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July 20, 2011 5:42 PM   Subscribe

U.S. Census Data for California: Married Couples with No Children are now the largest number of households, at 26%. 'New census figures show that the percentage of Californians who live in "nuclear family" households — a married man and a woman raising their children — has dropped again over the last decade, to 23.4% of all households. That represents a 10% decline in 10 years, measured as a percentage of the state's households.'

'Those households, the Times analysis shows, are being supplanted by a striking spectrum of postmodern living arrangements: same-sex households, unmarried opposite-sex partners, married couples who have no children. Some forms of households that were rare just a generation ago are becoming common; the number of single-father households in California, for instance, grew by 36% between 2000 and 2010.'

'Today, California is a stark reflection of a new dynamic: the traditional Hallmark card image is hardly obsolete, but it is the minority. And new sorts of households — blended families; bands of middle-class singles who live and vacation together; families that were once called "broken" — are increasingly the standard.'

'The Times analysis tracked changes in the proportion of categories of California's households using new census figures in order to draw the most meaningful conclusions while accounting for other demographic shifts. According to the analysis:

Households occupied by unmarried, opposite-sex partners rose by 20% between 2000 and 2010, and now make up 6.2% of California homes.

Single-parent households with children also rose by 20%, now making up 11.8% of California homes.

Households of married couples who do not have children rose by 4%, now 26% of the state's households.

The proportion of same-sex households rose by 25% between 2000 and 2010, increasing in every county in Southern California.

Analysts and many gay couples believe the actual number of gay households is not necessarily increasing that fast — but in a more welcoming world, the recognition of those households is.'
posted by VikingSword (57 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yes! This is an awesome trend for people like myself and my husband, who do not want children. It's nice to know we'll have lots of peers.
posted by agregoli at 5:53 PM on July 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


BUT WHAT IF EVERYONE HAD NO KIDS!!!!
posted by LordSludge at 5:55 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


^ also an awesome trend for those with children, who go to public schools, now slightly less crowded but still funded by your property taxes, thanks!
posted by oblio_one at 5:55 PM on July 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


The full quiver folks will take care of that. In a generation of two it'll be all "Praise Jayzus!"
posted by dibblda at 5:56 PM on July 20, 2011


The full quiver folks will take care of that. In a generation of two it'll be all "Praise Jayzus!"

That's why we secular humanists need to start squeezing out some puppies of our own right now, just so we can get the teacher/student/religious ideologue ratio back to normal.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:11 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The new normal, thanks to stagnant middle-class wage growth: Can't afford to have kids, can't afford to get married, can't afford to live somewhere without roommates, can't afford to not move in with the girlfriend, can't afford to get a bigger place, can't afford to get divorced, can't afford to move out of the parents' house. New household numbers are way down - it's not that many people don't want to be a nuclear family, it's that they simply don't have the money for the arrangement that used to be doable on one salary.
posted by 0xFCAF at 6:12 PM on July 20, 2011 [44 favorites]


1) agregoli, Mr supermedusa and I are right there with you :)
2) I am VERY happy to have my property taxes educate your children! I only wish it were more!!
3) secular humanists can be made, not only born. I was raised catholic yet turned out a healthy skeptical humanist pastafarian atheist :D
posted by supermedusa at 6:14 PM on July 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Some forms of households that were rare just a generation ago are becoming common; the number of single-father households in California, for instance, grew by 36% between 2000 and 2010.'

Meaningless unless you tell us what the proportion of single-father households actually is. Given that single-parent families overall are a very small minority of households (11.8%, per the article) it's very hard for me to imagine that single-father households are "becoming common." Maybe "becoming less monumentally rare."
posted by escabeche at 6:19 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Coincidentally, Focus on the Family were out in full force at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this morning discussing the potential repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Their argument revolved around a Department of Health & Human Services study that overwhelmingly extolled the virtues of raising children in a "traditional" nuclear family.

