More wives in U.S. are not having children, study finds

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LOS ANGELES -- First came love. Then came marriage.

And the baby carriage? Meh.

"Just the two of us is awesome," said Sara Tenenbein, a 30-year-old blogger and consultant living with her husband in Los Angeles. "Maybe we don't need to add more humans to the equation."

Not having children is still rare among married women like Ms. Tenenbein, but less so than it used to be, according to an analysis by the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University, which examined figures from the National Survey of Family Growth.

The percentage of married women ages 40 to 44 who had no biological children and no other kids in the household, such as adopted children or stepkids, reached 6 percent in the period between 2006 and 2010. That's a small but statistically significant jump since 1988, when only 4.5 percent of married women had no kids.

The increased numbers echo a wider trend over recent decades, as more American women have reached their 40s without bearing children. Federal statistics on older women suggest that some found themselves unable to have children, while others chose not to have them.

Most women who don't have children are not married -- and the vast majority of married women ultimately have kids, federal statistics show. In fact, the dropping marriage rate is one of the biggest forces behind increased childlessness, associate professor Sarah Hayford of Arizona State University found.

But the uptick in childlessness among married women, albeit slight, is another sign of the evolving meaning of marriage, said Susan Brown, co-director of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research.

"There's a resistance to parenthood being the default after marriage," said Laura S. Scott, Childless by Choice Project director. "People are questioning it in ways that they didn't perhaps 30 or 40 or 50 years ago."


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