The cover of the August 12 edition of Time magazine is meant to be provocative. A trim young man and a matching woman — possibly in their late 20s to early 30s — lie alone on a beach, arms linked, wearing bathing suits, shades, and no visible wedding rings. But the controversial part is the accompanying text: “The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children.”

Inside, we see that same couple sitting comfortably under a beach umbrella, clinking wine glasses. They are not just “childfree”; they are carefree. To their right, our eyes are drawn to another couple walking along — more like trudging — on the sand. Not fashionably dressed like our “childfree” couple, they have two little girls, and a truckload of decidedly un-chic plastic junk, in tow.

Which life would you choose?

For an increasing number of Americans, the answer is easy. “The birthrate in the U.S. is the lowest in recorded American history,” reports Lauren Sandler of Time. “From 2007 to 2011, … the fertility rate declined 9%. A 2010 Pew Research report showed that childlessness has risen across all racial and ethnic groups, adding up to about 1 in 5 American women who end their childbearing years maternity-free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s.”

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