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Will climate change fears affect people’s family planning?

“I was looking at factors that affect the number of children that people choose to have,” 12th grader Sophie explains. “I was looking at the environmental aspect of that, so essentially whether or not concerns such as overpopulation or resource consumption were affecting people’s decision in terms of the number of children they would like to have. First, I did some desktop research and compiled a survey to answer the questions I had. Then I went into the streets to survey people and I came back and analyzed those results.

In general I found out that those people who were more concerned with personally being affected by climate change were more likely to lower their family size. It was one of the things I had expected. In terms of demographics, in general, younger generations were more likely to lower their family size due to the environment: People in their 20s and 30s were more likely to consider it than people in their 40s and 50s.

I had originally expected more men to lower their family size due to the environment because they were also less attached to having children than women were. In one survey, 40% of women said they were set on having children, whereas only 20% of the men did. A combination of these factors made me think that men would be more likely to ‘give up’ having a bigger family for the sake of the environment, but I actually found the opposite: Women were significantly more likely to lower their family size due to the environment, and looking back into research to try to find out why that could be, I found that women were found to be a little bit more risk-averse and more concerned about future generations, like their kids’ kids’ grandkids, and more concerned about the world that they were leaving behind whereas men didn’t necessarily think generations ahead about the impact that they were having. I thought that that was really interesting.

Most of my analysis was based on my field research, but when trying to explain the patterns that I saw I pulled on other people’s research. I had to pull from other surveys that were relevant to what I had done but none of them were really the same to what I had done. I thought it was cool that I didn't have anything to compare it to. I thought it was a really cool project, I really enjoyed it. I am planning to go into the healthcare field in some way, that's kind of what I’d like to do.”