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Couple's Feet in Bed

childfree

Who are the "childfree"?

Most demographic research on reproduction just distinguishes between parents and non-parents. But, there are many types of non-parents:

  • childfree people do not want children

  • childless people want children but cannot have them

  • not-yet-parents plan to have children

  • undecided people have not decided if they will have children

  • ambivalent people have decided they will not have children, but aren't sure if they wanted children

 

Although there are magazine articles, books, and subreddits about the childfree, it remains an understudied and stigmatized population.

Couple's Shadow

Research on childfree people

One of the biggest challenges studying the childfree community is finding it. While most official data focuses on fertility, being childfree is more whether a person wants children, not whether they can have children. Most of our research has focused on ways to identify childfree adults through surveys, and to estimate their prevalence in the population. We estimate that one-in-five adults in Michigan (and possibly in the USA) are childfree. In addition, we've also found that most people who are childfree decided they did not want children early in life, typically in their teens or twenties, and that childfree people are less satisfied with their neighborhoods than parents.

Media coverage

This research on childfree adults has been widely covered by the media, including The Hill, National Public Radio, Daily Mail, Gizmodo, Men's Health, Der Standard, The Today Show, The Guardian, and The Young Turks. Kelly Ripa & Ryan Seacrest recently discussed it in their opening banter, and it was the focus of top r/science AMAs ("Ask Me Anything") on Reddit in 2021, 2022, 2023, and 2024. For more extended discussions, you can listen to our podcasts with Christine Erickson at the New Legacy Institute and with Jay Zigmont at Childfree Wealth.

Papers and data about childfree adults

for more, please visit this page

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Neal, J. W., and Neal, Z. P. (2021). Prevalence and characteristics of childfree adults in Michigan (USA). PLOS One, 16, e0252528. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0252528.  (data available at https://osf.io/45v6b)

Neal, Z. P. and Neal, J. W. (2022). Prevalence, age of decision, and interpersonal warmth judgements of childfree adults. Scientific Reports, 12, 11907. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-15728-z  (data available at https://osf.io/8avrd/)

Neal, Z. P. and Neal, J. W. (2022). Neighborhood satisfaction and reproductive status. PLOS One, 17(9): e0273082. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0273082 (data available at https://osf.io/k2w5c/)

Neal, J. W. and Neal, Z. P. (2023). Prevalence, Age of Decision, and Interpersonal Warmth Judgements of Childfree Adults: Replication and Extensions. PLOS One, 18(4), e0283301. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0283301 (data available at https://osf.io/dp8tx/)

Neal, Z. P. and Neal, J. W. (2023). Childfree in a family-friendly neighborhood. Contexts, 22, 66-67. https://doi.org/10.1177/15365042231192502 (data available at https://osf.io/5zxcg/)

Neal, Z. P. and Neal, J. W. (2024). A framework for studying adults who neither have nor want children. The Family Journal, 32, 121-130. https://doi.org/10.1177/10664807231198869  (free post-print, data)

Neal. Z. P. and Neal, J. W. (2024). Prevalence of childfree adults before and after Dobbs v Jackson in Michigan (USA). PLOS One, 19, e0294459. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0294459 (data)

Neal, Z. P. and Neal, J. W. (2024). Sample, time, and wording effects on estimating the prevalence of childfree adults: Insights from Japan. PLOS One. (data)

Collaborators

Dr. Jennifer Watling Neal, Michigan State University

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How can I support this research?

You can support this research by making a tax-deductible donation to the MSU Childfree Research Fund.

Click here to learn more about the fund.

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