This question is very closely linked to my other question here: culture changes to reliable and mandated birth control used from puberty until ready to conceive

Lets say that a reliable birth control is mandated in the near-future (where birth control is safer and more reliable then now). The birth control can be easily deactivated when someone is ready to have a child, but it ensures that pregnancy rarely occurs unless the mother intended for it to happen.

The question above asks about the effect of birth control in general to sex and culture. For this question I want to look at a more specific area, what is the effect of a child never (well, very rarely) being born to a mother who did not plan to conceive?

What happens when you never have to deal with an unwanted baby? How would this effect things like child services, and adoption? How would the society look half a generation later when you have a generation of now-adults that consists of no-one born to a parent that never wanted them?

I know some studies have suggested crime rate dropped due to legalizing of abortion avoiding children born to parents that didn't want them who, supposedly, would be more likely to engage in crime due to being raised in the sort of home life where your unwanted and/or unloved. These studies are controversial due to the fact that their about abortion, but would similar, or even more drastic, effects occur where birth control prevented these pregnancies from occurring?

If a change in society would occur when the first generation of all-planned children grow up how big, or small, might the change be? would there be any negative results of it?

Some degree of social services would no doubt have to exist, but would it and adoption look any different?

Presumably the total population size (or growth) will be effected to some degree, though I'm not sure if it would be a noticeable difference. If it would be then what effects would the smaller population density have?

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    $\begingroup$ Keep in mind that even if you think you want a child, it's quite possible you don't, or will change your mind in the next nine months. But I really like this question, and am looking forward to seeing the answers. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 13:35
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    $\begingroup$ Inhowfar is this a "near-future" question? We have condoms, the pill, abortions. Accidents happen, change-of-mind happens, stupidity happens, but for most practical purposes we started to answer this question several decades ago... $\endgroup$
    – DevSolar
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 14:02
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    $\begingroup$ Personally I think all the effects are already there to be seen, just perhaps not as pronounced as in your scenario. It basically depends on the society already in place. Some don't give a damn and have as many kids as they like, because that's what god told us to do or somesuch. Some reflect on the implied costs, risks etc. and decide not to procreate. Overall you get the effect of poor / traditional populations procreating, and a good portion of intelectual / well-off populations not doing so, or doing it less. Poor countries overpopulating, rich ones aging. I.e., just what we have today. $\endgroup$
    – DevSolar
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ Very interesting question. While unable to provide a useful answer, i would still like to point out that even if the mother wants a baby, that does not necessarily mean the father does, too. So, unless your hypothetical system takes that into account, the potential beneficiary effect might be halved by the fact that it only covers half the parents. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ A majority of pregnancies are not unplanned: "Worldwide, 38% of pregnancies (about 80 million pregnancies) were unintended in 1999" (source). $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 14:24

2 Answers 2


This website may have all the answers you need, though the information is US based. Of particular interest is the graph at the top: In the US, only 49% of pregnancies are intended. Note that there is a huge difference between unintended and unwanted pregnancies; a difference of 31%, in fact.

Pregnancies by intention status


More than one in 10 single men indicated that they did not know about the pregnancy until after the child was born. Among single men aware of the pregnancy, nearly three out of four births were reported as unintended.

With that data, we can surmise that population growth would drop by at least 51%, which is a staggering amount. If growth didn't return, the population of the US would plummet dramatically, as fewer and fewer children would exist.

Unintended pregnancies are costly:

Total public expenditures on unintended pregnancies nationwide were estimated to be \$21.0 billion in 2010. Of that, \$14.6 billion were federal expenditures and \$6.4 billion were state expenditures.

That doesn't count cost to the parent(s), either, and it's still a significant amount of money.

I imagine that several things would happen within a single generation:

  • Children would more than likely have marginally better lives; the highest number of unintended pregnancies are to low-income families who often have trouble supporting their children, and thus the number of children in bad situations would drop.
    • However, poor areas with very low growth would get much, much poorer, since there would be very few young workers to bring in income in the next generation.
    • Poor areas would also see less education money come in, because they would have so few students.
  • There would be a bit more money to spend - briefly. For a few years, the cost of various birth controls and other such supplies would no longer be a drain; however, extra money always goes somewhere, so the long term effect would be very, very small.
  • Unfortunately, there would be little impact to adoptions. The vast number of children waiting to be adopted are not infants given up at birth, but rather children who were either removed from their home by the government, or who were orphaned. Babies tend to get adopted very quickly, while older children do not. There would be fewer babies to adopt, but the number of parents wanting to adopt a baby would remain constant, or even go up.
  • Population growth would plummet. Not only would the 51% of births mentioned above not happen, there would be even more that wouldn't happen because people simply couldn't be bothered to have their birth control reversed, or because a man wants to conceive but the woman does not or vice versa.
    • Lower population would mean fewer tax contributions; the larger, older generation would have less support, leading to a poorer older generation.
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    $\begingroup$ You're assuming that the 31% "mistimed" would all never have children and that all people who have an unwanted child would never ever ever otherwise choose to have one at any later point in their lives. A child can be solidly unwanted at 13 but wanted at 30. $\endgroup$
    – Murphy
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 11:09
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    $\begingroup$ You're also assuming that families where children are removed from their home by the government aren't predominantly also in the unwanted/mistimed category. $\endgroup$
    – Murphy
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 11:13

Unwanted pregnancies can have fairly devastating and life changing effects on the mother. Generally there is a heavy social and economic burden. Sadly, the economic and social state of the parents has a direct impact on the children, which is why a large rate of unwanted pregnancies increases the crime rate for the next generation. If your mother was socially and economically marginalized because she had to quit school or stay home or developed health issues, you are more likely to be marginalized as well, and growing up marginalized gives you little reason to respect the laws and rules of those "other people".

So yes, eradicating unwanted pregnancies would reduce eventually social effects that are impacted by social marginalization of parents. "Amusingly", one of those is sexual promiscuity so that countries that resist abortion because it encourages sexual promiscuity might end up with higher rates of teenage pregnancies.

I am not going to list the effects since there are really too many variables and also because the topic is somewhat politically sensitive. (So that for pretty much anything I could say, somebody else has argued the opposite.) But you can probably safely assume there will be less persistent social and economic marginalization and thus there will be less persistent marginalized social groups.

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    $\begingroup$ I think you're last paragraph nails why there has been little response to these two questions. No one wants to start a feud over rights in the comment section. They get pretty bad on the news sites that still allow comments on their articles. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 17:14

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