1 in 4 Childless Adults Say Climate Change Has Factored Into Their Reproductive Decisions

Hispanics, young people are especially likely to cite climate crisis among reasons they haven’t had children
(Getty Images / Morning Consult illustration by Samantha Elbouez)
September 28, 2020 at 6:00 am UTC

Key Takeaways

  • 11% of childless adults say climate change is a “major reason” they don’t currently have children, while 15% say it is a “minor reason.”

  • Childless Hispanic adults are especially likely to say climate change has factored into their reproductive decisions, at 41%.


A new series from Morning Consult takes a deeper look at how the coronavirus could permanently alter millennials’ behavior and how, in turn, that could impact the economy at large. The data is drawn from a poll of 4,400 adults, including 1,287 millennials.


For some childless adults, climate change looms large when they consider whether or not to reproduce. According to recent Morning Consult data, 11 percent of that group say climate change is a “major reason” they do not currently have children, and 15 percent say it plays a minor role.

While climate change was among the least-cited reasons for those who do not currently have children (behind financial, political and career concerns, among others), the fact that it comes to mind for a quarter of respondents underscores the fact that its impacts are becoming increasingly visible to the public.

Childless Hispanic respondents were especially likely to say their concern for climate change has impacted their plans, with 41 percent saying it is a major or minor reason they don’t have children. Thirty percent of Black respondents and 23 percent of whites said the same.  

This demographic breakdown largely mirrors responses to another poll asking respondents how much of a role climate change has played in recent natural disasters; Black and Hispanic respondents to that survey were especially likely to say climate change contributed substantially to events like the ongoing wildfires scorching the West Coast.   

And regionally, 33 percent of those in the West said climate change plays a part in their reproductive decision-making. Adults (both with and without children) in the region were also more likely than their counterparts in other parts of the country to say they were considering moving due to natural disasters.

The Sept. 8-10 poll surveyed 4,400 U.S. adults. The overall poll has a margin of error of 1 percentage point, and the childless group (2,201 adults) has a margin of error of 2 points. The margin of error is 2 points for white adults and 6 points for both Hispanic and Black adults.

Baby boomers were less likely (16 percent) than members of other generations to cite climate change as a reason for not having children, perhaps unsurprisingly: for most, the phenomenon was not part of the popular conversation when they made decisions about whether or not to have children. However, for both Gen Zers and millennials, the issue seems more salient, with 37 percent and 34 percent, respectively, saying it is a major or minor reason they do not have children. 

About a quarter of both men and women expressed concern about climate change as a factor in their reproductive decisions.

These results come two years after a 2018 Morning Consult survey for The New York Times, which found that 33 percent of 20- to 45-year-old adults cited climate change as a reason they had or expected to have fewer children than they considered ideal.

Lisa Martine Jenkins previously worked at Morning Consult as a senior reporter covering energy and climate change.

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