The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Fertility Delayed Is Fertility Denied

Posted on | April 8, 2015 | 125 Comments


The Census Bureau issued a new report yesterday about the increase of childlessness among American women and, although they provide only a press release and XLS data (rather than a full report), the highlights of the data are perhaps ominous:

The percentage of U.S. women in their 30s and 40s who are childless is rising, new data from the U.S. Census Bureau show.
Some 15.3% of U.S. women aged 40 to 44 were childless in June 2014, up from 15.1% in 2012. . . .
For women in their late 30s, the rise in childlessness is sharper. Around 18.5% of women 35 to 39 were childless last June, up from 17.2% in 2012.
All told, 47.6% of U.S. women aged 15 to 44 were without children last year, up from 46.5% in 2012.
The data are the latest to show that childlessness is on the rise in the U.S. as more women (and their partners) delay marriage and childbearing.
Because fertility declines significantly for women in their 40s — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define a woman’s child-bearing years as 15 to 44 — demographers carefully watch these women to get a sense of how many children Americans are having, or not. . . .
With more women having their first child in their mid 30s, late 30s and early 40s, American families may be shrinking: The number of women aged 40 to 44 who had only one child roughly doubled between 1976 and 2014, Census said.


A more in-depth Census report on the 2012 numbers shows that, in 1976, 10% of women 40-44 (a cohort born 1932-36) were childless, whereas in 2012, 15% of women 40-44 (a cohort born 1968-72) were childless. An ethnic breakdown of the 2012 numbers shows important differences:

White (non-Hispanic)
0 …………………. 16.4
1 …………………. 19.2
2 …………………. 36.6
3 or more ……. 27.8

0 …………………. 10.0
1 …………………. 15.5
2 …………………. 28.7
3 or more ……. 44.9

Non-Hispanic white women were 64% more likely to be childless than Hispanic women, whereas Hispanic women were 61% more likely to have at least three children. Notice when you break it down this way:

White (non-Hispanic)
0 or 1 ………….. 35.6
2 or more ……. 64.4

0 or 1 ………….. 25.5
2 or more ……. 73.6

Considering so-called “replacement level” fertility (2 children per woman), we see that Hispanic women are 14% more likely to be at or above this level, whereas non-Hispanic white women are 40% more likely to be below replacement level. And if we look at the Census report’s data comparing U.S.-born women to immigrants, we find these numbers:

U.S.-born women, ages 40-50
Lifetime births (average) ….. 1.93
Childless ………………………….. 17.2%

Immigrant women, ages 40-50
Lifetime births (average) ….. 2.24
Childless ………………………….. 11.4%

So, immigrant women on average had 16% more children, and U.S-born women were 51% more likely to be childless. Now let’s break down the numbers by educational achievement:

Not a high school graduate
Lifetime births (average) ….. 2.6
Childless ………………………….. 11.6%

Bachelor’s degree
Lifetime births (average) ….. 1.8
Childless ………………………….. 19.9%

High-school dropouts, on average, had 44% more children than women who had college diplomas. Childlessness was 72% more common for college graduates than for high-school dropouts.

If you’ve studied population demographics, you realize that trends like these generally take decades to develop, and that finding cause-and-effect correlations is difficult. That is to say, people’s beliefs developed in childhood, their behavior as teenagers and the prevailing cultural trends in their young adult years will have an effect on whether they eventually have children. Today’s 40-year-old woman was born in 1975 and turned 18 in 1993, so if she is childless now, this necessarily implicates her choices and behaviors in the 1990s, as well as the belief system with which she was raised in the 1970s and ’80s.

Women’s behaviors are necessarily affected by men’s behaviors. If men are avoiding marriage and fatherhood — as Dr. Helen Smith’s Men on Strike documents — it will be more difficult for women to become wives and mothers. It may also be the case that men who might want to be husbands and fathers lack either the social skills or the financial resources needed to attract wives. Alternately, we may theorize that a general social climate of distrust and hostility between men and women make marriage and parenthood more problematic.

Studying demographic trends involves the complex interaction of multiple variables over time. However, it is important to note this: People make trends and not the other way around. That is to say, the individual is always free to act independently of the larger social trend, to swim against the demographic stream. You can make your own high-fertility subculture within a low-fertility society. My being a father of six is the result of beliefs and choices in the same way that other people become childless as the result of their own beliefs and choices.

People want to “fit in,” to have the approval of their peers and of the societ around them, and so being “conformed to this world” is the usual way of life. There is a prejudice I call “middle-classness,” which encourages young people to believe that they must have the credentials and accoutrements of middle-class life — college education, professional career, new cars, home ownership — or else be considered failures. This kind of concern for social status is perfectly understandable, yet in our striving for status (and encouraging our children to do the same) we can easily succumb to the kind of mentality that has produced the trend toward childlessness manifested in the latest Census Bureau report.

Did all these women decide to be childless? No.

If you could go back to 1993 to interview the 18-year-old who today is a childless 40-year-old, she likely would say she wanted to be a mother “someday,” under certain circumstances. However, those circumstances did not arise and thus “someday” never arrived.

