Tuesday, November 12, 2019

What kind of people think that having kids increases one's social standing?

The General Social Survey (GSS) asked American adults if they agreed with the following: "Having children increases people's social standing in society." Answers ranged from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree." The answers looked like this (sample size = 1,248):

Percent distribution

Strongly Agree  3.7
Agree  29.4
Neither  30.5
Disagree  31.3
Strongly Disagree  5.0

Answers are pretty normally distributed. People simply disagree on this issue.

I looked at a list of variables to see what predicted agreement--age, sex, race, city size, South v. North, income, education, IQ, church attendance, and political orientation.

The only three variables that matter are sex, income, and education: 39.6% of men agree or strongly agree that children increase one's social standing compared to only 27.7% of women. Perhaps women are more likely to see kids as obstacles to status since conventional status comes from education and work; activities that, for women anyway, conflict with raising children.

43.2% of people who dropped out of school agree or strongly agree that children give status, while only 31.8% of people with advanced educations feel the same.

Income is similar: 34.7% of low-income but only 25.2% of high-income people agree or strongly agree with the statement.

Since there is some tension between energy devoted to kids versus education and work, it looks like people who have earned lots of education and income status tend to devalue children, while the opposite is true for people with little conventional status.

I once discussed this issue with my physician brother-in-law. I told him that the most accomplished people are having the fewest children and that he and I were exceptions with our large families. I added that in an evolutionary sense, all these successful people were losers but didn't realize they were losers. My brother-in-law then responded, "That's right. We've got them right where we want them."


  1. Replies
    1. I looked at religion, and while the samples sizes are too small to have much confidence, Muslims and Jews are the two groups that are more likely to agree that kids increase one's social standing.

  2. Sammy4:05 PM

    No difference between blacks,hispanics vs. whites? I find that surprising.

    1. Right. The white mean is 2.94, the black mean is 2.96 and the Latino mean is 3.02--not much difference.


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