Canadians: Taking a Closer Look at New Childless Census Data

Canada released some additional 2011 Census numbers this week.  They include statistics on a variety of demographics, including rises in same-sex marriages and common-law relationships.  When it comes to numbers relating to the “childless” a little dissection is needed, as well as reaction to some media commentary. Check it out.

First, the overall number having to do with women with no children –  the stats indicate that “one in five women will not have a child in their lifetime, whether by choice or circumstance.”  That pretty much lines up with the Census numbers in the U.S.

However, other ways the data on those “without children” are being reported can easily create confusion.  Take these two statements:

This one from the National Post: “Canada’s latest batch of 2011 census numbers was released Wednesday and revealed that 44.5% of couples are ‘without children’ compared to 39.2% with children.”

And this one from the Vancouver Sun: “The number of couples without children at home (44.5 per cent) continued to outpace those couples with kids living at home (39.2 per cent).”

At first one might question how one in five women could jive with 44 percent of couples. What is not made real clear from the get go is the 44 percent number are households without children. That includes people who indeed are parents but their children are not living at home.

The number to focus on is the one in five, which like in the States has seen a rise since the 1970s.  And not all like this trend. Like Joe O’Connor of the National Post. As he understands it,  the reasons more Canadians are not having kids have to do with:

selfish“Career demands. Timing. Not having a partner, or not having the right partner. Flaky fears about overburdening our already overburdened planet, personal choice and a bunch of other hooey that serve to hide the fact that happy couples that choose not to have kids are, at root, well, let’s see: selfish.”

Like so many who are stuck on this selfish myth, O’Connor paints the stereotyped picture of childfree couples as “sipping their lattes and skipping off to a 10:15 a.m. appointment with their personal trainer.”

I just had to comment to this article–that I have talked with thousands of childfree over the years, and the fact is the childfree run the gamut on the socioeconomic spectrum-they are a heterogeneous group from all walks of life.

O’Connor also seems to think the childfree are going to be sad and alone when they are old.  He and others who still think this way need to take a look at the research done in the last 10 years which puts this myth to rest.  In a nutshell, what research tells us is that older childfree are no more likely to be lonely than isolated than parents.

It is good that Census data look at the “childless” but the way the data are summarized sure can be better.  In North America and other countries, they need to better track the choice factor, and with this latest set of Canadian data in particular, be clearer about figures relating to childless households, couples and women. And all around, how about tracking childless men too.

But when it comes to the stubborn stereotypes, the myths that people just can’t seem to let go of, what do you think it’s going to take for people to get past them – for good?


6 thoughts on “Canadians: Taking a Closer Look at New Childless Census Data

  1. “Selfish” just doesn’t work. It’s an illogical statement. Therefore, it doesn’t bother me, and I automatically assume that anyone who characterizes those who choose not to have children as “selfish” is (and I say this sincerely) a little envious.

  2. Thank you again for sharing this, Laura.

    I read the National Post article out loud to my husband, all the time we were rolling our eyes and smirking. And, actually, also while drinking lattes.

    This editorial was unbelievably hate-filled. I’m not judging his lifestyle choices, but why is he judging mine, and my reasons behind it. Why is he assuming that I am rolling in money, and yet also don’t work so much that I have 10am appointments? And with the money I save by not raising a child, I can pay someone to take care of me when I’m old. 🙂

    I found the “flaky” line that you quoted to be one of the most abhorrent in the article. Not only is he insulting the child-free, but also the environmentalists, and a very valid reason to choose not to have children.

    I’m embarrassed that he is a fellow Canadian. I thought we, as a society, were more open-minded than that!

    1. Don’t be embarrassed…there are plenty of people who hold these same stereotypes in neighboring country to the south and other countries as well 😉 Hopefully in time this will be less and less the case…

  3. There are some flaky, selfish reasons to be childfree. Just like there are flaky, selfish reasons to have children. I’m may be biased, but I think the reasons for me to be childfree are much clearer, more thoughtful, and more responsible than reasons for me to have children, and I tend to think having children is usually the more selfish choice.

    It would be a very simple matter to test whether or not childfree people will be more lonely in their old age than people with children. There have always been childfree people in the world. There are elderly people out there right now who never had children. Ask them about regret, and then compare their lives with the elderly who have children.

    Visit the local nursing home and see how well children take care of their parents. Go to the local retirement community and see if there is one shred of evidence that retirees with children are happier than childfree ones. I bet you won’t find it.

  4. I just noticed something else in O’Connor’s list of excuses:

    Not having partner is a stupid reason not to have a kid? Seriously?

    Being with someone who you would never want to raise a kid with is a bad reason not to have kids? Really?

  5. My favourite response to being taken care of in my old age is this:

    My husband and his best friend since childhood have not lived in the same city since they were 13 years old. They have made a pact that when it comes time to move into a nursing or retirement home, they will be in the same home, come hell or high water. We’ll all be together, then, and best friend’s children can come visit and play whatever generation X-Box is up to by then with dear old Dad and uncle Jeff any time they want!

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