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The No. 1 Reason More Americans Don’t Want Kids

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No Baby Boom Here

The U.S. birth rate fell for the sixth year in a row in 2020, and the average American woman is now expected to have just 1.64 children in her lifetime — compare that with 3.65 in 1960, the height of the Baby Boom. According to a new Pew Research Center study, 44% of non-parents ages 18 to 49 say they’re unlikely to have children in the future, a significant jump of 7% from 2018. And while it’s easy to assume Americans are deciding against kids for any number of factors — for instance, the pandemic or the skyrocketing price of raising a child — the No. 1 reason is much more straightforward, Pew found.


Related: Life Expectancy the Year You Were Born

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The Biggest Reason? They Just Don’t Want Kids

A whopping 56% of Pew’s respondents said their No. 1 reason for staying child-free is simple: They just don’t want to have children. And what would have been an unthinkable choice 50 years ago has become more mainstream as non-parents connect online (just check out the very active, very unapologetic Reddit community r/Childfree) and find larger audiences for their perspective. 


Related: 20 Reasons Not to Have Kids

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Medical Reasons

Sometimes fertility issues mean biological children aren’t in the cards, or other health problems make the idea of parenthood seem untenable. For 19% of the respondents who said they had a specific reason to eschew parenthood — one other than simply not wanting kids — medical reasons were the deciding factor.


Related: Reduce Your Health Care Costs With These Expert Tips for Seniors

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No Suitable Partner

The stigma around single parenting has faded, and many people who want kids decide to go it alone. Still, others feel that’s not an option for them, and 15% of childless adults citing a specific reason say they won’t have kids because they haven’t found the right co-parent.


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Age

Kids require an enormous amount of energy to raise, and many of us have a lot less of that as we get older. On the flip side, younger adults may simply feel they’re not ready. For 10% of respondents who named a specific reason to stay child-free, age is the main issue.

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State of the World

We’re struggling with a pandemic, rampant inflation, racial strife, political polarization, and so many other pressing issues. For 9% of respondents citing a specific reason to skip parenthood, the general state of the world makes kids a no-go.

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Climate Change/Environment

Insane weather and doomsday climate headlines have to be weighing on potential parents’ minds, right? Yes — but not to the extent you might think. This was the main concern of only 5% of respondents who specified a specific reason for staying childless.

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Partner Doesn’t Want Them

It’s a common conflict on movies and TV shows: One person is gung-ho on kids, while the other is dead set against them. But according to Pew’s survey, only 2% of respondents who cited a concrete reason for remaining kid-free specified this one.

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What About Parents Who Don’t Want More Kids?

Pew also surveyed adults 18 to 49 who have kids, but say they’re unlikely to have more. Sixty-three percent said they’re done simply because they don’t want more kids. Among the 37% who said there was another reason, age was the No. 1 reason. (Interestingly, one reason cited by child-free Americans — climate change and the environment — didn’t even rate.)


  • Age (29%)

  • Medical reasons (23%)

  • Financial reasons (14%)

  • Already have kids (11%)

  • State of the world (4%)

  • No partner (2%)

  • Partner doesn’t want kids (2%)