Unfortunately for the Focus on the Family guys, Al Franken happens to have read that study. And it doesn't say any of the things that Focus on the Family said it did.
posted by schmod at 6:21 PM on July 20, 2011 [21 favorites]


Well, if they want the number of married couples to go up, there is an obvious solution to that. Of course, it would destroy marriage, but what the hell, marriage seems to be destroying itself.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:21 PM on July 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


3) secular humanists can be made, not only born. I was raised catholic yet turned out a healthy skeptical humanist pastafarian atheist :D

If you want to raise your kid to be an awesome secular humanist, you'll raise him as a Catholic. Works every time.
posted by schmod at 6:22 PM on July 20, 2011 [13 favorites]


Children are increasingly viewed as expensive novelty projects, or as the traditional way to live on after death. Unless you're really into kids or see it as duty, it often doesn't make sense to have them when you could just donate money to have a room at your local library named after you or whatever.
posted by Winnemac at 6:27 PM on July 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's pretty incredible to have two threads in a row that describe the same general trends in ideologically opposite yet equally incomprehensible scarequotey ways. What we've learned here: if you divide a pie that once had a few categories into a bunch of different categories, each piece will get smaller and a surprising piece might end up being the plurality.
posted by Apropos of Something at 6:33 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think I've ever been a part of a majority before!

(Does this mean people are finally going to stop asking me and the mister when we're going to have kids? Because, jeez...I think we were pretty clear about our intentions not to breed when we wed 20 years ago!)
posted by squasha at 6:36 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, people not currently having children doesn't mean they're purposefully and permanently determined to remain childfree.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:07 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


3) secular humanists can be made, not only born. I was raised catholic yet turned out a healthy skeptical humanist pastafarian atheist :D

Sorry but I can't help but think as secular humanists as shakers with birth control. I'm not saying people should go hog wild here, there are plenty of people obviously. It would be nice though to have some humanists around in a few generations throwing better parties and having wild sex to corrupt the fundie's offspring.
posted by dibblda at 7:11 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Meaningless unless you tell us what the proportion of single-father households actually is. Given that single-parent families overall are a very small minority of households (11.8%, per the article) it's very hard for me to imagine that single-father households are "becoming common." Maybe "becoming less monumentally rare."

I grew up in a single-father household in California; the news that my experience is shared by others (apart from an absurd proportion of Disney-cartoon protagonists) is meaningful, even if not statistically.

And even if it's not a large proportion of the population, there's a numerical threshold for building something like a community: for an imperfect comparison, America's Jewish population is estimated at 2 or 3%, but that's enough to establish a pretty significant presence.
posted by psoas at 7:36 PM on July 20, 2011


an absurd proportion of Disney-cartoon protagonists [are in single-father homes]

A social worker's perspective of Disney characters

("parents transferred custody to 3 fairies")
posted by stebulus at 7:55 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Two comments:

1) Would empty-nesters qualify as "married with no children" households? If so, this isn't some societal revolution, it's just baby-boomers' kids starting households of their own.
2) Thanks for the Franken video schmod. Watching the rep from Focus on the Family squirm was some tasty tasty schadenfreude.
posted by dry white toast at 8:06 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anecdotal data point: My SO and I (with one kid and another on the way) notice that a majority of our peers in their late 20s-30s aren't having kids and don't have any interest too, simply for the fact that they are enjoying life too much. Kayaking, backpacking, pub crawls, traveling the world constantly.

It does worry me simply becuase many of these people are very smart and have great hearts. I think I should buy them all copies of Idiocracy and tell them to get moving.
posted by Big_B at 8:11 PM on July 20, 2011


It does worry me simply becuase many of these people are very smart and have great hearts. I think I should buy them all copies of Idiocracy and tell them to get moving.

We have no progeny and therefore no horse in this race?
posted by Talez at 8:16 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


It does worry me simply becuase many of these people are very smart and have great hearts. I think I should buy them all copies of Idiocracy and tell them to get moving.

Or they can use those smarts and great hearts to help others raise their children...it does take a village, after all. Part of that help includes sharing new ideas to children whose upbringing might have been less than ideal.
posted by bizzyb at 8:31 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


BUT WHAT IF EVERYONE HAD NO KIDS!!!!

