By Sheila Nonato
It may seem like climate change is the No. 1 concern for most Canadians. But it’s not a major factor in Canadian women’s decisions about the size of their families, according to a new report released by Cardus.
“We’re responding to social media worries (that suggest) everybody is worried about climate change. Do climate change worries explain low fertility? They do not,” said Lyman Stone, senior fellow and demographer at Cardus, , a Canadian non-partisan think-tank based in Hamilton, Ont.
“Sometimes, there’s this idea that the only people who want more kids are people who are in denial about the world,” Stone said; “There is more demand for more kids, on both sides of the political debate about climate change,” Stone said about the report, entitled “Climate and the Crib: Do Environmental Concerns Reduce Fertility?”
The Cardus study concluded that climate change did not have an impact on women’s decisions about their family size.
Samantha Ricci can attest to that. She is a 34-year-old mother of five from Hamilton, Ont., who can say without a doubt that climate change and world issues did not factor into her and husband Danny’s choice to have children.
“We see children as a blessing. They are a benefit not only to our family, but to our greater community and the world. This, I feel, is the opposite of how the world tells us to view children. They are often treated as a burden or a drain on resources. In my humble experience, this cannot be further from the truth,” Ricci said.
“Watching my children grow and interact with our world gives me hope. Hope in our future and the future of civilization.”
In recent years, some news reports have been suggesting a new trend of “going child-free” for some people concerned about lowering their carbon footprint. The trend had been touted by some as an antidote to the world’s environmental problems.
“Climate-change worries predicted considerably lower reported fertility ideals, a smaller reduction in fertility intentions, and no significant difference in actual fertility behaviours. This suggests that climate-change worries are not a major determinant of Canadian fertility behaviours,” concluded the 24-page Cardus report published on Nov. 15.
In a survey of 2,700 Canadian women aged 18 to 44 on family and fertility, almost half of those near the end of their reproductive years responded that “they desire more children that they will likely not have.”
Furthermore, only 28 per cent of women surveyed under age 30 who wanted to have more children than they currently had singled out climate change as a factor in their family-planning decisions.
The study found that climate change worry ranked 10th out of 34 factors affecting the family-planning decisions of women under the age of 30.
According to the report, women worried about climate change said 1.9 children was their ideal family size compared to 2.5 children for women not worried about climate change.
The top five family-planning concerns of women under the age of 30 who desired more children were: “Want to grow as a person” landing in the top spot, followed, in order, by: “Need to focus on career,” “Overall low income,” “Desire for leisure consumption” and “Desire to save money.” “General worry about the world” landed in 15th spot and overpopulation concerns took the 18th spot.
The study noted that there are a set of complex worries, beliefs and anxieties that affect how many children women have and their openness to having children. One of these factors is political affiliation. The study asked respondents about their voting behaviour in the last federal election. The report found that political affiliation “is strongly associated with ideal family size and that concerns about climate change don’t predict much additional difference in fertility ideals.”
“A key finding is that if you look at NDP voters, they have lower fertility desires than, say, Conservatives, There’s a big gap … Political partisanship is at work here, not so much climate change worries per se,” said Stone.
“In general, women who reported left-leaning voting behaviour are likelier to report most worries and concerns on the list as affecting their child-bearing decisions, similar to the dynamic that was observed for less-religious women in the earlier Cardus report,” the study said.
The Cardus report concluded, “As policymakers think about climate change and fertility, then, it would be prudent for them to be less concerned with a link between climate change and fertility (or any specific worry and fertility), and more concerned with why many women today feel a need to adopt various rationalizations for low fertility.”
According to Statistics Canada, there were fewer Canadian babies born as the country’s fertility rate hit a record low in 2020 since 2007. It also reported “the greatest year-over-year decrease in births (-3.6 per cent) since 1997, a trend similar to several other countries.”
Statistics Canada warned that if its fertility rates continue to decline further in the coming years, “Canada could join the countries with the ‘lowest-low’ fertility rates (1.3 or fewer children per woman) — a situation associated with rapid population aging and increased stress on the labour market, public health care and pension systems.”
From The Catholic Register