A new study has apparently shown that intelligent women are less likely to want children.
And as a woman with no children but who hopes to have children in the future, this leaves me extremely concerned about my limited brain capacity.
So let me tell you about the detail of these findings before my pesky uterus dilutes my mental capabilities even further.
According to London School of Economics researcher, Satoshi Kanazawa, a woman’s desire to have children decreases by 25 per cent for every additional 15 IQ points. Kanazawa also cites further studies to back up his findings. This includes a study that shows one in five 45-year-old women are childless but that the proportion doubles for women of the same age who hold a bachelors degree or higher.
Cue: everyone run to the Internet to freak the hell out.
About 50 per cent of the angry online mob angrily began throwing around angry phrases like this:
How dare he! Mothers aren’t stupid. Just because I’ve had a child, it doesn’t mean I’ve given up my mind! My daughter is almost nine and everyone says she gets her brains from me! My IQ is at least 10 billion and I have THREE KIDS!
The commentary of the remaining 50 per cent went a little something like this: It’s Darwinism in reverse! We’re breeding out the brains! These barren women are just selfish! If intelligent women refuse to procreate, the world will be robbed of the much anticipated genius children of the future! Lisa Simpson will NEVER be a reality! Sob. Sob. Etc.
(Meanwhile, MM publisher Mia Freedman, asked to discuss the findings on Mornings today shrugged and said “well, I have three kids and would love to have more – clearly I’m a moron”)
And I have to confess to being a part of the push-back. I immediately began pounding on my keyboard, listing reasons why the study was bogus…
1. There isn’t just one kind of intelligence. IQ tells you nothing about someone’s determination, dedication, empathy, emotional insight, creativity or ability to lead.
2. Surely this is more about educational attainment than intelligence? The link between women’s access to education and the number of children they have has long been established.
3. It’s insulting to presume that having no children is always a deliberate choice, when for many women it’s simply a heartbreaking reality.
But before I continue, let’s take a moment’s pause and ask Caitlin Moran’s trademark question when diagnosing sexism: Are the men doing it?
Is anyone studying links between men’s IQ and their desire to have kids?
The answer is no.
There are no researchers* seeking to answer the question of whether intelligent men have lots of children. Or whether dads who rise to the upper echelons of achievement in their respective industries are more or less likely to have kids under 10. Nobody has conducted a study that links the cluckiness of blokes with their levels of educational attainment, independent wealth or IQ.
This only goes to prove that this study – despite being seized on by the media as a ‘mummy war’ – is trying to answer the wrong question.
The right question is this: Do highly intelligent women still feel that they’d have to give up (or at least make major sacrifices) in their careers in order to have children? And, has our society become more accepting of women who choose not to have children and therefore made it easier for women to make a deliberate decision not to become mothers?
Carolina Miranda writes for Time Magazine that “52 years after the advent of the birth control pill, and more than a century after the word “feminism” was first coined, a woman’s decision not to have children remains fraught”
“It is also very public, relentlessly scrutinized by psychologists, politicians, statisticians and the media, who gather to discuss what it may mean — for women, for the funding of Social Security, for Western civilization as we know it.”
And she makes a fair point. Whose business is it anyway?
For me, the decision to have children is an entirely personal one. Right now, it’s not something I want. I certainly expect it is something I will want in the relatively near future (sorry mum, no baby shower anytime soon). But that’s nobody’s business except my own and, when the time comes, my partner’s.
If I chose to have children it won’t be because of some grand plan to further the human race, or to prove that I won’t become dumber, or to show the world that I can balance work and family.
It will be because I want to.
And if I chose not to, it’s won’t be because I crave the demise of humanity or because I have made a conscious decision to pick work over family.
It will be because I don’t.
As a community we are slowly becoming more accepting of a woman’s choice not to have children. But it is still considered unusual; unnatural even. And we shouldn’t kid ourselves that we have achieved true gender equality until a woman’s deliberate decision to have or not have children is viewed as hers. Not as something that is driven by and subject to stereotypical societal expectation.
Besides… Children are bloody expensive. So may I venture another reason for Kanazawa’s findings: Maybe being childless is not so much about IQ, as it is about being good at maths.
*Kanazawa is also responsible for psychological studies that have concluded black women are more ‘ugly’ than white women. So we have to take his racially charged and gendered delusions with a grain of digital salt and bear in mind that this is a man who spends far too much time researching things that are simply unmeasurable but make lots of people angry.
Do you think there is any merit in this study? Why do you think is the reason that women with high IQ are less likely to have children?