Desire to have children fell 7% overall among Americans, while interest in family formation remains highest among the rich, the religious, and Republicans
WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- According to a new survey released today by the Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institution, interest in marriage has increased by only two percent overall since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, while the share of Americans expressing a desire to have children fell 7% overall. The responses from the survey, The Divided State of Our Unions: Family Formation in (Post-) COVID-19 America, also indicated that a divide about family and children along economic, religious, and partisan lines has grown deeper since the onset of COVID-19.
"We know that even before the onset of the pandemic, American marriage and fertility rates were falling, with a record number of young adults projected to neither marry nor have children," said Brad Wilcox of the Institute for Family Studies. "Our report shows that post-COVID attitudes toward marriage and childbearing are becoming increasingly polarized along economic, religious, and political lines. When it comes to class, the findings are more complex, with childbearing trends among the poor becoming closer to those of more educated and affluent Americans."
The study, based on two new YouGov surveys by the Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institution, analyzed where the American family is headed as COVID-19 finally seems to be abating. It sought to answer three questions: Will marriage and fertility fall further in the wake of the pandemic? Are Americans likely to turn toward family formation in response to the loneliness from pandemic lockdowns? And will post-COVID attitudes regarding family formation be further polarized along economic, religious, and partisan differences?
Key findings include:
Interest in family formation is higher among the rich, the religious and Republicans.
Interest in having children decreased among lower-income individuals: Interestingly, while the desire to have children increased one percentage point among higher-income Americans, it decreased six percentage points among middle-income Americans and 11 percentage points among lower-income Americans.
Working-class Americans with less education will continue to become less likely to marry: Since the 1970s, working-class Americans have changed from being more likely to marry to becoming less likely to marry than college-educated Americans.
When it comes to racial and ethnic divides, the story may be one of reduced polarization in terms of marriage and childbearing behaviors:
The medical, financial, and emotional toll associated with the pandemic did not affect all Americans equally: While lower- and middle-class Americans were more likely to have been financially impacted by job loss or the requirement to do in-person work, more educated and affluent Americans, who were more able to work from home, reported that their financial situation improved.
"The pandemic appears to have deepened the class divide in marriage and family life, with the affluent feeling better prepared to start families," said Jason Carroll, Associate Director of the Wheatley Institution. "Going forward, policy makers should pursue family-friendly policies that can bridge this divide and make family formation more accessible for those who desire it."
The Institute for Family Studies/Wheatley Institution survey was conducted by YouGov between September 3 and 14 (the September survey), with a representative sample of 2,500 adults ages 18 to 55 living in the United States. The survey focuses on the changes in respondents' desire for marrying or having children because of COVID-19. A total of 2,596 interviews were completed and then matched down to a sample of 2,500 to produce the final dataset. The September survey was an update from the IFS/Wheatley survey conducted between May 28 and June 10, 2021 (the May-June survey), where a broader range of family-related questions were asked (see more details in thisreport).
The study, which is sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, the Institute for Family Studies, and the Wheatley Institution, along with the survey methodology, is available at https://ifstudies.org/reports/the-divided-state-of-our-unions/2021/executive-summary.
About the Institute for Family Studies
The mission of the Institute for Family Studies (IFS) is to strengthen marriage and family life and advance the well-being of children through research and public education. For more information, visit https://ifstudies.org/
About the Wheatley Institution
The Wheatley Institution at Brigham Young University produces consequential scholarship in key topics consistent with its core mission of lifting society by preserving and strengthening core social institutions. For more information, visit https://wheatley.byu.edu/
SOURCE Wheatley Institution