27 Apr Fewer Religious Women, Fewer Children?
Does the fact that the world is becoming increasingly less religious correlate with the fact that fertility rates have plummeted worldwide? In women, does irreligosity and childlessness go hand in hand? If a study of women in the U.S. is any indication, the answer to that question might just be “yes.”
A three decade long study of women* (1982-2002) conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) gives us some interesting insights into fertility patterns. The researchers note: “Over the last three decades, the United States has seen a steady increase in the proportion of women who are childless at older ages.” The study broke out childless women into “temporarily” and “voluntarily” childless. The “temporarily childless” women have chosen to bear children later in life, their goal being “higher levels of education, more highly skilled careers, and more seniority in the workplace.” Interestingly, the researchers suggest that “some will regret not having started childbearing earlier even if it would have meant curtailment of workplace attainment.” We wonder what the feminist establishment had to say about that statement!
So what is the profile of the “voluntarily childless?” They were disproportionately white, although the later data in the study showed African American women had “increased to be equivalent to their percents in the total population.” Hispanic women, however, were “underrepresented among the voluntarily childless in all survey years.” These “voluntarily childless” women, unsurprisingly, “stood out as having the highest percents working full time, even compared to the temporarily childless.” This group was significantly more likely to be in “professional and managerial occupations” and had the highest individual and family incomes. These women had chosen careers and success over motherhood.
It appears that these women haven’t chosen religion either. The study shows a remarkably high percentage of voluntarily childless women “reporting no religious affiliation, never attending religious services, and reporting religion as not important in their daily lives.”
This is more support for what most of us already knew—religion and church attendance has a positive influence on women in regard to their desire to become mothers. Correlation is not causation, but we feel pretty safe in saying that the current worldwide trend of increasing secularism will do nothing to stop the birth dearth.
*Joyce C. Abma and Gladys M. Martinez, “Childlessness Among Older Women in the United States: Trends and Profiles,” Journal of Marriage and Family 68 (2006: 1045-1056)