A Pew survey late last week found that 44% of Americans between 18 and 49 who aren't parents say it is not too likely or not at all likely that they will have children — an increase of 7 percentage points from 2018.

Why it matters: The shift could lead to smaller family Thanksgiving dinners and major social and economic changes, as children become rarer in many parts of the country and more American adults reach old age with little to no family to support them.

By the numbers: The effect of greater childlessness is being felt in U.S. fertility numbers, which were already at a record low before 2020 and have continued to drop during the pandemic.

"[T]he main cause of declining fertility in America is increasing childlessness at all ages" rather than declining second or third births, writes Lyman Stone, a research fellow at the Institute for Family Studies (IFS).More adults are reaching retirement age without children, and increasingly without a partner. Data released by the Census Bureau this year found that 19.6% of Americans between 55 and 64 reported being childless, compared to 15.9% of those 65–74 and 10.9% of those over 75.In San Francisco — where there are more dogs than children — kids make up just 13% of the population, down from 13.4% in 2010 and dead last among the 100 most populous U.S. cities.

The big picture: Most of those in the Pew survey who report they're unlikely to have kids say the reason is that they just don't want to have children. But Americans, in general, have also become more interested in smaller families.

Data from Gallup polls find that Americans' ideal number of kids has fallen from around 3.5 in the 1930s to 2.5 today. And that's still well above the current actual level of 1.7 lifetime births per woman.Fears about the environment, supposed overpopulation and the general state of the world have been getting a lot of press. Morgan Stanley analysts this summer noted that the concerns are "impacting fertility...
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