Saturday, September 30, 2006

Finally, a nation recognizes childfree leaders have more *time*

She drinks. She dances. She's a DJ. And she's Japan's new First Lady

The article discusses Japan's newest first lady; she is 44 and the couple is childless. Just about the age where major intervention would be necessary - and at a time when it would be more unwise than ever. With Japan's last PM still a bachelor, have we finally found a country that recognizes the values of childless leaders?

While here in the US, it is not unheard of to attack your opponent merely for not having children - kids are an accessory much-needed in every campaign. We are left with female governors abusing her position to gain childcare and transport to her kids, fathers who are completely absent in their kids' lives, and a host of other elements of fallout from trying to do two all-consuming jobs at once. You'll either do each half-assed or one piss-poor. Why do we demand that of our political leaders? American culture baffles me. Maybe I should start practicing Japanese.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Russia Mulls Childless Tax to Encourage More Births

a top government official has come up with a plan to re-introduce the long-abandoned childless tax in Russia.
. . . Russia health and social development minister Mikhail Zurabov suggested that childless taxpayers should help the state support families with children and thus at least partially assume the cost of encouraging more births.
. . .
In his state of the nation address earlier this year President Vladimir Putin said the most urgent problem facing Russia was its demographic crisis.

The country’s population is declining by at least 700,000 people each year, leading to slow depopulation of the northern and eastern extremes of Russia, the emergence of hundreds of uninhabited “ghost villages” and an increasingly aged workforce. Official Russian forecasts, along with those from international organizations like the UN, predict a decline from 146 million to between 80 and 100 million by 2050.
. . .
Birth-rates in many developed, industrialized countries are declining. Seeking to remedy the situation, governments in many European countries talk increasingly of sanctions against the childless.
. . .
But, experts see no reason to believe that sanctions against the childless will do much to raise the birthrate. Germany, for instance, already spends more than any other country on family subsidies, and has the world’s second-highest taxes on childless singles (after Belgium).

Russian observers also doubt that such measures as re-introduction of childless tax in Russia will prompt people to have children. While rights activists denounce sanctions against the childless defending their freedom of choice, even those who back the idea in principle are not sure it will work.

These days in Russia many married couples are reluctant about having babies, even if they are well-off and can afford to multiply. Many of the generation of those who are now in their 30s and 40s have already developed a set of personal values and there is hardly a place for a kid in their lives. Maybe, they would not mind a surcharge to exonerate themselves. If, of course, they ever experience any pangs of guilt…

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Kid-friendly policies don't help singles

Kane County Chronicle

"Since corporations started paying attention to "family-friendly" benefits in the late 1980s, child-free and single workers have wondered where their benefits were. They have expressed dismay that they felt they were asked to work more when employees with families needed time away from work. Others thought they were given more difficult jobs with less financial reward because those with children were considered to have greater financial needs.

The proportion of single-person households increased to 26.4 percent in 2003 from 17.1 percent in 1970, according to 2003 census figures. Add to that married couples without children, and that's about 55 percent of U.S. households.
. . .
Childless workers thought they worked more than people who were married with kids and that they had to work holidays more often and did not have access to as many benefits, "Beyond Family-Friendly: Singles-Friendly Work Cultures and Employee Attachment" reported. The lead author of the study is Wendy Casper, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Some companies are working to accommodate singles. Dickstein Shapiro LLP does not limit an alternative-schedule policy to people who want it for child-rearing reasons, said Michael Nannes, managing partner. "We can't discriminate based on lifestyle."

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Childless women run the risk of earlier death

Childless women run the risk of earlier death and poorer health in later life.

Childless women run the risk of earlier death and poorer health in later life.

A new study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) finds that not only childless women but also mothers of five or more children, teenage mothers and mothers who have children with less than an 18 month gap between births all have higher risks of death and poor health later in life.

Findings are based on a study of three separate datasets of women born from 1911 onwards in Great Britain and the USA. "We already know quite of lot about the impact of a person's very early life or their socio-economic history on health and mortality in later life," explains researcher Professor Emily Grundy of the Centre for Population Studies, School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London. "But, in this study we were able to analyse the long-term health implications of a person's partnership and parenting experiences while taking into account education and other indicators of socio-economic status as well."
. . .
In terms of the influence of partnership on later life health and mortality, this study confirms other research which indicates that marriage provides more health gains for men than women. For men, spending a long time in a stable marriage and avoiding multiple marriages and divorce contributes to long-term health. For women, too, marriage may be better for their health than they currently believe.

I will be the first to question the validity of this. As Vinny, an experienced researcher with statistical know-how, has pointed out, the studies that do not separate out the intentional childless have serious flaws. Including women from an earlier era during which birth control was unavailable or unreliable necessarily means that the infertile will populate the study. Women who are unable to bear children are more likely to have other health problems. Women who have serious health problems which would make bearing or raising a child difficult, or who do not want to pass on genetic probability of these conditions, will also affect the pool.

