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Childlessness Among Older Women in the United States: Trends and Profiles


Reproductive Statistics Branch, Division of Vital Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, 3311 Toledo Road, Hyattsville, MD 20782 (


In the last 2 decades, the United States has seen an increase in childlessness and first births at older ages. Using the National Survey of Family Growth, we focus on women aged 35 – 44 who are voluntarily childless (expect no children and are fecund or contraceptively sterile). We compare these women to those who are involuntarily childless (fecundity impaired) and to those who are temporarily childless (expect children). Voluntary childlessness grew from 1982 (5%) to 1988 (8%), was stable up to 1995 (9%), and fell slightly in 2002 (7%). Voluntarily childless women have the highest income, prior work experience, and lowest religiosity compared to other women. This has been true since 1982, the earliest time point examined.

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