More women today are mothers, despite low national fertility rate

New groups allow for more children, but fertility rate still a concern

Many people have worried the new millennial generation will decide not to have children. Despite these general concerns, a surprising 86 percent of all women between the ages of 40 and 44 are mothers, a number that has increased from 80 percent in 2006.  A new study published by the Pew Research Center has startling statistics about the increase of fertility patterns for today and the years to come, which includes a few keys groups.  In an article by Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times, the following groups are examined for their impact on the changing fertility spectrum:

  • Women who are over the age of forty.
  • Women who have never been married.
  • Women who are highly educated with successful careers.


Older ages

Based on the study, more and more women over the age of forty are having children.  Unfortunately, with this later age comes higher risks and difficulties with conception.  However, based the statistics from the study the overall numbers, more women having children later is not enough to offset less women having children younger.  Teenage and early 20s pregnancies are proving to be less and less common, contributing to an overall fertility decrease but with a specific increase for the thirty and older category.


Higher education

The article details another major shift in motherhood trends: women with advanced degrees.  According to the study, today “80 percent of women with professional degrees or doctorates have a child by the time they are 44, compared with 65 percent two decades ago.”  The article implies that perhaps people now see advanced careers as less of a hindrance to raising a family, whereas before it labeled as a dealbreaker. However, this relates back to the older age category, as women with these important jobs are often having children later in life after they have established a solid career.


Later marriage

A final group affecting the fertility rate is women who are married late or never marry.  According to the article, “55 percent of never-married women ages 40 to 44 have at least one child” which is a major increase from two decades ago.  This group has “risen across racial and educational groups” as many more women are raising children alone. For those that do marry, some studies indicate that differing factors, ranging from the positive aspect of more job opportunities for women to the negative aspect of more student debt for women as they get advanced degrees are causing delays in marriage and by association, delays in childbirth.  For couples considering starting a family, little support for two parents keeping their jobs may cause them to delay marriage in order to save up.

Lyman Stone from Demographic Intelligence still worries that the increase in older mothers is not enough to counteract the decrease in younger mothers.  Some specialists worry the United States could fall into the pattern countries like Japan have occurred.  Regardless, the statistics posted by the Pew Center are important to analyze as we move forward into a new generation of mothers.