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article imageNumber of childless American women rising

By Joan Firstenberg     Jun 25, 2010 in Health
Washington - There has been a striking increase in American women in their 40s who are childless. A study shows one in five women in the U.S. either have not, will not, or cannot conceive.
The report, released Friday by the Pew Research Center points to the social and cultural shifts behind the change since the 1970s. The Washington Post reports the changes in society since the 1970s include less pressure to have children, better contraceptives and expanded job options for women.
Back in the 70s, the statistics were one in 10 women who did not have children by the age of 40 to 44, which was the age range researchers at the time used to designate the end of a woman's childbearing years.
D'Vera Cohn, a coauthor of the study says
"I certainly think it's notable that there is such a large increase in the share of women who do not have children for whatever reasons. Some women were childless by choice; others wanted children but could not have them. And a very, very small number would go on to have children. The fact that nearly one of five women does not have a child of her own now. That's an enormous transformation from the past."
Within the study, although these trends were true across races, ethnic groups and education levels, the one glaring exception was among women who had gotten advanced degrees, a master's or above that, who were more likely to give birth. I
The study says this could be a reflection of a growing belief that some women can have it all, a career and a family.
Tanya Koropeckyj-Cox, a sociologist at the University of Florida. says that professional women often have more resources to take advantage of infertility treatments.
For women without a high school diploma, the shift was the opposite. In 1994, 9 percent of that group was childless. In 2008, that figure was 15 percent -- an increase of 66 percent, says the report, which notes general trends in delaying marriage and childbearing.
Overall, the report found that white women are more likely to be childless, and that includes those with more education. This all comes amid changing attitudes in the general public about women who do not have children.
In 1988, 39 percent of those interviewed as part of the General Social Survey said they didn't think people without children "lead empty lives." By 2002, that figure was 59 percent.
The Pew study explored biological childbearing and did not touch on whether women had adopted children or stepchildren.
Amy Pienta, a researcher at the University of Michigan who coauthored a study on the subject says childless women are as happy as women with children...
"They are not any more depressed; their psychological well-being is just as high."
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