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Tomas Frejka, Independent Consultant

Childlessness in the United States
When Apr 04, 2016
from 12:00 PM to 01:00 PM
Where 1101 Morrill Hall
Contact Name
Contact Phone 301-405-6403
Attendees Luciana Assini-Meytin
Luoman Bao
Robin Bloodworth
Carrie Clarady
Monica Das Gupta
Brittany Dernberger
Frances Goldscheider
Yuko Hara
Joan Kahn
Jung Kim
Catherine Kuhns
Xiaohong Ma
Daniela Marshall
Ui Jeong Moon
Léa Pessin
Deirdre Quinn
Liana Sayer
Yassaman Vafai
Moriah Willow
Yeats Ye
Eowna Young Harrison
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About the Talk

This paper uses cohort fertility tables and periodic surveys to provide an overview of the development of childlessness in the United States. Estimates of the temporarily, involuntarily, and voluntarily childless are available. Childlessness has attracted considerable attention because it doubled between the mid-1970s and the mid-2000s, from 10 to about 20 per cent. The U.S. has experienced considerable variation in levels of childlessness. The challenging living conditions during the Great Depression of the 1930s were the principal cause of high childlessness. The contrasting favorable living standards and enlightened public policies of the late 1940s-1960s were instrumental in maintaining low childlessness. For much of the 20th century, childlessness was higher among blacks than among whites mainly because their living conditions were more difficult. Subsequently, black childlessness declined below that of whites possibly due to rapid improvements in health and living conditions which nonetheless remained inferior. Numerous additional factors have been shaping childlessness in the U.S., including high female employment rates, the conflict between work and family responsibilities, separation of spouses due to wars or incarceration, high costs of childrearing, inadequate childcare infrastructure, insecurity of employment and income, uncertainty of spousal relationships, and concern for the wellbeing of children. Because the interactions of factors which shape childlessness are not well understood, it is difficult to make predictions. Future trends will depend on the extent to which material conditions will facilitate or obstruct family formation, and cultural norms change. Nonetheless, alternative scenarios provide a reasonably good idea of likely future trends in childlessness.

About the Speaker

Frejka worked in numerous countries as Senior Associate of the Population Council, New York (1969-1991), and Senior Population Expert at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Geneva, Switzerland (1991-1996), and was Adjunct Professor of Public Health at Columbia University in New York (1977-2002).

Please note that, at the present time, Morrill Hall is not accessible for handicapped individuals.

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