CARLOS BRAN DIDN’T NECESSARILY plan not to have kids. But, as he got older and his friends started having children, he says he noticed how much time and money it took away from them being able to do things they always wanted to do.
“So, eventually, I made the decision to get a vasectomy,” says Bran, 39, who lives in North Little Rock, Arkansas, and works in banking technology support.
He adds that being child-free by choice gives him the freedom to travel, such as attending music festivals, like the Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC). “I don’t have to worry about who’s going to watch my kids,” he says.
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Despite being happy about his decision to go child-free, Bran says his parents were disappointed and other people often tell him he’ll it. But, he usually just ignores the comments.
While having children is often seen as a marker of adulthood, some people just don’t want a gaggle of kids running around. And science says they’re doing just fine.
Researchers at Michigan State University have found that 20% of adults in Michigan don’t want children, and they say that the state is demographically similar to the U.S. as a whole, which could mean 50 million to 60 million Americans are child-free.
In a new study published in April 2023 in PLOS ONE, the researchers confirmed those findings and found that “being child-free is somewhat more common among adults who identify as male, white, or who have always been single,” they said in a news release.
They also found no evidence that older child-free adults experience any more regrets later in life than older parents. “In fact, older parents were slightly more likely to want to change something about their life,” researchers say.
The term “child-free” is used to refer to people who don’t have children by choice, while “childless” refers to people who wanted to have children but couldn’t because of infertility or other circumstances, according to the study.
With so many people choosing not to have children—on TikTok, hashtag #childfree has more than 975 million views—the MSU researchers say more attention should be given to this group, especially as reproductive rights are being eroded across the country,
There’s No Single Reason Why People Choose Not to Have Kids
Jay Zigmont, 45, created a business around being child-free, Childfree Wealth, which offers financial planning that supports a life without children. But, he’s quick to note that a child-free life doesn’t automatically make people wealthy.
“It’s just that you have one less expense,” he adds.
Among the people he works with, Zigmont says most have multiple reasons for choosing to be child-free. “It ranges from just never wanting to have kids to finances to health,” he adds.
Zigmont and his wife of 14 years decided not to have children before they got married. “My wife has a 50-50 chance of dying if she got pregnant, so we made our choice very early on.”
He views not having children as having the “time, money, and freedom to do what you want.” For instance, he and his wife recently moved to Oxford, Mississippi, from Connecticut for his wife’s job.
“We’ve been able to follow our dreams, and do what we want,” he adds. “Sometimes, that’s freeing, and sometimes that’s a bit of analysis paralysis.”
Research published in 2021 in PLOS ONE examined the satisfaction levels and common characteristics of adults who don’t want children. The conclusion? They’re no less satisfied than their child-having counterparts.
The study found “no difference in life satisfaction and limited differences” in characteristics between people who don’t want children and parents. But the choice to be child-free is still somewhat stigmatized.
Being Upfront With Partners Is Crucial
Deciding not to have children can sometimes make dating difficult, says KC Lowery, 44, who lives in Pierce County, Washington. Some of the women he’s dated have wanted to call it quits when they learn he doesn’t plan to have children.
“I’ve met terrific people who wanted to be with me and build a life together, and I was like, ‘I don’t want to have children,’” he says. “It disappoints them.”
Still, Lowery, who works in aerospace manufacturing, says it’s important to bring it up within the first few dates. His girlfriend, who he’s been with for two years, has an adult daughter, so his wanting to be child-free isn’t an issue for them.
He decided not to have children after seeing his two siblings, who had children young, struggle with childcare and finances. Later, the decision was solidified when he saw friends go through divorces and custody battles.
Bran agrees that being child-free can make finding a partner difficult. He’s not dating anyone now, but says he’s always upfront with potential partners.
“It does make it harder to find a partner with no kids or who doesn’t want kids,” he adds.
Men Should Talk About Being Child-Free More
If you opt not to have kids, you might have to deal with your parents constantly asking when they’re getting grandchildren. But otherwise, there’s a good chance you’ll be just fine.
But, men should be more vocal about not wanting to have kids, Zigmont says, adding that most online conversations on the subject are dominated by women.
“There’s very little men representation,” he adds. “Part of it is that there’s more pressure on women.”
Bran adds that getting a vasectomy is one way men can take responsibility for their child-free choices. He got one four years ago, after his workplace switched insurance companies, and the procedure was covered.
“It took an hour out of my day,” he says. “I wanted the procedure because the decision I made is my choice. If my partner ever wanted to have kids, I do not want to take that option away from her.”
Erica Sweeney is a writer who mostly covers health, wellness and careers. She has written for The New York Times, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, Parade, Money, Business Insider and many more.
Katie Dupere is an editor and writer in New York City specializing in identity, internet culture, social good, lifestyle and beauty topics.
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