Mike Mariani


Generation Kidless

Record numbers of U.S. adults are pursuing child-free lives. Are they selfish, worthy of pity — or building a better future for us all?

In recent months, the millennial generation — that piñata with a never-ending supply of candy for anyone with a decent swing — has been thrown into its latest crucible: homeownership. As it slowly shifts its focus to Americans in their late 20s and early 30s, the housing market is working to accommodate this rising group of aspiring homebuyers. One thing many of them are not focused on, realtors are finding, is space for future children. For some, it’s an unprecedented demographic — young couples who aren’t interested in having children — and it’s affecting properties all over the country. These millennial couples often seek smaller houses and condos in urban areas, with close proximity to jobs, restaurants, and friends. As priorities and preferences shift, our collective sense of the ideal home may be forced to diversify, too. For a handful of reasons, including the increasingly optional matter of parenthood, the four-bedroom, 2,500-square-foot colonial set deep in the lush, sprawling suburbs may not be the universally coveted dream it once was.

In May, Atlantic staff writer Olga Khazan published a piece on why women decide to not have children. It relied on a mix of reader responses and academic studies, creating a kind of mosaic of childless — or “child-free,” as some adults without children prefer to be called — women. In her article, Khazan cites a 2014 study from Wayne State University that found that “when women discussed the reasons for choosing to be childfree, they overwhelmingly focused on the benefits of their freedom and autonomy.” Such freedom entailed being able to travel, pursue their careers, further their education, and retain a “get up and go” lifestyle.

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