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?

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