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Is Childfreedom a White, Middle Class Trend?

September 29, 2011

Though very different in personalities, both Amber* and Lorraine* are childless, attractive females. Lorraine is 43 years old and Amber is 39. Lorraine enjoys spoiling her 3 nephews and nieces, hitting the gym and traveling while Amber has received her second degree from York University and enjoys teaching kids and driving across the province to see her cousin’s babies. Lisa* is a 27 year old college-educated lesbian woman who is in a long term relationship with her partner. She does not want any children, and enjoys get togethers with her friends, traveling to the U.S. and spoiling her two pugs. What do these women have in common? They are all black.

I know them personally, and they’re only a few women of colour who identify as childfree-by-choice. I did a quick head count of the women on my Childfree Facebook page (there is now 150 members) to see how many were women of colour. There are currently 3 of us, versus 121 Caucasian women. There must be a correlation between being a visible minority and pronatalism, or just the portrayal of it.

In a study conducted by Nitsche and Brueckner using data from the U.S Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey of 50,000 households dating back to the ’70s they found:

Among black women with postgraduate educations born between 1956 and 1960, the median age at which they gave birth for the first time was 34 years old. This was about the same as it was for white women in the same demographic. But once white women reached their 30s, many more of them did give birth, often more than once. Many black women did not. The rate of childlessness among this group of black women rose from 30 percent for those born between 1950 and 1955, to 45 percent for those born between 1956 and 1960.

The rate of childlessness does moderate somewhat in highly educated black women born between 1961 and 1970. In this group, 38 percent have remained childless.

One big reason why these women remained childless is, as one might expect, that they go unmarried, experts say. Among highly educated women of both races, about 22 percent between the ages of 20 and 45 were single in the 1970s. But then that number diverged. It has remained the same for white women, but now 38 percent of black women have never been married.

Of course if highly educated black women felt free to have children outside of marriage, they could still have a family. When some white women make that choice it is often seen as a kind of liberal empowerment.

But according to Clarke, black women are concerned about looking “ghetto.” Public interpretation of our actions matter for everyone, but especially for black women, Clarke explained. “When it comes to the issue of black women and should or should they not make a choice to have a child alone, these women are very much aware that the decision to do it makes people question their class status. We associate single unwed child bearing with poor African-American women.”

Brian Alexander is the author of the book “America Unzipped: In Search of Sex and Satisfaction,” now in paperback.


Quoting a fellow childfree blogger’s first paragraph in the post “Why Childree For Me?” she states, “We are white collar, upper middle class college graduates in our mid-thirties”. These are the people who are being questioned and harassed about their plans to procreate. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having rich white folks leading the way with childfreedom. Hey, it worked for Prada and Starbucks, why not?

But what about the demographics of non-white, adamant childfree peeps? What about Clara in Detroit, and Macy in Vancouver? What about Ameera, who is Indian? Where are the voices of ethnic women in the war against swollen wombs? (I’m joking, really, there’s no war!) The best way for visible minorities to identify with a lifestyle is to see people of their own background indulging in it!

I also have another hunch…..while white, middle class folks in their thirties and forties cite reasons for not wanting children, I believe the reasons visible minorities choose are circumstantially different. I rarely hear a white, middle class thirty-five year old married and living in a resort town cite “class mobility” as a top reason for foregoing motherhood. Or higher education that former generations of that family never received. Maybe a lot of people are saying no to expensive progeny to get out of the slums. It’s not a question of “when” they’re going to procreate, but “if” they can. For many visible minorities and immigrants, reproducing can suck them into a lifetime of poverty that they will never be able to climb out of. They are making the choice, not because they enjoy sipping lattes at Starbucks, but because if they didn’t make the choice…they’d be the ones serving those lattes.

One Comment
  1. swandiver permalink

    I think the post answered your own question. The decision whether or not POC women have children or not has a lot to do with class. But, for me at least, it has more to do with my ability to give a child the type of life needed to succeed more than my own sense of personal freedom.

    In America, class mobility is a very real concern for POC’s., especially African-Americans. Because of negative perceptions that are attached to race (when really it should more specifically be assoicated with poverty), much of our success is very fragile. Many of us don’t have the multi-generational, tangible assets associated with many successful women of the mainstream. The expense of children is a big hit to that.

    Plus, there are so many factors that can influence the development of children from the type of neighborhood you live in, the type of schools they go to, the type of childcare you can afford, the type of people you spend time with, etc. I’m sure we’ve all seen plenty of examples of people who should have never had children in every race.

    By living childless, I have more options on where I can live. For instance, I can have a roomate situation without having to worry about their influence of my kids or their safety. I can save money on housing not only because I wouldn’t need multiple bedrooms but I may consider some neighborhoods that might be thought of as “sketchy” because I don’t have to worry about if the schools are decent or the negative influence on my kids.

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