Correlation does not imply causation!

Even if one were to include a study which focuses solely on the childless by choice, many of these same problems would occur. Those who opt out for health reasons, as above, are only part of the problem. Of the potential pool of women who will not choose to be parents, some will get pregnant accidentally. Those who are infertile, whether aware of it or not, will skew the pool by being represented in greater numbers in the final, childfree population. (Of course, that is not to say all such women will choose to keep the children and be parents, but some will)

We are a far cry from having a conclusive study that shows the choice not to bear children has an adverse affect on one's health. If we were to account for all those above, and segregate out those fertile and choosing not to have children for non-health reasons, we would still be left with a group of women who are more likely to be affluent, and have certain determined personality traits (meaning they're more likely to seek medical help?) The data might therefore skew the other way.

When someone publishes results like these, with out any real medical significance, one must wonder what the motivations are.


Hollywood's Baby Obsession Not Affecting Everyone

It looks like even the boldface name journalists are noticing us. Next thing you know, Page Six will be supporting Steve Martin's vasectomy and open childfree choice, and George Clooney's right to buck the trends.

Well, maybe eventually. They'd eventually have to stop obsessing over baby-spotting and bump-watching.

Jenice Armstrong Childless by choice

BABIES MAY BE the hot new "accessory" in Hollywood, according to a cheesy celeb magazine I found myself flipping through recently.

Britney Spears is having her second one with Kevin Federline. Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise are showing off their love child, Suri, on the cover of this month's Vanity Fair. But out here in the real world, an increasing number of women are deciding to skip motherhood.
. . .
According to the latest census data, roughly 81 percent of women ages 40 to 44 have children. In 1976, that figure was 90 percent.

"With a lot of people, you've got to have a baby to become an adult... it's almost a given," said Kate Prioli, 24, a biophysics major at Temple University. "I feel like my life will be full and complete without ever having children," said Prioli, who wants to become a doctor.

Gwyn McVay, 33, a professor of English at Millersville University, is on the site. Despite some wavering on her husband's part following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, McVay said she's committed to their child-free lifestyle.

When people question her about her decison not to be a mother, she tells them she has cats. Of course, that immediately puts her into the weird-cat-lady category, but she's OK with that. She said it's better than hearing yet another person tell her what a great parent she'd make.

"There are so many reasons why it would be wrong for me personally," said McVay, who suffers from a host of medical ailments, including depression. "I think that people should give credit to the person for knowing themselves."

Girlfriend's got a point. When a woman gives birth, she's treated to a baby shower and other attention, essentially affirming her life choice. But aside from strange looks and intrusive questioning, what does the woman get who decides to remain child-free? Shouldn't there be some sort of way to recognize and applaud those who've looked inside themselves and decided to embrace another lifestyle?
. . .
Regardless of what you think of his choice, you have to hand it to him and the rest of the childless-by-choice folks for knowing what they want - and what they don't. Too bad more people don't ask themselves the same hard questions.

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Childfree on the Butt End of Rude Questions

Childfree by choice

“By and large, childfree people are generally freer thinking, better educated, less religious, are more conscious of the consequences of our actions (and thus, less likely to smoke, drink and drive, use other drugs, etc., and more likely to use seatbelts, helmets, etc.), and have more disposable income than those with children,” Steinburg wrote in an e-mail.

‘Don’t you know what causes that?’ From probing in-laws to strangers who accuse you of being selfish, and friends who insist “you’ll someday change your mind,” childfree couples definitely have one thing in common: the constant, usually intrusive, questions and commentary they endure, they say.
. . .
Stewart-Sheaffer agreed that some people are completely tactless when they talk to her about being childfree.

“Some people are incredibly rude,” Stewart-Sheaffer said. “They ask me if I can’t have kids or why aren’t you having kids. People expect as a married couple that if you don’t have kids, there must be something wrong with you. People assume you should be overpopulating the earth. There’s plenty of people making up for me, though. I saw a family last night with five kids under age 10 at Pazzo’s. Just a beautiful little family, but holy crap, don’t you know what causes that? They’re making up for the two-point-five I’m not having.”

While sleeping late and vacationing at will are some of the benefits childfree couples list, they’re usually not the main reasons they decided to forego children.

According to Steinburg, the reasons people decide not to have kids are as varied as the “colors in a rainbow.”

“Many of us love our lives as they are and would not welcome the changes that children inevitably bring,” he said.

Still others are concerned about overpopulation and the problems that it causes, while some people prioritize education, travel, careers, or hobbies over babies, Steinburg said. Other childfree couples simply cherish the tranquility, freedom and spontaneity their childfree lives revolve around. According to Steinburg, a disproportionate number of childfree people are first-born, and helped raise their younger siblings, or are only-children, and simply relate better to adults.

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