Earlier this year I posted on some initial findings from recent research conducted by Center for Work Life Policy on the Gen X generation. The research publication is just out. One area it looked at was the kid factor. Check out some of the findings on this score and how Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the founding president of the Center for Work Life Policy interprets them…
The research indicates that over 40% of women ages 41-45 did not have children. There is a similar finding for the Gen X guys; by age 40, 36% of Gen X men also don’t have children.
The findings show that some of the reasons why they are not having children have to do with “career ambition and economic challenges.” Many are college educated, and their careers are very important to them. Given today’s economic realities, they are working longer and harder. Many also have big college loan debts and credit card debts.
But when asked, “According to a CWLP press release, Gen Xers are ‘choosing’ not to have children.” Does this mean they delay and then can’t get pregnant, or are they actively making the decision not to have children?”, here is Hewlett’s response:
“I call it a ‘creeping non-choice’ because it’s nuanced: You don’t wake up one day and say, ‘I’m not going to have kids.’ It’s a decision that falls out of other circumstances. Other important factors and opportunities crowd out the possibility of having children.”
This is another example of many in which research findings are interpreted through a pronatalist lens. Pronatalist beliefs include the idea that we all must want children. And in this explanation, the message is, “these women would have kids if the all of the right “circumstances” lined up. If the economic factors were right, and the job could include room in life to raise a child (or at least believing that is the case), then of course they would not delay in trying to get pregnant! Essentially she is saying, these Gen X women do want children and would have them if they could.
Now, many men and women end up with no children “by circumstance.” Like savvyauntie who really does want kids of her own but just has not found the right guy yet. I call this being “childless by choice.”They want kids, but are choosing not to have them for whatever reason right now.
However, in this study to say the reason Gen Xers are having fewer kids is because it’s a “creeping non-choice” reflects a limited interpretation, based on the assumption that parenthood is supposed to be a given, not an option in life. It does not include those who are childfree–those who would say it is not about circumstance at all, but more that, plain and simple, they do not have children because they don’t want the experience of parenthood.
With every generation, it is getting easier and easier to be out front about the childfree choice. More research needs to do the same, and better ferret out the reasons why people don’t have children beyond those having to do with circumstance.
Gen Xers those and who know them, what you see out there regarding why more Gen Xers are not having children?