Americans’ Preference for Larger Families Reaches 50-Year High

A family of a mother and father and four children pose outside.
Unsplash/Rajiv Perera

Americans’ preference for larger families — having three or more children — has reached its highest percentage since 1971, a new Gallup survey found.

Forty-five percent of Americans think the “ideal number of children for a family to have” is three or more. Broken down further, 29 percent say having three children is ideal, 12 percent think four is best, and 2 percent would prefer to have five or more children, the survey found. While 44 percent of U.S. adults think having two children is best, 3 percent prefer a single child. Only 2 percent say the ideal family has no children.

Gallup began periodically surveying Americans about ideal family size in 1936, when 64 percent of Americans reported favoring families with three or more children. Preference for families of three or more children peaked at 77 percent in 1945, “at the end of World War II and just before the baby boom,” the survey found. Sixty-one percent of Americans preferred families of at least three children through 1967.

“At the highest point during the baby boom, the average number of children per U.S. family was 3.6,” according to the survey report:

Gallup credited the steep decline in preference for larger families between 1967 and 1971 in part to “concerns about a global population explosion, resulting from the 1968 eco-doom bestseller book entitled The Population Bomb,” written by Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich. The book notably generated mass hysteria over the future of the world and the earth’s ability to sustain human life yet was demonstrably proved wrong.

Gallup assessed that changes in societal norms, including “women’s increased role in the workplace, a growing acceptance of premarital sex, and economic concerns,” could have affected views.

Americans’ preference for families with one or two children “became standard” in 1973, the same year the Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade decision, which created a supposed “right” to abortion and can be credited with an estimated 64 million abortions in the following 50 years.

“These preferences were evident in U.S. birth rates, as the average number of children per family in the U.S. dropped to 1.8 by 1980 — half of what it was at the peak of the baby boom,” according to the survey report.

By 1986, 64 percent of Americans preferred having one or two children, although the trend subsequently turned downward with sporadic spikes in times of economic instability. But in stronger economic times, “such as 1997 to 2018,” the gap between preferences for smaller and larger families narrowed, the survey found.

Gallup found the belief that the ideal family size includes three or more children has been “rising steadily” in recent years and is up four percentage points from previous polling in 2018.

Actual Family Size Doesn’t Always Match Their Ideal

While other polling has found that roughly one in four states having children or being married is extremely or very important for living a fulfilling life, Gallup found that nine in ten U.S. adults have children or want to have children.

The survey report states:

This includes 69 percent who already have children, 15 percent who are aged 18 to 40 and are not yet parents but say they want to be someday, and 6 percent who are aged 41 and older and do not have children but wish they did. Just 8 percent of U.S. adults indicate no intent or longing to have children,” the survey report states. 

Young adults younger than 30 are “far less likely” than older respondents to already have children; however, 63 percent report wanting to have children someday.

Gallup analyzed:

Young adults are also more likely than older age groups to think having three or more children is ideal. Thus, the greater risk of the U.S. population shrinking due to a declining birth rate may stem from young adults waiting much longer than prior generations to start having children rather than from a decreased desire to have children altogether.

The survey found that Americans’ actual family size “doesn’t always match their ideal.” Gallup found that even though Americans have increasingly preferred larger families since the Great Recession, U.S. birth rates have continued to decline.

“This suggests that while they may see larger families as ideal, other factors are preventing them from implementing this in their own lives,” the survey report states. 

Overall, three in ten U.S. adults say they do not have any children, while 14 percent have had one child, 28 percent have had two, 15 percent have had three, 7 percent have had four, and 5 percent have had five or more. 

Differing Views by Subgroups

The survey found “sizable difference” among various subgroups and their preference for smaller or bigger families, including by age, race/ethnicity, annual household income, religious preference and service attendance, and political affiliation.

The survey found:

As has been the case in the recent past, younger adults — those aged 18 to 29 — are more likely than any other age group to say having three or more children is ideal. Likewise, Black and Hispanic adults favor larger families more than White adults do. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and those with lower incomes are more likely than their counterparts to view larger families as ideal.

Fifty percent of Republicans and those who lean Republican prefer to have three or more children, compared to 40 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaners who feel the same.

Fifty-three percent of Democrats and those who lean Democrat report preferring one or two children. Interestingly, another recent survey from the Pew Research Center found that 55 percent of Democrats believe the trend of having less children has a “positive impact” on the environment.  This belief can likely be traced to 78 percent of Democrats believing that climate change is a “major threat to the country.”

Democrats’ embrace of climate change alarmism and the majority belief that fewer children are good for the environment is likely rooted in the idea of “overpopulation” and exceeding the earth’s “carrying capacity,” which means to exceed the supposed maximum number of individuals that an environment can sustain over time without destroying or degrading the environment.

But despite overpopulation fears, calls from Democrats and left-wing institutions to modify much of modern life because of climate change and the push for unfettered abortion access, Democrat politicians have insisted the U.S. needs more immigration to compensate for declining fertility.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in 2022 [emphasis added]:

We have a population that is not reproducing on its own with the same level that it used to. The only way we’re going to have a great future in America is if we welcome and embrace immigrants, the dreamers and all of them — because our ultimate goal is to help the Dreamers [illegals who were brought in by their parents] get a path to citizenship for all 11 million — or however many undocumented there are here.

Results for the poll are based on telephone interviews conducted between June 1-22 and July 3-27, with a random sample of 1,012 U.S. adults. The margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

Katherine Hamilton is a political reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow her on X @thekat_hamilton.


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