It's been tried before. Doesn't usually last that long.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:31 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is California somehow special in this regard, or is this just California thinking it's so awesome again? Of course people have weird housing arrangements, it's frickin' expensive here.

Did I spell frickin' right?
posted by madcaptenor at 8:54 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if we'll get to a point where most middle-class would sneer at one of their fellows having kids as "irresponsible" or at very least wonder aloud whenever they talk to a couple and they have kids: "Ah, one of those happy accidents, eh?" A reversal on the tendency to think of childless couples as unfortunate.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:28 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I live in California and I can't afford to have kids, even if I wanted them. I'm barely scraping by as it is, there's no way on earth that I could afford child care or to be a stay at home mom.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:36 PM on July 20, 2011


I wonder if we'll get to a point where most middle-class would sneer at one of their fellows having kids as "irresponsible" or at very least wonder aloud whenever they talk to a couple and they have kids: "Ah, one of those happy accidents, eh?" A reversal on the tendency to think of childless couples as unfortunate.

You've never been to SF have you?
posted by Talez at 10:32 PM on July 20, 2011


I think SF is the only place I've heard someone use the term breeders, in all seriousness, and with a sneer in case the term wasn't pejorative enough in the first place.
posted by fragmede at 10:46 PM on July 20, 2011


It's quite common as societies develop, that childbearing decreases. Witness the extreme examples – European countries where it is very expensive to live, much less raise a child, and the Middle East, torn by violence and high adult mortality rates.

In the former, the thinking has gone, people have less children because of the cost of those children. As the costs increase, couples delay marriage and childbearing whilst they improve their economic condition. Commingled is the high costs result in fewer children. If they have a pot of resources of a given size, middle/upper class people often distribute that pot to fewer children – to get those children further. In some European countries, the birthrate has dropped below the replacement rate, thus leading to rises in immigration as population replacement.

In the latter, high mortality rates result in heaps of new babies. The society feels itself to be under attack, thus out of a sense of continuity, families procreate as often and as fast as possible, ignoring the concept of social promotion of the children in favour of building the population of the society itself.

Thus, perhaps we can consider plummeting childbearing metrics to indicate a more expensive and stable society. Economics says that as societies become economically advanced and stable, division of labour increases – as the productivity gains from specialisation are quite beneficial to the society itself.

So, we may be looking at a society more akin to post-imperial Europe, where certain classes and groups of people are the primary child-bearers and other classes and groups of society contribute in other ways.

After all, raising children is an intensive process and often does not allow for personal and social development. Having spent much of the 2000s in organisations with high numbers of gay men, I witnessed a totally different attitude toward going about life. Rather than investing in families and children, these men developed themselves professionally, build companies, and made tremendous contributions to the businesses they ran and communities in which they lived.

Looking at packs of animals, it is not uncommon that many members of the pack do not bear young. Rather those members work with the animals that do to support the strength and abilities of the tribe.

There is however a darker spectre to the change in the American family that aligns with post-imperialist Europe's recent history. Rational individuals conduct their spending based on future perceptions. That is, if you believe your income will keep pace with inflation and perhaps outpace it, you will maintain or increase spending. Buy a house. Start a business. Have a kid.

If you do not believe that your income will keep pace with inflation or believe that your future income prospects are not as good as previous prospects, you will save. Rent a house. Keep your job. Go on holidays.

Simultaneously, as childbearing drops, so does marriage. Financial benefits aside, marriage has existed for some time as a social vehicle meant to provide stability and community pressure to promote functional families.

The dark spectre may very well be that the body politic in the United States perceives the long autumn of the American empire and is preparing for a period of austerity, in stark contrast to the period of prosperity that dominated the lives of the last three generations.

As the number of children shelves and begins decreasing amongst the educated class, we are witnesses a different America – one focused on stability and reintegration of the society, as opposed to expansionist America, that gave us the suburbs, two children and a dog, corporate healthcare, and a lovely pension.

