Does society pressure men and women to have children?

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
February 08, 2022, 1:22 PM GMT+0

Recent data suggests that 2021 was the slowest year of population growth in U.S. history. This was due, in part, to the fact that Americans are having fewer babies, which some have attributed to the pandemic. However, birth rates have been declining in the United States for decades, and surveys have shown that a growing share of childless adults report that they don’t ever expect to have children.

Has society embraced the growing population of adults who are childless-by-choice, or do these people face pressure to produce offspring? Last month, Pope Francis suggested that couples who choose to remain childless are selfish, a comment which prompted swift backlash.

In a recent poll, we asked Americans whether or not men and women in the United States come under pressure from society to have children. Responses differed based on who we asked about: men or women. Americans were more than twice as likely to say women (37%) face pressure to have children than to say men do (17%).

Four in 10 female respondents say that women face pressure to have children compared to only three in 10 male respondents. Men were more likely than women to say men are pressured to have kids; 20% of men say men are, compared to 13% of women who say so about men

Half of Democrats say women face pressure to have children, compared to 24% of Republicans and 35% of Independents. Opinions on whether men face societal pressure are less starkly divided by party; 21% of Democrats say men do, compared to 14% of Republicans and 15% of Independents.

Younger Americans were more likely than older Americans to say that both men and women face pressure to have children: 44% of adults under 30 say women face pressure, compared to 27% of those 55 and older. Two in 10 adults ages 18 to 29 say men face pressure, while only one in 10 of those 55 and older do.

Last month, YouGov asked people in the UK a similar question: “Do you think women in Britain today do or do not come under pressure from society to have children?” The results were similar to those in the U.S., with nearly four in 10 Britons saying that women do come under pressure to have children.

See the crosstabs from this YouGov Poll:

Methodology: This Daily Agenda survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 15,975 U.S. adults interviewed online on February 4 - 7, 2022. The samples were weighted to be representative of the U.S. population, based on gender, age, race, education, U.S. census region, and political party.

Image: Getty

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