Ten years ago a groundbreaking cross-generational study revealed that greater freedom and new constraints were leading fewer young people to choose parenthood. In the intervening years, the decision to have a family has not gotten easier.
Stew Friedman, founding director of The Wharton School's Work/Life Integration Project, studied two generations of Wharton college students as they graduated: Gen Xers in 1992 and Millennials in 2012. The cross-generational study produced a stark discovery—the rate of graduates who planned to have children had dropped by nearly half over those 20 years. While some might wonder what this privileged group can tell us about broader trends in the United States, Friedman argues that they were “the canaries in the coal mine. . . . if they could not see a way to make their careers and families work, how could those with fewer opportunities and resources square this circle?”
In a new preface to this 10th anniversary edition of Baby Bust, Friedman observes that the birth rate in the United States has continued to decline in the years since. He offers new insights into why fewer people are choosing to have children, how the pandemic affected these trends, and what can be done about it.
In this book, Friedman addresses:
+ How views about work and family have changed; + Why men and women have different reasons for opting out of parenthood; + How family has been redefined; + What choices we face in our social and educational policy; and + How organizations and individuals—especially men—can spur cultural change.
In the debates on work and family, people of all generations are calling for a reasoned, thoughtful, research-driven contribution to the discussion. In Baby Bust, Friedman offers just that: an astute assessment of how far we have come and where we go from here.
Stew Friedman is an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School, where he has been since 1984 and is now Emeritus Practice Professor of Management. In 1991 he founded both the Wharton Leadership Program and the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project.
Friedman has been recognized by the biennial Thinkers50 global ranking of management thinkers every cycle since 2011, was honored with its 2015 Distinguished Achievement Award as the #1 expert in the field of talent, and in 2023 was inducted in its Hall of Fame. He was listed among HR Magazine’s most influential thought leaders, chosen by Working Mother as one of America’s most influential men who have made life better for working parents, and presented with the Families and Work Institute’s Work Life Legacy Award.
Following his stint as worldwide head of leadership development at Ford (1999–2001), Friedman founded Total Leadership, a management training and consulting company. He has won many teaching awards (The New York Times cited the “rock star adoration” he inspires in his students) and is an in-demand speaker, coach, and advocate for family-supportive policies in the private and public sectors. His books include Baby Bust, 10th Anniversary Edition: New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family (Wharton School Press, 2023); Parents Who Lead: The Leadership Approach You Need to Parent with Purpose, Fuel Your Career, and Create a Richer Life (Harvard Business Review Press, 2020); Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life (Harvard Business Review Press, 2014); and Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life (Harvard Business Review Press, 2008), among others.
"[T]hese findings are a wake-up call that our social and economic institutions need to change so that people who want to be parents can see a path to becoming parents. In the final chapter of Baby Bust, [Friedman] makes a good case for providing world-class child care, expanding family leave for both mothers and fathers, and relieving student debt."—Katrina Alcorn, The New York Times Motherlode Blog
"The good news is that millennial men are changing the way they define leadership and demanding work that fits around their families. And the seven policy changes Stew Friedman recommends would benefit all working Americans."—Katherine Bell, “Ideas that Shaped Management in 2013,” Harvard Business Review
"What a wonderful book. Stew Friedman stands out as one of the few male voices in the field. He understands better than anyone else how leadership, life, and business can fit together. Baby Bust offers a fascinating glimpse into how young people think about their work, their families, and their futures. It’s a succinct and invaluable read for managers, politicians, and all men and women seeking to better understand how the world is changing and to support greater freedom of choice."—Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America Foundation
"Baby Bust, based on Stew Friedman’s new groundbreaking study, documents the tremendous progress men and women have made in integrating work and life. Friedman's insights and recommendations have generated thoughtful discussions in my household (two entrepreneurs with a young child). This is an essential read for business leaders who want to create an egalitarian workplace and contribute to the revolution in work and family choices."—Neil Blumenthal, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Warby Parker
"Stew Friedman has always been a trailblazer, and he has done it again! The provocative finding that 2012 graduates of Wharton are much less likely to plan to have children than those 20 years ago will receive a great deal of attention. More importantly, Friedman has probed the complex reasons why, and these are even more significant and telling. A must-read for everyone—employees, employers, and families—so that we can be much more intentional in creating the workplaces and family lives of the future."—Ellen Galinsky, President, Families and Work Institute, and Author, Mind in the Making
"Stew Friedman’s unique cross-generational study finds both a triumphant new freedom for men and women and, at the same time, an indication of the deep conflicts between what we value and the lives to which we aspire. Baby Bust is a game-changing addition to the literature on work and family. Stew clearly and compassionately tells the story from the perspective of both men and women, echoing the challenges we all face as we seek to do meaningful work and have a meaningful life in today’s frenetic and tumultuous world."—Brad Harrington, Executive Director, Boston College Center for Work and Family
"Provocative and practical, Stew Friedman’s Baby Bust draws on his landmark study to document the metamorphosis in men’s and women’s views and expectations for work and family. As more women are leaning in to their careers, more men today want to be actively engaged in fatherhood. But both see conflicts between work and family life that are increasingly keeping them from choosing to be parents. Revelatory and rigorous, this urgent call to action is required reading for anyone who wants both men and women to be able to choose the world they want to live in."—John Gerzema, Author, The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future
"Important data and fascinating insights about the revolution we are experiencing in work and family. A must-read for anyone seeking to better understand how the world is changing and what new models will require."—Leslie A. Perlow, Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Harvard Business School, and Author, Sleeping with Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change the Way You Work
"Stew Friedman’s Baby Bust is a wake-up call for business. The lack of strong business and public support for the positive enactment of caregiving, breadwinning, and career advancement has redefined what employees see as possible in their lives. The future economic health and well-being of the U.S. may be at risk. This eye-opening study raises the critical questions and provides practical ideas for change."—Dr. Ellen Ernst Kossek, Basil S. Turner Professor of Management, Purdue University, Krannert School of Management and President of the Work and Family Researchers Network