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Decision To Be Childfree On The Rise

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Natalie Cullen

More and more people are choosing to forgo having kids. 

Maybe it's financially-motivated, or maybe it's just a personal decision. Whatever it is, more people are making the decision to not have children than ever before. 

According to Census Bureau data, nearly half of all women between the ages of 15-44 were childless in 2014, and it follows a six-year decline in U.S. birth rates. 

American birthrates are lower now than at any time in American history.

But UNLV anthropology professor Peter Gray told KNPR's State of Nevada that birthrates are changing in many parts of the world. 

"I think we're seeing human fertility patterns, so the number children you have, shifting in many parts of the world including the U.S." Gray said.

Gray said research shows a correlation between education, income and birth rates and that the more educated people are the more likely they are to limit the number of children they have or decide not to have kids at all.

However, finances also play a role in why people are deciding not to have children. 

Child care, housing, schooling and other other factors add up to a lot of money to raise a child. 

Financial planner Matt Becker said over the course of 18 years it can cost $250,000 to raise a child. 

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"I always encourage people to take that number seriously but also to take it with a grain of salt, because the reality is the cost is going to vary differently really depending on the specific circumstances and goals of the family," he said.

Shelly Volsche is a doctoral student in anthropology at UNLV. She said this is not the first time we've seen a decline in birth rates and she believes the drop is linked to the waves of feminism in this country. 

Volsche's research has centered on the trend of many childless couples to have pets instead.

"It seems to be a fairly large trend among those who don't have children," she said. "You still have that relationship of nurturing. There's still something there."

She said people who have pets instead of children can have a meaningful relationship without the constraints of children.

Besides finances, education and broader choices for women, Alesha Pettit, a doctoral student in anthropology at UNLV, found in her research that health also plays a role in choosing to be childless.

 "There is a higher incident of particular medical or psychological conditions among females who chose not to have children, but also they were more likely to spend time with their nieces or nephews," Pettit said.

Pettit believes the idea could be tied to genetics, meaning that women who choose not to become mothers are still improving their chances that their genetics continue by improving the lives of their nieces and nephews.

All of the guests agree that it is not just one thing that brings people to the choice but ideas on religion, socio-economic factors and life history all play a part. 

Guests

Peter Gray, anthropology professor, UNLV; 
Shelly Volsche, doctoral student, anthropology, UNLV;
Alesha Pettit, doctoral student, anthropology, UNLV;
Matt Becker, financial planner, Mom and Dad Money 
 

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