Comparing characteristics of voluntarily childless men and women Academic Article uri icon


  • Voluntary childlessness among women has been well researched, but the theories derived from that work may not apply to men. In this paper, we test whether or not female-derived explanations of voluntary childlessness are applicable to voluntarily childless men. We use US data from the National Survey of Family Growth to compare voluntarily childless men to other men and to voluntarily childless women in an effort to determine the distinctions between groups. We examine four long-held explanations of female voluntary childlessness and test their application to men: demographic, socialization, economic, and attitudinal differences. We find that demographic and socialization variables predict voluntary childlessness in both men and women similarly. Traditional sex role belief decreases the probability of being voluntarily childless for both men and women, though the effect is slightly stronger for women. However, variables associated with economic theory do not predict voluntary childlessness for men. Most importantly, education is not a significant predictor of voluntary childlessness for men, while it greatly increases the chances of being voluntarily childless among women. We conclude that new theories of voluntary childlessness need to be developed or existing theories refined to take into account the gendered routes to childlessness-especially theories explaining the different effect of education on men's and women's childlessness. 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 4.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Waren, W., & Pals, H.

citation count

  • 26

complete list of authors

  • Waren, Warren||Pals, Heili

publication date

  • June 2013