Becki DeGeest doesn't know what's in store for her when she graduates from college this spring. But she knows one thing that's not in her future: children.
"It's not in the plan, anyway," she said.
Even as a young teenager, DeGeest said, her childhood friends fantasized about settling down in their hometowns and raising families, while she just wanted to get out.
"I love kids, but I've never really seen myself having kids," she said, adding that it doesn't mean she won't get married.
In fact, the 22-year-old Moorhead woman has been dating her boyfriend, Peter Lonnquist, for more than three years. While they've often talked of a future together, neither of them views children as part of the plan.
Surprisingly, they're not unique among millennials.
A recent study conducted by Stewart Friedman at the University of Pennsylvania showed that the number of recent grads planning to have children dropped by 30 percent from 1992 to 2012. Whether it's because of financial situations, career choices or the desire to travel, more young people are opting out when it comes to having children.
"For me, it's the traveling and career aspect of it," DeGeest said. "For Peter, finance definitely plays a role."
Others may have different reasons for the same decision.
David Flynn, a University of North Dakota professor of economics, said that many factors play a part in the decision to have kids, and if so, how many. They include the size of one's own family, one's religious upbringing and one's career path.
In general, people who come from families with four or more children often tend to have more children of their own. The same goes for people raised in a religious family.
On the other hand, women who are more career-oriented might opt out because they feel having a child might interrupt their desired career path, Flynn said. This is a decision women have that men don't necessarily face.
"Depending on what industry you're in, that may or may not matter," he said. "For instance, the nursing and teaching professions are, generally speaking, more amenable to the maternity-type leave." Alternatively, he said, someone with a business career might view having a child as a negative choice that might curb or slow advancement opportunities.
Economic factors play a big role in the decision, as well, because having a child represents a long-term financial commitment.
"With the long-time span of commitment that it has, it does sometimes make people uncertain of how to evaluate and assess that situation," Flynn said.
Many are finding that the easiest solution is to simply not have kids, while others are waiting until they're more financially stable or established in their careers.
"The average age [for having children] is steadily rising, and that's a trend we see almost across the board," Flynn said.
The national average age at first birth has gone from 21.4 in 1970 to 25.6 today, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Some plan to wait even longer than that. Raini Stanek of East Grand Forks, Minn., said she thinks 28 or 29 would be a good age to start having kids.
"You have to live your life first, experience life, before you give life," she said.
Stanek, a freshman studying wildlife and fisheries at the University of North Dakota, said she believes the change in mind-set about having children is because of heightened opportunities.
"We have a lot more opportunities than our parents had, so we have more things to go see and experience," she said.
Chris Olson agrees. The 23-year-old from Roseau, Minn., said he'd like to have children — eventually. "I plan on having kids, and all my friends do," he said. "We just haven't talked about it a lot."
But while Kellie Tougas, of Strasburg, N.D., also hopes to have children one day, many of her friends and relatives are taking other paths.
One of her cousins, married for about 10 years, has no children.
"They go out and have fun and don't have to worry about finding a baby sitter," she said. "I guess I kind of want to do that as well. You only live so long, and when you're young, you want to do the fun things. When you start having kids, that holds you back right away."
She said she knows a young woman who had her tubes tied when she was 18 or 19 because she didn't want to have kids.
"Now she lives off on her own, and she's got a dog and a cat, and she's completely happy with that," Tougas said.