In this brief, Senior Demographer Kenneth Johnson reports that, in 2022, there were 21.9 million women aged 20–39 who had not given birth in the United States. This is 4.7 million more childless women of prime child-bearing age than would have been expected given fertility patterns prior to the Great Recession. In 2022, there were 9 percent more women 20 to 39 than in 2006, but the share who had never had a child was up by 37 percent.

The cumulative result of fewer women having children and diminishing fertility levels was 9.6 million fewer U.S. births between 2008 and 2022 than if pre-recession fertility rates had been sustained. Fertility rate declines were greatest among women under 30, where childless rates increased the most.

The course of future childbearing and fertility remains to be seen. Certainly, some women who have delayed children will still have them, but the substantial rise in the proportion of childless women suggests that at least some will forego children. These fertility and child-bearing decisions have significant implications for health care, schools, child-related businesses, and eventually for the labor force.


Carsey School of Public Policy

Publication Date

Winter 12-11-2023


National Issue Brief No. 176


Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire

Document Type



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