By Stephen Menendian, Arthur Gailes, and Samir GambhirThis project has been in development for many years, and the authors would like to thank Lindsey Burnside, Peter Mattingly, Karina French, and Ruqayah Ghaus for their research support and contributions to this project. The authors would also like to thank external reviewers Richard Rothstein, George Galster, Sheryll Cashin, Alex Schafran, and Nancy McCardle for their expert feedback on this project. - Download a PDF of this reportI.
Prevalence and characteristics of childfree adults in Michigan (USA)
Childfree individuals choose not to have children, which makes them a distinctive group from parents who have had children, not-yet-parents who plan to have children, and childless indivduals who would have liked to have children. Most research on parental status and psychosocial characteristics has not effectively distinguished childfree individuals from other non-parents or has relied on non-representative samples. In this study, we use a representative sample of 981 Michigan adults to estimate the prevalence of childfree individuals, to examine how childfree individuals differ from parents and other types of non-parents in life satisfaction, political ideology, and personality, and to examine whether childfree individuals are viewed as an outgroup. We find that over a quarter of Michigan adults identified as childfree. After controlling for demographic characteristics, we find no differences in life satisfaction and limited differences in personality traits between childfree individuals and parents, not-yet-parents, or childless individuals. However, childfree individuals were more liberal than parents, and those who have or want(ed) children felt substantially less warm toward childfree individuals than childfree individuals felt toward each other. Given the prevalence of childfree individuals, the risks of their outgroup status, and their potential role in politics as a uniquely liberal group, it is important for demographic research to distinguish the childfree from others and to better understand these individuals.