Marina Adshade

Economist, Writer, and Speaker | Women, sex, love, and work

New Trend: Men don’t want babies either

Jezebel, the women-focused website with a penchant for feminism and cute animals, recently declared the beginning of a new era with the eye-catching headline: “New Trend: Men Wanting Babies, Women Wanting Freedom”. The article, and a similar one in New York Magazine, proclaims an end to supposedly long-standing paradigm in which maternally driven women have been forcing men into reluctant fatherhood. Men, apparently, are now the ones pushing for children.

Their story goes something like this. Back when women did all the work raising children and caring for the home, women wanted to have children, but men did not. Now that men are taking on a greater share of the workload at home, men want to have children, but women do not. In summary, the anticipation of more work is making men eager to become fathers and the anticipation of less work is making women more reluctant.

Perhaps that is not quite their argument, but it does hinge heavily on the relative contribution women make to childrearing, which, in reality, has only decreased over time.

This argument of a gender reversal in the willingness to have children is shakily supported by an anecdote about a married couple in which he is keen to have children, and she is still trying to decide, and a 2011 study of singles over the age of 21 which found that more men who had no children under the age of 18 living at home said they wanted to have children (24 per cent) than did single women with no children at home (18 per cent).

It seems to me, however, that if you want to proclaim a new trend, you should be relying on something a little more substantial than “conventional wisdom” from the past. And the evidence from the past suggests that there is absolutely nothing new about men being more eager to have children than women.

The Statistics Canada General Social Survey of the family has been asking Canadian men and women about their fertility intentions for decades with this question, “How many children do you plan to have, including the ones that have already been born or you are expecting at this time?”

When this question was first asked in 1990, more women than men expressed a disinterest in having children. Among childless men and women between the ages of 15 and 44, 15 per cent of women said they had no desire to have children in the future compared to only 10 per cent of men. Additionally, more men than women expressed a desire to have children in every age group and regardless of whether they were married, single, cohabitating, or divorced.

As expected, the share of women who wish to remain childless has increased over time, up to 23 per cent in 2011, but contrary what we are being told, the share of men who wish to remain childless has increased by even more, almost doubling to 19 per cent.

While the media seems fixated on women who are choosing to forgo motherhood, the trend in men is much more interesting. It seems that in an era in which women are making a bigger contribution to the household income, and in which men are expected to dedicate more hours to parenting, men are responding by acting more like women: they are willing to forgo parenthood all together.

Back in 1990, Canadian women out-earned their husbands in only one in five marriages in which both the husband and wife worked. Today, the share of those marriages in which the wife earns more than her husband has climbed to almost one in three. Economic theory predicts that when dividing the responsibility for childcare, the parent who has the lowest income should be the one who reduces their work hours when that is necessary. Relative to the past, today that person is more frequently the father and some men, like some women, are choosing not to make that sacrifice.

There is no new trend in which men want babies. Men have always wanted babies as long as women were willing to make all the sacrifices. Now that those sacrifices are more evenly shared between parents, no one should be surprised to learn that fewer men now want to have children.

This piece originally appeared at The Globe and Mail under the title Actually, men have always wanted more children than women have 


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  1. Emily R.

    As a now 38-year-old woman dating in the US, I have noticed some tendencies in the men I date. Nonwhite men are more likely to want children than white men. Conservative and religious men are also more likely to want kids than liberal and nonreligious men and are less likely to see lack of financial standing as a barrier to having kids. If a man is divorced and already has kids, very rarely will he want to have any more, unless he is quite wealthy. There are also men who say into their 40s and beyond that they are open to having children, but they continue to play the field and date like a man who does not want to settle down and start a family any time soon. These factors remain roadblocks to women like myself who want to have children. These are just my observations and personal anecdotes. Would love to see more data gathered on this subject. Thanks!

  2. Zan

    Thank you for writing this, it´s nice to see a qualified person debunking third wave feminist myths and propaganda. Please do more of this! 🙂

  3. Alice

    While this achieves the agenda of depopulating the world, it begs the question of the nature of the society that will actually remain. Will it be filled with failed abortions? People who are too uneducated to read and/or be affected by social propaganda? The stray religious person?

    What kinds of values will such a society have? For it surely will be one that cannot be motivated by the greatest love and beauty in the world, the smile, affability, and gentle nature of a child. What will this society value more? Sipping coffee in front of vacant screens? Idle text chatter, or the drums of divisive, inconsequential and narcissistic wars of opinion and hoarded resources? Will children be banned from public places, and their parents shamed as has happened to smokers or other people engaging in socially frowned upon behavior?

    I thought initially this was a war on the poor, but, the poor rarely have the time or luxury to be affected by media propaganda; they work, and sometimes can’t even afford contraception. Most of the extreme poor people I now have several children – often four or more. If they didn’t plan their existing children, they usually will not plan to “not have” children either. So who is this propaganda trying to convince to self-eliminate? I’m thinking for some reason they want fewer literate, educated people. What’s the world going to look like with .0001% elite people raising families of four or more kids, and then on the flip end, extremely poor people doing the same, and then no one in between? I fail to see how this will be desirable for anyone – in that circumstance the poor people would easily kill off the rich people, and with it any extermination propaganda. Alternatively if the rich people were bent upon exterminating the poor – it would make more sense for them to encourage at least a few scientists to keep having kids – or some kind of educated buffer workforce; just attempting to sterilize anyone not dirt poor or within their social circles is creating even more work for themselves. And not the kind that sitting in a cubicle sipping coffee and typing out texts can fix.

    This propaganda is getting more and more bizarre.

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