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Some Delay Childbearing, Others Opt Out

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There has been a small but significant increase in the number of childless women in their early 30s over the past decade, according to recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey’s fertility supplement.

In 2006, 26.2 percent of women ages 30 to 34 were childless, meaning they had never given birth to a child. By 2016, that number had risen about 4 percentage points to 30.8 percent (see figure). Tables and figures show this change over time.

Percent Childless, Women aged 30-44: 1976-2016

Some of the change in childlessness may be attributable to changes in data processing that were implemented in 2012. However, even under the new processing system, the rise in childlessness between 2012 and 2016 among women ages 30 to 34 is significant.

This increase does not necessarily mean that women are choosing not to be mothers because women in their early 30s may go on to have children later. These numbers simply reflect the increasing delay in childbearing found by others (Matthews & Hamilton, 2014). The Census Bureau’s recent report on young adults captures the trend of delaying marriage and childbearing among those aged 18 to 34.

Information about women’s fertility, including data from 1976 to 2016, can be found in the 2016 fertility tables.

These data are from the Current Population Survey’s bi-annual Fertility Supplement. The Current Population Survey, sponsored jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the primary source of labor force statistics for the population of the United States. The survey also provides a wealth of other demographic, social and economic information.

Lindsay Monte  is a statistician in the Census Bureau's Fertility and Family Statistics branch.


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