”Given falling fertility rates, it is a surprise and welcome development to see a growing share of Americans would actually like to have two or more children,” he said.
”The key here is marriage,” he noted. “Young adults who marry in their 20s or early 30s have a much better shot at realizing their dreams of having two or more children. So we need to make marriage more attractive and attainable for young men and women today.”
Wilcox and other sociologists have been sounding alarm bells on declining marriage rates for years. Demographers and statisticians have further noted that sharply declining fertility rates could pose significant risks to the financial and social stability of the U.S.
Brown said polling elsewhere raises additional questions about the responses to the Gallup survey.
”Pew just found that only 26% of respondents said having children was extremely or very important for people to live a fulfilling life (compared to 71% for having a job they enjoy),” he said. ”So I am skeptical that this apparent shift in thinking towards the ‘ideal number’ tells us a great deal about people’s individual preferences. But it is a trend worth keeping an eye on.”
Gallup itself acknowledged as much, noting that in spite of the more favorable responses to large families, ”the U.S. birth rate remains low compared with the 1970s, suggesting that Americans’ views of the ideal may not be their personal reality.”
The polling service noted that young American adults — those under 30, who historically have had higher fertility rates relative to older groups — tend to express a desire for large families roughly equal to that of their older counterparts.
The fertility decline ”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,” Gallup pointed out.