Invest accordingly.
posted by nickrussell at 10:51 PM on July 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


According to a recent article in The Oregonian, "Just 30 percent of households in Oregon have children, the lowest rate among all but seven states, according to U.S. Census data released today. The picture is even starker in Portland, where only one in four homes includes a child 17 or younger."
posted by Cranberry at 10:58 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lord Chancellor writes "I wonder if we'll get to a point where most middle-class would sneer at one of their fellows having kids as 'irresponsible' or at very least wonder aloud whenever they talk to a couple and they have kids: 'Ah, one of those happy accidents, eh?' A reversal on the tendency to think of childless couples as unfortunate."

Probably a self correcting problem. Long term the people who believe raising children is good are going to replace those who don't.
posted by Mitheral at 1:05 AM on July 21, 2011


Huh. Just the other day at work someone told me I was selfish for not having kids and in the same breath who did I think was going to take care of me when I was old. Anecdotal, random and kind of funny of course, but I look forward to a time when these comments are fewer and far between.
posted by dog food sugar at 3:30 AM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The reporters in our town wrote a similar story this month, too. "Census shows most area families don't have school-age children"

The article discusses space shortage in our growing communities' schools yet school building closings and sales in St. Cloud proper as the number of children to fill them has dropped.

"...Minnesota once had 3 million residents and 1 million school children. The state’s population is now 5.2 million with fewer than about 900,000 school-age children."
posted by jillithd at 6:54 AM on July 21, 2011


I have noticed that since moving from Texas to Los Angeles, my husband and I (both 27) receive FAR fewer questions of "so when are you going to have kids?" and FAR more positive responses and nearly NONE of the typical negatives responses when we say we've never had any interest in it. Even people who have kids here are almost always supportive when we say we don't want any.
posted by Nattie at 7:27 AM on July 21, 2011


Al Franken happens to have read that study. And it doesn't say any of the things that Focus on the Family said it did.

I like Franken a lot, and I support the repeal of DOMA and the societal shift to support love whether it's hetero or homo, but the study did seem to say a lot of the things Focus on the Family said it did. Franken's point was that the study didn't specifically say that a nuclear family meant a husband and a wife plus children as opposed to a husband and husband or wife and wife with children. The FOTF folks assumed that nuclear meant hetero, but I don't know that's a huge leap of an assumption to make.

Given that we're only now allowing gays to marry in a few states, it seems likely that most if not all of the families studied by the report would have been hetero pairings. If they did study gay pairings, I'm guessing they would have seen the same benefits to the kids. Still, I don't think the study comments on or proves that one way or the other, and this is really more of a semantic argument from Franken.
posted by willnot at 7:33 AM on July 21, 2011


Cultural moves towards childfreeness aside, I think there's a serious economic question when it comes to having kids in high cost of living areas. I know plenty of NYers who put off kids until they were in their late 30s and there is a definite economic component to that decision. Yeah, is is fun not to have kids, but it also keeps you able to live in a studio apartment, and you don't have to worry about daycare/preschool/private school...
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:44 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a parent of two, I think these trends (whatever they really are) are a good thing all around. It's hard to go wrong with diversity. 23-26%, whatever, let's just agree all groups of people and single people are important and necessary for society/civilization.

Yeah, is is fun not to have kids, but it also keeps you able to live in a studio apartment, and you don't have to worry about daycare/preschool/private school...

a studio apartment ... in Manhattan. No offense, but unless you're skirting the poverty line, I've always taken the cost rationale to be a rationalization. It's OK to not want to have kids, but I would never encourage anyone

A friend of mine was a single mom who's former fiancee had broken off the marriage and basically left her; she had no support from mom, dad, or any family (I think the former fiancee's family eventually chipped in his share); she was living in San Francisco, and her daughter is 7 (yikes) now and doing great.

Raising kids is not easy, and yeah, daycare is expensive. but priorities are priorities. There are a million considerations to balance.

