When someone announces that a second baby is on the way, friends and family members almost expect it. But when someone announces a third, it’s sometimes surprising. Of course, having a family with three kids isn’t some sort of oddity, especially in the days of Kate Plus 8 — but it’s becoming increasingly rare. And when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.


While you don’t necessarily need a partner in order to have a baby, many women want to wait until they’re married to start a family. These days, the average birthing age for a woman is 27 when it used to be 23. It seems as though women are getting a “late” start, possibly making it more difficult to have that third baby. Also, kids are expensive. Adam Sternbergh from The Cut took the statistics and made a somewhat harrowing discovery: Based on today’s ideal family, middle children are going extinct.

The strange thing about this phenomenon is that it happened pretty quickly. Sternbergh quoted research from the  Pew Research Center that was conducted back in 1976, which stated that the average woman gave birth to more than three children by the end of her childbearing years.

That means that back in the ’70s, having four kids was extremely common, while today it may seem unmanageable to some.


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By comparison, 25% of women back then had three kids, 24% had two, and a staggering 11% only had one. That meant that single children were almost unheard of. Perhaps that’s why many people projected stereotypes on single children, such as being “spoiled” for not growing up with a sibling.

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Aside from women waiting for marriage, there are a few other things that have changed that might affect the extinction of middle children.


For one, as of last year, there’ve been more people renting apartments and homes between now and 1965. CNBC reported that 36.6% of people rented their homes in 2016. Often times, rentals don’t have the space that a standard home would have, meaning that some people just don’t have space for more than two kids.

This is extremely relatable to me, a mother of one. While I always envisioned having two kids, it’s hard to realize that might not be in the cards based on time, age, and combined income. At this stage, it’d be easier to win the lottery than to continue on and then have a third. I never realized that I’m actually in the majority.

So, where would the world be without middle children?


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Author Kevin Leman, who wrote the book The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are, thinks it’ll be pretty sad. “Middle children are like the peanut butter and jelly in the sandwich,” he said, per The Cut. “If you like a sandwich with nothing on it, enjoy.”

Middle children are thought to be the “peace keepers” of the family, according to HuffPost. Middle kids are usually agreeable and loyal, since they’re the ones who are most vying for their parent’s attention. Since they’re “stuck in the middle,” supposedly middle children are great with negotiating and are more willing to compromise than their siblings.

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While there are still families out there with three or more kids, it’s interesting to know that there’ll be fewer people out there to identify with the hardships of fictional middles like Jan Brady and Lisa Simpson, or real-life middle children like Pippa Middleton, Britney Spears, and Katy Perry. But maybe in a few decades, that’ll change once again.