The Contraceptive Culture encourages women (and men) to believe that fertility is entirely a matter of personal choice, but any fertility specialist will tell you this is a myth. The woman who has not become a mother by age 30 will have a significantly higher risk of experiencing infertility if and when she does try to become pregnant. And even if she has no medical problems with her reproductive health, the woman who delays motherhood past 30 will on average have fewer children in comparison to women who have their first child before they are 30.

Fertility delayed is fertility denied. Demographics is ultimately a matter of arithmetic, although the numbers involved represent human lives and the choices we make based on our own beliefs.

“See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil . . . I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”
Deuteronomy 30:15, 19 (KJV)




125 Responses to “Fertility Delayed Is Fertility Denied”

  1. Lulu
    April 9th, 2015 @ 7:59 am

    I don’t know about that — if rent near your work is 2000 to 3000 dollars a month for a safe apartment or a 900 to 1200 sq ft house near in is 800K or more you have to move further out and then you are looking at 400k for a TH or if you are willing to move further out 250k to 300k for a TH which is doable on 1 income but that person is now commuting 4+ hours a day — if you live far out both can’t work FT or the kids are in daycare for 12 to 14 hours a day — the point being most people can’t afford children until they are 30+ in many metro areas — true story I once attended a meeting 51 miles from my house and someone came from 600 miles away via plane they took two taxis and a plane and their travel time was 15 minutes less than mine — see there was a light rain so my commute to the meeting was 3.5 hours one way — you can’t raise kids if 2 parents have to do that

  2. Finrod Felagund
    April 9th, 2015 @ 8:42 am

    The entire population of the world could fit into the state of Texas with no more population density than that of an average suburb. The idea that “there are too many people as it is” is bogus on its face.

  3. RS
    April 9th, 2015 @ 8:42 am

    I’m not suggesting that cost of living issues don’t exist in certain places in this country. However, determining to live in a specific location is, indeed, a personal choice. As I’ve indicated in other comments on this thread, it is impossible to “have it all.” A choice to live in San Francisco necessitates giving up certain things. Those things may include having children. I’m not making a value judgment. I’m merely pointing out the realities.

  4. Joseph Dooley
    April 9th, 2015 @ 9:47 am

    When progressives notice this, be very afraid. Their recommendation will be to have the state reproduce for the people, a la Brave New World.

  5. Matt_SE
    April 9th, 2015 @ 9:50 am

    They’ll have to fight their Malthusian impulses, which go deep.
    IMO, they’ll think it’s a good thing.
    Liberals don’t mind a society of wattle huts, as long as they get to be the chief.

  6. Lulu
    April 9th, 2015 @ 9:55 am

    it doesn’t mean giving up children but it does mean either you subsist on government handouts or you wait until you are 30 or so to start having children — which is not a hardship except part of the reason you had to wait was you were responsible and as a result you are expected to pay for an ever growing underclass to breed at will from the onset of puberty so 40+ percent of your earnings are taken by politicians to be distributed to others and the larger consequence is that those who are the most irresponsible have not only more children but are at least one generation ahead of their age cohorts — that being they are having grandchildren when their responsible peers are having their children and as you know demography is destiny so long-term we are all screwed

  7. Matt_SE
    April 9th, 2015 @ 9:56 am

    I’ve been following this idea since I started reading articles about Japan’s problems. I’m not scared by much, but for some reason I find the idea of societal depopulation terrifying.
    If it gets bad enough, I imagine it will be something akin to post-apocalyptic movies. Deserted cities, etc.

  8. Matt_SE
    April 9th, 2015 @ 10:00 am

    “It’s simple undeniable math.”
    That’s funny, that’s just what the author said to support the opposite case.

  9. RS
    April 9th, 2015 @ 10:22 am

    All of which is a personal choice. You can choose to move to place where the cost of living is more conducive to rearing a family. To say, “I must live here in order to make a living,” is a choice.

    I reiterate: I’m not making a value judgment. I’m merely stating facts. People ultimately choose where they want to live. Those choices involve trade-offs. People who make them have to live with the trade-offs.

  10. Lulu
    April 9th, 2015 @ 11:56 am

    I’m trying to think where you can live on one income at ages 22 to 27 or so and support a family because it pretty much is not happening on either of the coasts — well unless your spouse is in hedge funds or some such — I guess maybe an overpaid federal employee — admittedly I know nothing about the Midwest so possibly that’s your frame of reference but I think that young people age 22 to 28 or so would have a problem doing that in 2015 but I am not in that age group so maybe their job prospects/salaries and housing costs are better than has been reported

  11. K-Bob
    April 9th, 2015 @ 12:12 pm

    I agree. It’s why I always tackle ideas like they are crash test dummies, but rarely tackle personalities or individuals. Every idea deserves a good, rousing beating.

    But some people, mostly leftists, treat ideas like a part of their personal existence, and if you damage the idea, you damage them, personally. You really cannot reason with people who are like that.

  12. K-Bob
    April 9th, 2015 @ 12:17 pm

    They’d think it’s the only safe way to make sure the “right” sorts of people are allowed to live. For everyone else, it’s into the gulags. The quotes from climate alarmists about “deniers” that give evidence to this are growing louder and more frequent.

