Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Trends in ideal family size

This graph summrizes the ideal number of children as reported to the General Social Survey by women ages 18-24 (N=1,253).  Compared to previous decades, fewer young women are saying that two children is ideal, and are more likely to give three as an answer or to say "as many as a person wants." The same pattern is seen with all women ages 18-44; with only the intelligent respondents (WORDSUM 8-10); or with whites only.

Whether these women will realize their ideal is another question, but it is encouraging to see the pro-natalist attitudes.


  1. It would be surprising if this were not the trend. We've decoupled sexual desire from family size via modern birth control.

    But evolution hasn't stopped. Within a few generations, people who don't like children will be all but extinct in the middle and upper classes. This will happen even in < replacement level countries like Italy and Japan.

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  4. I'm not as encouraged. "As many as a person wants" is just the "I don't care" answer. It's an expression of the fact that kids are no longer considered an essential part of adult fulfillment. Definitely not a pro-natalist wish for people to have a lot.

  5. Did you use that tool ?

    As well, which request did you use ?
    I can not reproduce your results (I missing the 2000s decade)

    Thanks you

  6. Ben,

    Yes, I used that. Type "CHLDIDEL" in the row, "DECADE" in the column, and "SEX(2) AGE(18-24)" in the selection filter.

  7. @Thras - Well, we certainly don't want to force people to reproduce. In fact, less than encouraging natalist policies among desirable segments of the population, I'd rather see more focus on zpg among the less-desirable segments.

    A good, long-term, sustainable population for the earth might be as low as, say, a billion people. It's selecting the right billion that is important.

  8. I wonder if this is because more foreigners and Hispanics are in the country being surveyed, and they have notoriously large families.

    I'd like to see answers broken down by other demographic factors. Unfortunately the most talented, educated, and wealthy people still are way below replacement level and are contracepting themselves out of existence.

  9. Anonymous9:25 AM

    nice post. thanks.

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