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The Science Survey

We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

A Woman’s Choice

Fertility rates are starting to become a pressing issue of our time, and gender roles play a massive part in the subject.
Even though the population is still increasing, the rate at which the population is increasing is decreasing rapidly, and many people say that after a certain point, the population will fall. (Photo Credit: Rob Curran / Unsplash)

Fertility rates have decreased at an increasing rate recently, and people have started to take notice. World wide, fertility has decreased from an average of 5 births per woman in the 1950s  to 2.3 births per woman currently. The current projection for fertility for 2050 is 2.1 births per woman.

The long term belief that global populations will become too big and that we will have to cut down on resources in order to keep up is now in the past. There have been several arguments made over the issue. There are different opinions on how to address it, whether there should be political solutions or whether it is up to institutions to make the option more available for women. However, the entirety of the problem comes down to one thing: whether women choose to have children or not.

In a world of many challenges and societal expectations, the decision to pick sides can feel impossible.  Because of countless issues with the world such as climate change, constant economic fluctuations, and government issues, the world has become a place a lot of women can’t envision raising a child in. The main issue is societal expectations. Women often feel stuck choosing between motherhood and their career, with limited options to do both. A lot of women feel trapped to choose one over the other because of the many opinions that society seems to have on their individual decision, the opinion on the role of women in society. 

For example, the more conservative and traditional belief is that women should stay home and take care of the children, in other words that the traditional roles of a providing father and a stay at home mom are fulfilled and that women spend their time taking care of their children and the home. 

People who tend to have more liberal beliefs argue that women should be career women and that the population is already increasing enough. People who hold more progressive ideals also have argued that women can do both. They can have a successful career, while simultaneously raising their children. But the options are more complex than this. The facts are that it depends on where you are, how wealthy you are, your gender, and education. All of these factors play a role in whether or not you even have a choice to be a stay at home mom or be able to maintain a stable career. 

Science says that the optimal age for women to have children is their mid-late twenties. By the time they reach their early thirties, the amount of their viable eggs is cut in half, and by the time they reach their mid thirties, this number is cut in half again. However, as a woman in your mid-twenties, you are completing graduate school, or applying to med school or law school. You are interviewing for jobs, and you are really starting to dive into your career. How can you have children at this time? 

The amount of options for women to have children at this time are slim. Why wouldn’t you be focused on your career at this time? In our society, education is emphasized and prioritized. You are expected to go to school from five years old all the way up to your twenties in order to have a successful career, to ensure your security and a good way of life. 

You have to work hard, have straight As, have infinite extracurriculars in order to have a chance at getting into a good college. After all of this you have to do it all over again in order to get into either a good graduate school or job. When you finally get that job,  you are expected to settle down all of the sudden, get married, and have a family. Why is it that women have to give up everything they worked so hard for in order to have children for the sake of having a family? 

In countries such as the United States, you have more options to be able to choose between your career and raising children. However, countries such as Germany, Italy, and Spain hold a more male-breadwinner ideology, the belief that the man’s contribution to the household is working. Women’s main contribution would be a domestic one where it would be fulfilling to stay at home, focus on their community, children, and caregiving.  These circumstances are found to have a heavy impact on whether or not women choose to have children within these societies.

The choice also depends on what the society in the country tends to value.  If there is an emphasis or if the work life tends to be more relaxed. If in that country there are long hours that are not flexible, it is really hard to simultaneously raise children while working the extensive hours. 

Other factors include the cost. With the rise of inflation, costs for ordinary needs for children such as clothes, food, and diapers is rapidly increasing. With income not getting higher, and prices only getting higher, this causes an extremely expensive lifestyle that many people are not in the position to pay for at the “ideal” time to have children. The age range to be admitted and study in a graduate school program is getting older, and careers are only starting later and later, the separation between the amount of income coming into the household and the prices surging is only getting further and further away. 

The subject of having children has become very political as well. With the turnover of Roe v. Wade and anti-feminism today, the subject has taken a more political path today. With certain parties fighting for a more domestic life for women and other parties fighting for women’s careers, the subject has been caught in a matter merely to win the favor of the people for future elections. 

Because of this, the subject has now faced contemplation on whether it should even be considered political. Between the prospects of having children being a political,  humanitarian, or  moral issue – or possibly all three – it has managed to gain the attention from all three areas of sociology. Dr. Eunsil Oh, a sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said, “I think a subject doesn’t become political. I think every subject should be political.” 

Dr. Oh further dives into the politics of the subject, stating, “Rather than looking at what lies at the heart of the issue, politicians, if they want to play their political games, they might say, ‘Lets not educate women anymore.’ This is what happened with one of the politicians, saying if you don’t have kids, you should serve in the military. They were being political in that sense, but it was only for the politics, there was nothing behind their logic that supported their own positioning.” The ideas for gender roles for women and the reasoning behind why a lot of women are choosing to not have children was more political in this sense, to fulfill their own agendas rather than a more logical argument that would better society. 

The subject is twisted in some sense in an extremely narrow minded approach saying that women being educated is the reason for why women don’t want to have children. Even though statistically, higher educated women choose to not have children, there is a lot more that goes into this — to go straight into the topic with that kind of straight forward mindset instead of having a more open approach completely closed off room for better solutions and discussion. 

Dr. Oh elaborates further on this stating, “In other words, I don’t argue that one should frame it in a certain way that is not representing what is at the heart of the issue. That’s wrong, obsessing over the framing, that’s not correct, but almost all topics demand you to pick a position.” 

Dr. Oh’s research mainly focuses on East Asia. Yet in recent years she has also been addressing the declining fertility rates in South Korea. She touches on this, stating, “In Korea, there was a very interesting issue, relating to fertility rates. In almost all post industrial societies, fertility rates go down when women get more education. But the reason behind Korea’s low fertility rate is not because women are getting education, it’s because they are treated unequally and there is high pressure in raising kids, it’s expensive, and there’s not enough policies. Or you have policies, but it’s not working because of Korea’s culture and systems.” 

Because of the political background in the subject, people are forced to choose between one or the other instead of finding a way to make more flexible options for women. The ideology that women can have it all is now dwindling. Now, if you work while having kids, you sacrifice having a deep relationship with your children and miss out on a lot of moments that you would be present for as a stay-at-home parent. However, if you choose to stay at home, you are looked down upon and seen as weak, as you chose to financially rely on a man. There is no two way street in the matter, and as the topic becomes more political, the options become more and more divided.

As of today, the topic of why women are starting to choose to not have children in our modern era is becoming a more pressured issue, with many people having different opinions on it. The main goal on how to solve this is to create a society and a world that women can envision themselves having a family in while still being able to achieve their own personal goals.

As of today, the topic of why women are starting to choose to not have children in our modern era is becoming a more pressured issue, with many people having different opinions on it. The main goal on how to solve this is to create a society and a world that women can envision themselves having a family in while still being able to achieve their own personal goals.

About the Contributor
Sophia Nguyen, Staff Reporter
Sophia Nguyen is a Staff Reporter for 'The Science Survey.' What she finds most appealing about journalism is how she gets the opportunity to write on topics for which she is passionate. For Sophia, journalism serves as a platform for her to voice her own opinions, as well as hearing those of others. One of her favorite things about journalism is the connections that she makes during interviews and what she learns about the person she is talking to. She loves hearing people’s opinions on any subject and gaining perspective about the world. Other interests of Sophia's outside of school include playing the piano and competing in Model United Nations.