New Childlessness Numbers and More from The National Survey of Family Growth

The National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) has a new report out on fertility statistics for the years 2006-2010.  The NSFG is one of the few organizations who break the “childlessness”category out into “voluntary,” “involuntary” and “temporary.”  The report is packed with data; here are some highlights of findings in the childlessness area:

From the report: “Among the 61.8 million women aged 15–44 years in 2006–2010, 43% were childless…34% were temporarily childless, 2.3% non-voluntarily childless, and 6.0% voluntarily childless.”

The 15-44 age range is wide; I find looking at older age ranges is more informative.  For example, it reported that by age 40, 15% of women and 24% of men had not had a child (or said the opposite: 85% of women had had a birth, and 76% of men had fathered a child).  And for women  ages 40-44:

-> The way I read the tables, of the women surveyed who were 40-44 in age, 35% reported themselves as non-voluntarily childless.
-> In the same age range, 21.5 % reported themselves as voluntarily childless;
-> 1.6% reported themselves as temporarily childless;
-> 12% indicated “O” as the number of births expected.

On other channels, “Age at first birth for men and women aged 15–44 has been fairly stable since 2002…In 2006– 2010 the mean age at first birth was 23 for women and 25 for men, similar to the mean age at first birth in 2002.”

Also “for men, about two-thirds of first births occur to those in their twenties, and one out of five first births occur to those aged 30 years and over.”And “More than one-half of first births occur to women in their twenties and nearly one-third (italics mine) occur to women younger than age 20.” Curious how these numbers jive with with new numbers indicating that teen pregnancy is at an all time low.  I also wonder how this data reconciles with other data indicating that women are  starting to have children later in life.

Overall the report says that the numbers are about the same as they were in 2002, and that goes for the childlessness figures. Yet other reports seem to indicate that the numbers of women having no children is on the rise, and looks at older age ranges. For example, recent GenXer research by The Center for Work Life Policy,  part of which reported 43% of Xer women “are delaying or even opting out of parenting” and 32% of Xer men do not have children.”

What do you think about these different data slices?  One thing for sure, the childfree may remain in the minority, but studied more than ever before.

4 thoughts on “New Childlessness Numbers and More from The National Survey of Family Growth

  1. Two minor reactions:

    1. “85% of women had had a birth, and 76% of men had fathered a child.” There are more women than there are men, so if each man and each woman only reproduced with one other person, then you would expect that a LOWER percentage of women would be parents than the percentage of men who are parents. All other things being equal, it should be maybe 85% for women and 87% for men. Instead, it’s the opposite, and it’s a big gap. This means that there are quite a few men getting multiple women pregnant but relatively few women getting pregnant from multiple men. Or, perhaps there are large numbers of men who don’t know they’re fathers. Either way, a lot of men are getting around….

    2. Here’s another organization defining “family” in terms of having children. Theoretically, if you include married couples as family, then “family growth” happens when you get married. I also wonder at putting “Family Growth” in the title of your organization. Are you assuming that families are supposed to get bigger?

    1. Re point #2 — yes, the Family “Growth” in the name of the organization does not have the feel of “child-neutral” and worded as pro-birth. Whether conscious or not, pronatalism at work…again!

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