For me, the real and difficult question is whether or not you want to bring another person into this godforsaken and crumbling planet. My answer was eventually yes.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:11 AM on July 21, 2011


How can someone sneer at "breeders"? Isn't every one a product of such a union? Isn't every last one of them part of the universal testament that the human rave must go on, that children are a good thing? I mean, there's nothing wrong with being single or not having children (I'm both), but there's nothing wrong with having them, and children are not an unfortunate stage of life nor parents fools for giving up backpacking trips for one of greatest responsibilities a human being can have. The term "breeder" not only fills me with rage, but confuses me for are we are not all someone's child?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:32 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, as someone who is currently actually pregnant in NYC and has done a lot of thinking about the money involved, yeah, it is expensive and just saying "priorities" doesn't make the daycare appear and be suddenly affordable and available, or the second income lost to SAH parenting become irrelevant, or the rent in decent public school districts any cheaper.

I also don't get the studio apartment in manhattan thing. I wouldn't be thrilled to share a studio apartment with a baby or toddler in any of the 5 boroughs. Bumping up to a one-bedroom is a significant increase in price and it's not a matter of "oh, tack 10 extra minutes onto your commute and move to Brooklyn already, you snob." Already did that. There's not a lot of give left.

And really, I'm in a very privileged spot compared to many NYers considering our income and insurance. If my partner were still making what he made 4 years ago (at 27!) we would be in a really bad spot.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:38 AM on July 21, 2011


Meaningless unless you tell us what the proportion of single-father households actually is. Given that single-parent families overall are a very small minority of households (11.8%, per the article) it's very hard for me to imagine that single-father households are "becoming common." Maybe "becoming less monumentally rare."

Yeah, like from 236 to 319, or from 230,000 to 320,000 or whatever. Who knows ...

Whenever I see a post like this, I always hope and pray there's a link to the raw data. I don't blame the poster (well, maybe a little), it's just not easy to find.

Here's the US Census Bureau fact sheet for California. The links to individual details like household reports seem to be javascript-based. Maybe here's housing? No mention of single fathers. Must be elsewhere ...

ah, here: Selected Social Characteristics

... if there are 332,267 single-dad child-under-18 familes now, and there are 36% more now than in 2000, my junior high math says that means there were ... 244, 314 in 2000? (my 230K-320K guess was pretty good!). 2.7 is not a lot, but 330K families is hardly "monumentally rare." I would guess same-sex parent families are less (but I have no idea how I'd find out - see below)

data:

HOUSEHOLDS BY TYPE

Total households
12,187,191
100%

Family households (families)
8,333,690 (+/-22,803)
68.4%

Family households - With own children under 18 years
4,182,310 (+/-18,613)
34.3%

Married-couple family
6,085,094 (+/-29,707)
49.9%

Married-couple family - With own children under 18 years
2,980,969 (+/-21,722)
24.5%

Male householder, no wife present, family
700,819 (+/-7,108)
5.8%

Male householder, no wife present, family - With own children under 18 years
332,267 (+/-3,599)
2.7%


Female householder, no husband present, family
1,547,777 (+/-8,470)
12.7%

Female householder, no husband present, family - With own children under 18 years
869,074 (+/-6,701)
7.1%

Nonfamily households
3,853,501 (+/-9,225)
31.6%

Nonfamily households - Householder living alone
2,993,951 (+/-10,679)
24.6%

Nonfamily households - Householder living alone - 65 years and over
984,139 (+/-10,571)
8.1%

Households with one or more people under 18 years
4,643,534 (+/-19,057)
38.1%

Households with one or more people 65 years and over
2,767,326 (+/-11,096)
22.7%

Average household size
2.91

Average family size
3.51


Simultaneously, as childbearing drops, so does marriage. Financial benefits aside, marriage has existed for some time as a social vehicle meant to provide stability and community pressure to promote functional families.

I'm not so sure the two are that interrelated. I think that marriage will continue to wane, while childbearing levels off.

What I don't understand is why that data isn't collected/present. We have "Total families" but that is composed solely of "Married-couple family" + "Male householder, no wife present, family" + "Female householder, no husband present, family" (I added them up to make sure.) Um.

