Women wanted more children in 2000s, but had fewer

By Razib Khan | July 17, 2012 11:04 pm

As someone with mild concerns about dysgenic (albeit, with a normative lens that high intelligence and good looks are positive heritable traits) trends, I’m quite heartened that Marissa Mayer is pregnant. Of course she’s batting well below the average of some of her sisters, but you take what you can get in the game of social statistics. Quality over quantitative thanks to assortative mating.

This brings me to a follow up of my post from yesterday, People wanted more children in 2000s, but had fewer. A reader was curious about limiting the data set to females. Therefore, I did. The same general pattern seems to apply (the limitations/constraints were the same). The only thing I’ll note is that there were only ~40 women in the data set with graduate degrees in the 1970s who were also asked these particular questions, so take this with a grain of salt.

< HS2.733.193.022.79
Junior College32.752.382.06
< $20 K2.522.892.572.23
$20-40 K2.572.92.462.02
$40-80 K2.912.952.491.99
> $80 K3.082.862.351.95
< HS3.082.962.732.85
Junior College2.582.82.953.31
< $20 K32.842.793.04
$20-40 K3.043.012.692.96
$40-80 K3.062.832.893.06
> $80 K3.132.872.843.06


Addendum: Small sample sizes in the “graduate” educated pool.  That’s my explanation for the 1990s jump in ideal number of children.

Image credit: Wikimedia




Comments (9)

  1. Sandgroper

    “albeit with a normative lens that high intelligence and good looks are positive heritable traits” LOL

  2. Sandgroper

    For women, the biggest drop in ‘realized’ with increase in education is from <HS to HS. That is not the case for the combined samples.

  3. Dwight E. Howell

    Some months back I read an article that reported that there were a lot of high income females like Mitt Romney’s wife that had several children. That is they were studying attractive, well educated, females who had married high income males and the article claimed that a lot them used the option of having larger families than the norm.

    My nephew with the largest income has nine children. Another military career guy known to me has six. A pharmacist only has three boys so I can’t completely document based on first hand experience but it seems to compute that if lack of money limits family size then at least some of the well to do will have more children. I do know that many celebs seem to have a fair number of young usually scattered among several mates.

  4. Clark

    Dwight I’d imagine that among some subgroups like say Utah Mormons the trend will be different as wealth enables more kids. I know most rich families I see here have t 5 kids and often more whereas more “regular” families have 2-4 in the suburbs. You’ll then have a lot of professionals in a slightly different social group with 0 or 1 child which will change the average. Obviously this only applies to particular subgroups. (I wonder if there is a similar trend in other subgroups with more children than normal like Catholics – I bet not)

  5. Chris_T_T

    What’s with the 90’s outlier for women with Graduate degrees on the ‘Ideal’ chart?

    Not only does more education push the decision to have children later, but the increasing costs of higher ed and the resultant debt burden makes it financially very difficult for years after school. For people with professional degrees, high incomes are offset by high debt loads.

  6. Karl Zimmerman

    It would make sense to have distribution roughly shaped like a right triangle, with those at the bottom of the income spectrum having more children, which tapered downward progressively the higher you go on the income spectrum – before rising again dramatically at higher incomes.

    Low-income parents have low expectations and few resources. Even assuming the “nurturist” ideas were right, it would probably be a safer bet to have many kids and hope one through luck or guile makes it into middle-class status.

    As you go up the income scale, expectations for your child’s future rise, but resources tend not to rise as quickly. Your kids could (theoretically) not just fail to rise in status but fall dramatically. There’s also at least a public zeitgeist (and arguably a reality) that the middle class is vanishing, so you’re fighting with other parents for slots in a smaller and smaller pool. Putting all your eggs into one basket could seem more attractive – assuming you believe nurturism.

    But once you get into the realms of the truly wealthy, things change. The necessity of two incomes lessens, or you may even be able to hire a full-time nanny. You know you will not need to hope for college scholarships. But more importantly than resources, the upper-class is “sticky” like the underclass, meaning a much greater degree of confidence in the ability of your children to maintain your standard of living. So why not have as many as possible? It might divide the family fortune when you die, but that’s their problem, not yours.

  7. Thanks for running these. Interesting that things peaked in the 1980s (which would be 1940-1960s).

  8. archdukefranz

    You won’t get the full picture if you don’t look at how religious beliefs affect childbearing. Mormons, practicing Catholics and even some evangelicals (the quiverfull movement) adhere to beliefs that encourage procreation and/or discourage artificial contraception.

    I think in many cases religious belief will override the influence of education and economics.

  9. Tomasz R.

    Higher education is a problem, because it is located exactly at female prime reproductive years. The remaining slightly worse ones being used to jumpstart a career and buy a house.

    This means in order to achieve higher reproduction women should give birth while being at universities – perhaps planning birth at summer breaks or whatever. And universities have to become more flexible in this area, perhaps giving flexible terms of exams, ability to have a temporary break, absences on lectures or laboratories justified by children problems etc.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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