Are Smarter Women Less Likely to Want Kids? Yep, Says One New Study

A new study by a somewhat iffy researcher concludes that the higher a woman's IQ, the less likely she is to want children. Thoughts?

Aug 6, 2013 at 7:00pm | Leave a comment

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Here I am, tending to my baby's needs in a park in Brooklyn. (OK, fine -- that's my friend's stroller. And her daughter's doll, too. I'm not COMPLETELY crazy, people. Not yet, anyway.)

According to The Daily Mail, that esteemed British hotbed of nuanced analysis and insightful commentary, a new study is making waves for its conclusions that "smarter women are less likely to want babies."

The study, conducted by Satoshi Kanazawa, a researcher at the London School of Economics, "found that a woman's urge to have children decreases by a quarter for every 15 extra IQ points." So, per Kanazawa, the higher a woman’s IQ (intelligence quotient), the less likely it is for her to want rugrats. Interesting (?).

Also interesting, and something to keep in mind when considering the legitimacy of his study: Satoshi Kanazawa is the controversial anthropologist who was fired from Psychology Today for publishing an incredibly offensive blog post called "Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?." Yeah, that guy. So, as The Frisky notes, we would all do well to take his conclusions with a gargantuan grain of salt. 

For his new research, Kanazawa used data from the U.K.'s National Child Development Study, and the results stayed the same even when controls were added for economics and education. Who knows how many of the women who don't want kids actually go on to HAVE kids -- it’s not like all children are conceived on purpose. It’s also not like IQ is an ideal, or even accurate, barometer of a person’s intelligence. As discovered in the biggest online study on IQ, "There was not one single test or component that could accurately judge how well a person could perform mental and cognitive tasks ... there are at least three different components that make up intelligence or a 'cognitive profile': short-term memory, reasoning and a verbal component." 

In its story about Kanazawa's new research, the Daily Mail cites a stat that "one in five 45-year-olds is childless, while among those with degrees, the figure rises to 43 per cent, suggesting that Kanazawa's findings are sound." (I’m guessing that statistic only applies to the U.K., and I won't venture to guess whether it has anything to do with how "sound" Kanazawa's findings actually are.) That's about on par with numbers from a 2010 Pew report that showed about 1 in 5 American women "end their childbearing years maternity-free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s."

Of course, it’s not exactly breaking news that plenty of great women don’t want, plan, or have kids. TIME magazine just published a cover story about the "childfree" movement, noting that the American birthrate is at a record low and asking what that's all about. (Of course, the mag also seized the opportunity to posit one of those ridic "women having it all" questions, asking, "What happens when having it all means not having children?" (Seriously, you guys -- and I'm not just talking to TIME here -- why the "women having it all" crap? Still? When will it stop? What does it even MEAN?!)

The TIME story has sparked some good conversation, though, among and about women who choose to forgo motherhood, and  hopefully its coverage will help make being childfree (by choice, or not) a bit more normalized among the culture at large.

Honestly, at 36, I do feel the occasional weird stabs of shame about being single with no kids (I must have an incredibly high IQ, right?!). I've never had a strong maternal urge and I've been on the fence, since my mid-20s, about whether I'd ever want to tread into mother-land. Now? Some days I want that, some days I don't. And that's perfectly OK, and I refuse to feel like a freak for not being ZOMG DESPERATE FOR BABIESSS RIGHT THIS SECOND AHHHHH!!

The Daily Fail kindly reminded me that there are plenty of famous women, too, who are "too smart" (?) to opt to have wee ones -- Helen Mirren is famously childless. As are Oprah Winfrey, Eva Mendes and Cameron Diaz. (Diaz apparently once said she has the life she has "because I don't have children," and Mendes has said she appreciates her lifestyle too much to share it with children: "I don't want kids. I love sleep and I worry about everything.")

I wish we could just accept that different women want different things, and not pit "childfree" women against women who want or have kids. IMHO, these choices don't mean crap about our intelligence levels; they just reflect our individual dreams and goals and desires and priorities. We don't need to be shamed or patronized for our feelings and decisions about this super-personal, sometimes-complicated area of our lives.

Anyway, what do you guys think about this study's findings?