people choosing not to have kids — with a new study finding the number could be bigger than previously thought.
The study focused on residents of Michigan, a state with a population similar to the overall U.S. population in terms of age, race, income and education — with numbers of child-free people there expected to reflect similar trends in other states, the researchers wrote.
In a June study of 1,000 people, the researchers found over 1 in 4 Michigan adults were child-free — meaning they did not want biological or adopted children.
The total was much higher than those reported in the few past national studies that have attempted to identify child-free people and placed the percentage between 2% and 9%, the researchers reported.
“Although we can’t be sure why we identified more child-free people in our study, we suspect it may have something to do with how we determined who was child-free,” the researchers said.
Past studies that attempted to estimate the prevalence of child-free individuals often focused on only women, using criteria based on fertility, the researchers pointed out. The studies left out men, older adults and biologically infertile people who nonetheless didn’t want children.
“In our study, we used a more inclusive approach,” the researchers wrote. “We looked at both women and men, asking three yes-no questions that allowed us to determine who was child-free based on the desire to have children, rather than fertility: Do you have, or have you ever had, any biological or adopted children; Do you plan to have any biological or adopted children in the future; Do you wish you had or could have biological or adopted children.”
Those who answered “no” to all three questions were classified as child-free.
The researchers said they also examined whether child-free people differed from parents, not-yet-parents and childless individuals in life satisfaction, personality or political views.
“We found that child-free people were just as satisfied with their lives as others, and there were few personality differences,” the researchers wrote. “However, child-free people were more liberal than parents.”
“Although child-free people were pretty similar to everyone else, we did find that parents were less warm toward child-free people. This finding suggests that child-free individuals may be stigmatized in the United States,” the researchers added.