IIRC, two men or two women cannot get married in California right now. So where are the two mommy families (or the unmarried mom and dad families) counted? I'm sure I'm missing it, but I can't find it.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:41 AM on July 21, 2011


How can someone sneer at "breeders"? Isn't every one a product of such a union? Isn't every last one of them part of the universal testament that the human rave must go on, that children are a good thing?

So if everyone was jumping off a cliff you'd go too?

Appeal to common practice is a stupid logical fallacy.
posted by Talez at 9:02 AM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is California somehow special in this regard, or is this just California thinking it's so awesome again? Of course people have weird housing arrangements, it's frickin' expensive here.

?

It's a California newspaper + CA has 40 million people ( = a lot of data) + CA tends to lead nationwide demographic trends. "Special" is subjective, but "notable" applies.
posted by psoas at 9:21 AM on July 21, 2011


I'm not saying that it's okay that people have children due to it being a common practice; I'm questioning their views considering they themselves own their existences to this "breeding". I find it strange that they would sneer at the process, the act of mothering and fathering without sneering at their own genesis, their own lives.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:40 AM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


There are many things our parents did that we disagree with. My parents drive an Escalade and have a giant house. I benefited from that as a kid but it's a choice I would never make.

Sneering is taking it a bit far, but alas, people are assholes.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:58 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


it's not a matter of "oh, tack 10 extra minutes onto your commute and move to Brooklyn already, you snob." Already did that. There's not a lot of give left.

I'm thinking more Metro-North or Jersey Transit. :)

I'd never call someone a "snob" for wanting to live in a big city. I think there are a lot of very important reasons why someone might need to live in an urban area, career/employment and living close to that employment being one of the big ones.

Unfortunately, the way things are going, you're right, regular folks are getting priced out of the cities, and parenting in NYC or SF seems to be limited to the rich. But I still know relatively not rich parents (e.g. bartenders, grocery store workers) who are doing "OK".

Anyway, once the riots (or zombies) start, urban housing prices will plummet (to free?). That's what I'm betting on. Until then, we wait ... and live in walkable suburbs with public transit to the big city. (And train those little hands how to throw molotovs ... and maybe baseballs.)

Bumping up to a one-bedroom is a significant increase in price and it's not a matter of "oh, tack 10 extra minutes onto your commute and move to Brooklyn already, you snob."

I remember one of the more annoying pregnancy books (or Web articles) from my wife's first pregnancy wherein some woman made a remark about how raising a baby in a one-bedroom apartment was cruel. Still thinking about it makes my blood boil. Studio, one-bedroom, mansion--you'll figure it out.

Best of luck to you on the pregnancy. My brother and his family gave birth in Brooklyn in the early 2000s (perhaps slightly cheaper post 9/11? doubtful...) and ended up moving up to Connecticut, but he's lucky enough to work for himself and mostly from home, while being 45-minute train ride from Manhattan.

They likewise really wanted to stay in the city but couldn't make it work financially. My brother makes good money, but I'm not sure where their priorities were in terms of house ownership, schools, etc.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:33 AM on July 21, 2011


I find it strange that they would sneer at the process, the act of mothering and fathering without sneering at their own genesis, their own lives.

Nobody asks to be born, and a lot of people (well, teenagers) wish they hadn't been.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:34 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are many things our parents did that we disagree with. My parents drive an Escalade and have a giant house. I benefited from that as a kid but it's a choice I would never make.

Yes, it's not a choice you would make, but hopefully it's not a choice you see as irresponsible, unfortunate, or foolish in others, I would think. Just as having children isn't an imperative, neither is not having children. I'm not a doctor, but I'm glad that others are. I'm not a priest, but I'm glad that they exist. I'm not a mother, a father, a wife, or a husband, nor do I have children. Yet, I'm glad all of those things exist, even if I am not called to be one (at present). I'm, happily single and childfree, but I am glad the human race is continuing and that some people have a calling to do those great vocations of Doctoring or Teaching or Parenting or many others. They're more than just lifestyle choices; they can be the cornerstone of a life, one of the highest responsibilities a human being can take. So, I guess they have my respect. Not that I don't respect those without children, but I respect them for different reasons. They make decisions that are different from my own, but I'm thankful they're making them as they see fit.