  13. K-Bob
    April 9th, 2015 @ 12:25 pm

    It’s the genetics that proves the lie. You can claim otherwise, but you can’t drag genetics over it to support the assertion.

    Look into the human genome project sometime.

    As Stacy wrote, “race” is an ethnocentrism. A construct of the mind, alone. Just like climate. Climate is a statistical concept only. Weather is what you see outside your door, not climate.

    Same with race. Race is a blurred, concept that attempts to force characteristics of a population onto an individual. It’s a total bastardization of genetics.

    It’s fine to use broad demographic groups in a study, as long as you don’t pretend that broadness applies to any subpopulation or individual.

    Racists apply those demographic concepts inaccurately, and they apply them to individuals. It’s not scientific, it’s not even logical.

  14. K-Bob
    April 9th, 2015 @ 12:27 pm

    I’ve seen the math. You don’t even need to get into the actual DNA to understand the concept. However the genomics research has greatly underscored the point that you cannot find “race” among genes.

    All you can find is variability, and that’s effectively infinite.

  15. K-Bob
    April 9th, 2015 @ 12:30 pm

    I’ve met people that said the same thing. In fact, it was a prenuptual agreement. Then when they accidentally conceived past the age of thirty-five, they decided they couldn’t go through with an abortion. They ended up having another child and became great, loving parents.

  16. Quartermaster
    April 9th, 2015 @ 12:32 pm

    Races have become blurred, but they still all the way to the DNA. The genome project didn’t refute that in the least. I hate to disagree with the honorable RSM here, but race is hardly a construct of the mind.

    I would agree with you, to a point, on the way racists apply the concept, but that does not render the concept a nullity by any means.

  17. K-Bob
    April 9th, 2015 @ 12:36 pm

    Most people use race as a form of back-of-the-envelope demographics. It’s possible to do that to a very limited extent. But it takes discipline to avoid using that in any way other than subtly and broadly.

    Racists treat that back-of-the-envelope aspect as the actual “science” of race. That’s the part that is a lie.

  18. Quartermaster
    April 9th, 2015 @ 12:56 pm

    I don’t pay any attention to racists, frankly. There is some science to race however, as we see with certain ailments like sickle cell anemia, and some genetic disorders that tend to get stuck in certain bloodlines. There are even medical treatments that are less effective in those of west African decent. These are facts that can’t be escaped and simply writing race off as a simply social concept is silly. It matters in many areas.

    “The Bell Curve” has yet to be refuted, as another example. We may not like the results, but we have no right to demonize someone simply because we don’t like what they find, even if things tend to break down along racial lines. There has been a lot of ink spilled, and bandwidth wasted on the subject, yet I have as yet to see anything persuasive on the “race is joke” side. Everything I’ve seen so far stands foursquare against that silliness.

  19. K-Bob
    April 9th, 2015 @ 1:42 pm

    Those facts you state are the very ones I alluded to that show that race is a lie. You cannot claim that “black people” are all treatable by the same medical regimen just because they are black. That’s exactly the point. It’s why race is nearly useless. You know what else in science is nearly useless? Treating pi as a real number. Copernican circular orbits. Many things are nearly useless compared to today’s science, but that doesn’t mean they were totally useless before. Race had a few things going for it. But the majority of things attributed to it were not supported by any science whatsoever. Still aren’t.

    The bell curve is demographics, not race. You don’t refute demographics by claiming it’s due to race.

    Race is the silliness. It’s not scientific, and it’s not logical.

  20. Quartermaster
    April 9th, 2015 @ 1:52 pm

    You’re ascribing things to me I’ve never said.

    From what you’ve written I can only conclude you don’t know what you are talking about. The race thingy is pretty much settled and has been for a very long time. It was not settled in the way you think racists “settled it” but it was settled. If you want to think it’s silly and a lie, you’re welcome to believe what you wish to believe.

  21. Jerry
    April 9th, 2015 @ 3:58 pm

    You’re wasting your breath on this. People over 50 have no idea what kind of financial reality younger people are dealing with, and on top of that want to make it harder for you to survive.

  22. K-Bob
    April 9th, 2015 @ 5:22 pm

    You’ll have to show me where I “ascribed” things you never said. When I quote someone, I quote them.

    And yeah, the race concept is well past “settled.” It’s been found to be non-scientific, not useful to science except in very limited ways, and mostly a remnant of the human urge to categorize things as good or bad. In the case of race, the concept itself is simply wrong.

    Belief is for discussions of faith. I’ll stick with the well-known facts that have been developed regarding the human genome, heritable traits, and genetic expression. Those merely require reasoning skills and the ability to follow the equations developed to handle population studies.

  23. Quartermaster
    April 9th, 2015 @ 9:24 pm

    You’re spewing garbage. Believe what you will. Your “well known facts” are trash.

  24. K-Bob
    April 9th, 2015 @ 11:50 pm

    You don’t seem at all like an engineering guy in this discussion. Facts don’t matter. History doesn’t matter. Math doesn’t matter.

    Pretty weird.

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