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Brown students divided over “baby now or baby never”

The Wheeler School
Photo: “Ducklings in the Fall, Boston Public Garden, Boston, Massachusetts” by Rizka, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

By Griffin Steele

“I don’t feel like most Brown students are family-oriented,” said one junior who completed BOP’s most recent poll.

The Brown Opinion Project’s April 2023 poll asked the school’s undergraduate population: “If you had to choose, would you rather raise a child starting now or never have the opportunity?” This question is more commonly known as “baby now or baby never?” and resulted in an almost even split among respondents.

Brown students responded that they want their baby now, but only by a slight margin — 46.84% now compared to 42.04% never.

A look into the details reveals insight into the family planning practices of the newest parents in Providence.

Income was a common concern among the baby nevers. “If I had ten million dollars maybe I would choose baby now,” one first-year student stated.

“I want to go into academia, so I have several years ahead of me of no money. I know that the kid would be eight or nine before I had a real job, and I know that it would be really tough to raise a baby into a toddler into a small child [when] I might make at most $40,000 dollars a year,” added a junior.

Generational wealth and parental assistance also seemed to be factors at play: Of Brown students who said they were “upper class,” 53% wanted a baby now, compared to 50% of “middle class” and 41% of “lower class” students.

“I’m not in any type of financial or life stability, so I feel like bringing a baby into the world now would be very irresponsible of me. And I feel pretty strongly about it because I’m somebody who grew up lower class, and just thinking about how I experienced life as somebody who grew up like that — I would not want to carry that on to another person,” explained another “baby never” junior.

Relationship status was a greater concern for other students.

“So, currently I am in a relationship, but it’s been all of like a month, so I feel like jumping into a baby now in a month of a relationship is kind of crazy… a little scary,” said one member of the class of 2025.

A junior added, “Young couples usually make worse parents,” while another student was more concerned with the opinions of others: “I have traditional parents that would be very mad if I had a baby out of wedlock.”

“I don’t feel like most Brown students are family-oriented,” said one junior.

Other respondents were less concerned with traditional measures of stability and family readiness.

The heaviest drinkers on campus — those consuming 20 or more alcoholic beverages per week — were most prepared for parenthood, with 60% responding “baby now” compared to just 34% of the sober population.

Exactly 50% of men wanted their babies now compared to 46% of women. One BOP analyst theorized it could be that they took the question less seriously.

The data do reflect some of the sobering effects of deeper reflection.

The mature class of 2024 indicated that they were the most ready for children at 57% baby now, while the class of 2023, standing at the precipice of real adulthood, came in at 51% baby now. Mercifully, the class of 2026 was comfortable in their youth, as just 36% of these first-years wanted a baby now.

“I have conflicting feelings about whether I would want to bring a child into such a f*cked up world, can I say that? Anyway, and I feel like I don’t have the means or the maturity to be the best parent that I could be if I had to have a baby now … if I really need to have a relationship with a child later I feel like I could do that in other ways,” mused one first-year.

For some, it was less about serious reflection and more about looking at the situation in front of them.

“It's a nice happy week. I wonder if that makes people want a baby,” said one junior.

“Imagine a baby living in Perkins,” said another.

Note: All quoted poll-takers remain anonymous to maintain the integrity of Brown Opinion Project surveys. Brown Opinion Project conducted its April 2023 poll April 11th-April 13th, collecting 704 total responses from Brown undergraduate students. The margin of error is 3.71% with 95% confidence.


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