The readers of this weblog are relatively non-fecund, at least going by reader surveys. But I was curious nonetheless about the attitudes toward number of children, and realized goals of number of children, in the General Social Survey. I decided to look at two variables:
The former asks the respondent how many children they had, the latter how many they’d like to have. I restricted the sample to whites ages 45-65 for every survey year. I then combined all the years of a particular decade, so you have 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. For demographics I looked at highest educational attainment, and household income indexed to 1986 real value dollars (so they are comparable across decades).
Two major takeaways:
1) Education matters more than income in terms of number of children. Having lots of education tends to reduce family size. No great surprise.
2) Ideal number of children increased in the 2000s, but the decline in average number of children continued.
There is often talk in the literature on the disjunction between ideal family size in Third World nations and the realized family size, with a larger number of children than women may want. What is less discussed is the inverse discussion. It seems that Americans want larger families than they manage to have. Of course, there is the distinction between avowed and realized preferences here.
|< $20 K||2.49||2.76||2.47||2.13|
|$80 K >||3.24||2.8||2.32||2.09|
|< $20 K||3.06||2.93||2.81||2.93|
|$80 K >||3.33||2.79||2.69||3.04|