More than Ever Utah Couples are Deciding to Not Have Children. We Ask, Why?

From 2010 to 2020, Utah’s birth rate declined by almost 22 percent, a trend mirrored across the US during a decade marked by economic struggle and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.


Baby Boomers to Baby Busters — More Couples are Deciding to Not Have Children

From 2010 to 2020, Utah’s birth rate declined by almost 22 percent, a trend mirrored across the US during a decade marked by economic struggle and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Research released in August 2022 by the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute illustrates this decrease. 

In 2010, Utah held the nation’s top slot with 2.45 births per woman. But by 2020, that number had dropped to 1.92, placing the beehive state fourth behind South Dakota, Nebraska and North Dakota.

The generation of baby boomers children born from 1946 to 1964 has now given way to “baby busters” as falling birth rates track with the economic instability of the times.

Some Utah couples had to move back in with parents because of skyrocketing mortgages and rents. But Utah State University’s Marriage Handbook cautions that this living arrangement “rarely works out well.”

Along with budget woes, other factors also play a role. And a surprising number of couples are simply deciding not to have children.

Dogs over kids. Illustration by Chris Bodily.
Dogs over kids. Illustration by Chris Bodily.


West Bountiful residents Sheena McFarland and James Houchins met in their early 30s and married in mid-2017.

“When James and I first got together, we had thought kids would be in (our) path,” McFarland said. “Now we’re both 40. We knew the biological clock was ticking.”

After being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, McFarland also learned that her prescribed medication could damage a developing fetus. 

So she and Houchins explored adoption options and found that simply getting a child “through the door” could cost a daunting $50,000.

“How do we budget that?” said McFarland, who works in college-level marketing and communications.

She and Houchins both had adoptive parents and grew up as the oldest child in their respective families she of seven, he of three. So they’d already done their share of child-rearing.

“As we thought about both the financial and lifestyle sides of it, we made the decision that we love to travel so much that getting to explore the world was the option for us,” McFarland said.

For Salt Lake City resident Kim McDaniel, her decision not to have children came as a growing awareness that she could make that choice. As a teen, she discovered that one of her grandparents’ friends never had children. 

“I don’t know if that was a conscious decision or if they tried, but I had this sudden realization that I could legitimately NOT have them and that nobody could make me,” McDaniel said. “It was a huge relief!” 

McDaniel and her husband dated in high school during the late 1980’s and married in 1994. Now 51, she does marketing for the nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society and has no regrets about their decision.

”I appreciate the time and attention I can devote to my pets, my aging parents, my career, travel, hobbies, and my charitable interests,” McDaniel said.

Ogden residents Sarah Welliver met Ryan Duffy through Tinder in 2016. Now at 41 and 38 respectively, they proudly parent two lovable dogs. But children are decidedly not in their future. 

“We get to take our kids for walks and we don’t have to worry about college funds,” Welliver grinned.

Welliver and Duffy, both military veterans, lived in several states and countries before settling in Ogden. 

“It’s sort of what you see, like an expectation,” Welliver said of her high school mindset about having children some time in the future. “But as I got older, I knew that wasn’t what I wanted.”

Still, she grappled with the guilt of not giving her mom grandkids. 

“But we talked through that,” Welliver said, concluding that “letting your mom down isn’t a reason to have a kid.”

   Duffy is fully onboard with their child-free family.

“I think we all have a vision of what we want as an adult and mine was a wife and dogs,” Duffy said. But he considers it “selfish of others to say I have a social responsibility to have kids.”


Each of these couples had trouble identifying any downside to their decision.

“I have the freedom to do the hobbies I enjoy,” Duffy said. “I honestly have difficulty finding a con.”

Duffy, a firefighter at Dugway, enjoys woodworking in his spare time. Welliver worked as a photojournalist for several years and now serves as the public information officer for Utah’s Department of Health & Human Services.

“I felt I was trying to make the world better in small ways,” Welliver said of her demanding decade in journalism. “I still feel like I am. And that’s enough for me.”

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