Monday, October 16, 2006

Purple Women & Friends: Do We Count?

Purple Women & Friends: Do We Count?

The childfree blog takes on US Census numbers - why aren't we being counted? Certainly the effect that an individual has, or plans to have, on future census numbers is relevant. They propose new categories:
Family Status:
Non-parent (not planning to have children)
Foster parent
Undecided about children.
The census asks two questions to examine childlessness:
(1) How many children have you ever had and
(2) What is the date of birth of your last child?
and reports the results in its studies of Female Fertility. Interestingly, although the term childfree does not appear on the page itself, the page's listing in Google results is termed "US Bureau of Census Childfree Statistics"

We also can discern trends from the statistics of childless women, and extrapolate that, absent any reason to believe infertility is growing significantly, more people are opting out of parenthood:

Record Number of childless women: the Census Bureau says a record 26.7 million women of childbearing age had no children in 2002, a 10% increase over 1990

That number represents nearly 44% of women ages 15 to 44. The latest numbers reflect the trend of more women going to college and entering the workforce, then delaying motherhood or deciding not to have children. Just over half of women of Asian descent were childless, the highest rate among racial and ethnic groups. "Economic reasons are part of it," says Amy Caizza of the Institute for Women's Policy Research. "But it's also the effect of the women's movement; you don't have to be a mother to be a complete woman."

But questionston still remains whether a more detailed look at the why is the providence of the Census. Differentiating between the voluntary and involutary childless would certainly be beneficial to demographers, as well as to medicine. The questions proposed by Purple Women would allow us to differentiate between the infertile, the childfree, and those in that age range who will have children in the future. Currently, we can imagine that most of the women in the 40-44 age range will remain childless (19.3% as of 2004). However, we cannot differentiate between the countless 15, 20 and 25 years old respondents who will go on to have children, and those who will remain childless. Therefore, we have no basis to discern whether the trends from survey to survey indicate an increase in childlessness in those age brackets or simply an increase in the number of women postponing parenting.

I, for one, would be very happy to see just any statistical study that gave us an idea of the rate of voluntary childlessness in America. Absent that small step, I'm not confident the larger one is imminent.


Anonymous said...

"I, for one, would be very happy to see just any statistical study that gave us an idea of the rate of voluntary childlessness in America."

Ahmen to that, you take my question a step further. Thanks for the link.

Founder, Purple Women & Friends

Logical guy said...

I think that it would be quite interesting to see what the whole reason for being childless was, and the proportions of people who chose it for one reason, some who chose it for another etc.

However, I'm going to say something that you'll probably disagree with, but here goes: questions like why you did something (smoked, had babies, built an extra bathroom, stayed on at university one more year etc) do *not* belong in the census. That's because the census is a way of helping people predict future things, and peoples' thoughts are way too complicated to put down on 6 sheets of paper that the average person should be able to fill out in 15 minutes or less. In other words, it's superflous. Simple surveys, which cost a lot less, can do the same thing for less cost and just as much accuracy. You do *not* have to sample 100% of the population to get stats on something that happens to 10% or so of the population.

Anonymous said...

Not really, if the census is concerned with the future then the only relevence a childless individual has to the "future" is the question of how large the elderly population will be.

Sure, a few childless people make waves in life, but, realistically, it only childbearing tends to influence the future. If you aren't contributing, in some fashion, to the next generation, well, I'm afraid you lack the sort of relevence that would lend itself to study.