Is This Childless by Marriage Business Just a White-People Thing?

This is going to be a touchy post. One of the blessings of this kind of blog where people comment anonymously is that I have no idea what you look like. I don’t see race, gender, or disabilities. Tall, short, fat, thin, I don’t know. I recognize UK writers because of how they spell certain words. I know your ages because you mention them in your comments. I assume people are telling the truth—just as you have to assume that about me. I am. I only make stuff up for my novels. And my picture is right here for you to see.

I was reading old posts the other day when I suddenly stopped, startled, and thought, “Is this just a white-person problem? Infertility affects all kinds of people, of course, but is this refusal of one spouse or partner to have children a cultural thing? Are blacks, Latinos and Asians less likely to have this kind of disagreement? Do I dare even ask?

Come to think of it, all the books I have read about childlessness by choice, by marriage, or by circumstance were written by white women. I identify as more than half Hispanic, due to my Portuguese, Spanish and Mexican roots, but officially I, too, am white/Caucasian. OMG, how have I not noticed this before?

Aside from Oprah, aren’t all the celebrities known for choosing to be childfree also white? Wait. Karen Malone Wright, who founded the NotMom group, is African-American. But who else? Somebody set me straight on this.

Put another way, is this a “first world” problem? Those of us with access to education, jobs, and healthcare have more choices. We can choose career over motherhood. We can get birth control pills, condoms, diaphragms or IUDs. Men can choose to have vasectomies. We can even get a legal abortion. We can also buy the most modern medical help if we want children and have trouble conceiving. That is not true everywhere.

In developing countries where people struggle to get basics like food and clean water, it may be difficult to access birth control. The babies just come. There’s no discussion of, “Well, I don’t think I want to have children.” In some cultures, India for example, being childless is considered a scandalous thing. Wives who can’t conceive are shunned. I’m sure that’s true in other places.

What do the numbers say? In the United States, says the PEW research group, “…the prevalence of childlessness varies by race and ethnicity as well. Hispanic women are far less likely to remain childless throughout their childbearing years than are non-Hispanic whites or blacks. Just 10% of Hispanic women ages 40 to 44 now report having had no biological children. At the other end of the spectrum, fully 17% of white women in this age range report the same. Some 15% of black women are childless, as are 13% of Asian women.

“Across major racial and ethnic groups, childlessness today appears to vary no more than a few percentage points from what it was in 1994, or even 1988, the first year for which detailed fertility data are available. In the late 1980s, 15% of white women ages 40 to 44 were childless, as were 14% of black women and 11% of Hispanic women. Fertility data on Asian women are not available for 1988, but in 1994, some 14% of these women were childless.”

Of course, these numbers don’t answer the question of WHY they don’t have children.

Other factors play a huge role. For example, the more education a woman has the more likely she is to be childless, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Religion also plays a part. Catholics, for example, see the use of birth control as a sin. To get permission to marry in the church, the couple has to agree, in writing, to welcome children. Sure, Latinos are more likely to be Catholic, but not necessarily.

Financial status, family situation, access to health care—so many things play into this.

But still I’m asking, gently, with trepidation, is this a thing? Are white people more likely to be childless by marriage? Or do we just make more noise about it?

What do you think? Please comment. You don’t have to blow your anonymity. Am I crazy, way off base, or do I have a point?

5 thoughts on “Is This Childless by Marriage Business Just a White-People Thing?

  1. Yes, I think your are correct. This is, by a large margin, a white person “thing.” Based on TFR’s around the world, European populations have the lowest fertility. White populations are contracting everywhere on the planet, with the highest fertility being 1.9 children per woman, in Iceland. ALL other white populations have a lower fertility rate. (just check the following link:
    There are definitely cultural and moral beliefs linked to this trend from the wide promotion of homosexuality and abortion to TED talks about being “childfree.” White people and their children are bombarded with the thought that having children is bad. From old cultural notions that children are a burden, to more recent (last 50 years) that human population growth is destroying the planet, the white western world has been actively promoting the idea of not having children.
    These ideas are not widespread in other cultures. Most non-European cultures view children as being a blessing, or absolute good. This is demonstrated in France, where the native French population has a TFR around 1.4, but the Islamic immigrant populations within France have a TFR almost 4 times higher. ( In the case of France, taking over the country by birthing is Jihad based.
    That said, I agree that childlessness is more prevalent in white culture than anywhere else, and it is leading straight to our destruction. I hope what I said sheds a little more light on this issue for you. Let me know if you have any other questions. I would be happy to discuss it further with you.
    Daniel Schalk


  2. Hello Sue I am a 49 year old first generation black British woman of Caribbean parentage who is childless not by choice. As much as I understand your thought process here, it is interesting to read that “White people and their children are bombarded with the thought that having children is bad” but I too can say that I heard messages (growing up) that having children was bad – albeit it was bad under the wrong circumstances. Culturally, as well as being first generation British, there was the emphasis on getting educated, graduating from University (with a good degree), starting your career, getting married and then you can start thinking about having babies. No one ever considered the time frames, our fertility clocks etc in this equation….

    What I really wanted to draw on here was the fact that The Women’s Health Mag and Oprah Mag surveyed more than 1,000 women and reported that Infertility affects at least 12 percent of all women up to the age of 44. Yet only about 8 percent of Black women between the ages of 25 and 44 seek medical help to get pregnant, compared to 15 percent of white women. Black women were more than twice as likely as white women to say that they wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about their fertility issues with friends, family, a partner, their doctor, or even a support group. The stereotype that Black women don’t have fertility issues is real where fertility in black women is rarely discussed or acknowledged as a problem. Breeding myths from slavery perpetuate the stereotype that black women do not have problems conceiving… I have written about grieving as a black woman in my blog for Jody Day’s blog tour

    So are white people more likely to be childless by marriage? or maybe the question here is ‘Are white people more likely to talk about being childless by marriage?

    This really is a conversation that needs to be had


    • Yvonne, thank you so much for sharing this. I don’t claim to have the answers to any of this, but I do think we need to talk about it. I fear we focus too much on one segment of society, ignoring the rest, and I don’t want to do that.


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