Nobody asks to be born, and a lot of people (well, teenagers) wish they hadn't been.

Teenagers' views on this—as in so many other things—are not exactly indicative of a moral imperative not to have children. I can understand that some people curse the very hour of their births and are eagerly awaiting the quiet extinction of Man, but I'm somehow doubting the number sharing this goal is rather low in the scheme of things.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:32 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think having an escalade and a big house (and a big grass lawn in the desert especially) is a bit irresponsible and foolish, yeah. I don't go around talking smack about people who do those things because it's rude, but I don't think that just because my parents did something that benefited me that I can never criticize similar choices (or view them as immoral).
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:58 AM on July 21, 2011


I think having an escalade and a big house (and a big grass lawn in the desert especially) is a bit irresponsible and foolish, yeah.

I was speaking of the choice to be a parent. Do you find that one likewise?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 1:57 PM on July 21, 2011


My point is that your general stance--your parents did it, it benefited you, therefore it's illogical to criticize it--does not hold up to logical scrutiny.

I think having kids is somewhat irresponsible (I say this at 7 months pregnant, like a big ol' hypocrite). Of course, unlike a giant lawn in the desert, it's a strong biological drive. I don't have it in me to sneer, but neither can I disagree with anyone who says that it's irresponsible or a bad idea.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:03 PM on July 21, 2011


My point is that your general stance--your parents did it, it benefited you, therefore it's illogical to criticize it--does not hold up to logical scrutiny.

I think having kids is somewhat irresponsible (I say this at 7 months pregnant, like a big ol' hypocrite). Of course, unlike a giant lawn in the desert, it's a strong biological drive. I don't have it in me to sneer, but neither can I disagree with anyone who says that it's irresponsible or a bad idea.


My point was not that my parents did something that benefited me, but that our very existence is tied into these things. As I consider existence a better thing than non-existence, I would see the act of creation of children (divorced from specific contexts) as a positive thing in that value system. I mean, if we're not talking about our personal benefit for existing or the human race's benefit as a whole or intelligent life's benefit, what ethical system are we talking about where having children is in and of itself an immoral or irresponsible act? What would wisdom be in this case? What would the moral choice for each human being on the planet to make?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 2:14 PM on July 21, 2011


our very existence is tied into these things

That's the rub, and there's no way around it. When I meet someone who tells me I shouldn't have kids, I ask her "Do you want the human race to continue past this generation, and if so, who should have kids and who shouldn't?"

I've never met anyone who can say "yes" to the first part, and also give me a good answer to the second (aside from "anyone who wants to.")
posted by mrgrimm at 5:04 PM on July 21, 2011


To me, it doesn't really matter what we "want" regarding human existance. It will end soon enough anyway. I don't tell anyone they should or shouldn't have kids, but neither choice is "moral" or "virtuous" in any way.
posted by agregoli at 7:15 AM on July 22, 2011


Moral nihilism?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:02 AM on July 22, 2011


Huh? I see nothing immoral either way, have kids or no. Nor is it something to be proud of - just alife decision. Humans think their decisions have such weight but things like this don't really matter at all outside the context of one's own life.
posted by agregoli at 12:07 PM on July 22, 2011


Humans think their decisions have such weight but things like this don't really matter at all outside the context of one's own life.

Well that's pretty nihilistic. No such thing as "right action"? We're a part of something larger. Our actions have much more of an effect than we realize. Climate change, mass extinctions, etc. If every househould switched to recycled toilet paper, etc.

You can say people only matter en masse, but that masse has to come from somewhere.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:29 PM on July 22, 2011


Yeah, Agregoli, that seems to be textbook moral nihilism that you're espousing there (or at least, that's what I'm getting from you). I mean that's a position, but I can't really argue (productively) about whether something is moral or not with you if you don't believe that moral value really exists.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 1:56 PM on July 22, 2011


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