NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Women may be passing men in earning advanced degrees, but they’re in no hurry to settle down and raise a family, in a fertility trend that could signal a radical shift in relationship habits and gender roles.
Educated women in America are experiencing a “delayer boom” as they choose to start families at a later age and have fewer children overall by the end of their childbearing years, according to new data from the Census Bureau. To research this finding, the bureau compared the 2000 and 2010 Fertility Supplements to the Current Population Survey, or CPS, to track fertility in the same group of women over 10 years.
The bureau found that in 2000, 42% of women ages 25-34 with a least a bachelor’s degree had fewer children overall in 2000 than 83% of women in the same age group with less than a high school education. The women with less education also had three times as many births recorded compared to their more educated counterparts.
However, 10 years later, the same group of women—now ages 35-44—with at least a bachelor’s degree were less likely to see the gap in births compared to the women with less than a high school education. In 2010, the women with at least a bachelor’s degree had 1.7 births on average, an admittedly lower rate than the 2.5 births that the women with less than a high school education were having on average.
"Our findings show that a 'delayer boom' is under way, where highly educated women initially delay childbearing but are more likely to have children into their 30s," said Census Bureau demographer Kristy Krivickas. "But these women do not fully catch up to the childbearing levels of women with fewer years of schooling."
The Bureau also identified other notable trends in fertility, with regards to race and employment:
- Among women ages 40-44, white Non-Hispanic women were more likely to be childless (20.6%) than black women (17.2%), Hispanic women (12.4%) and Asian women (15.9%).
- Additionally, more than half (55%) of the women who had a child in the year prior to the 2010 survey were working. About a third of the total women surveyed (34%) were in full-time jobs, while 14% were working part-time and 7% were unemployed.
Taken together, the data speak to a broader trend among American women that has been culminating since the last half century. Marriage and starting a family—both costly and time-consuming feats—appear to be getting put on hold in order to pursue perhaps more personally fulfilling career goals that in decades prior had been more elusive for women. Marriage itself has declined across the country, as we’ve reported before: Only 26% of Americans in their 20s were married in 2008, compared to 68% in 1960, according to Pew Research.
For more on the ways that America’s families are changing, check out this MainStreet article breaking down what a second marriage does to your money.
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