The Pew study also found a majority of never-married women aged 40 to 44 in 2014 had had at least one child
Motherhood looks good on forty-somethings.
American women aged 40 to 44 are more likely to be moms today than they were a decade ago, according to a recent Pew Research study, with 86% reporting motherhood in 2016 compared to 80% in 2006. Meanwhile, a majority of never-married women in that age bracket (55%) in 2014 had had at least one child, up from 31% in 1994.
The upward trend of motherhood among never-married 40-somethings cuts across education and race: The share of never-married women aged 40 to 44 who’d ever given birth increased between 1994 and 2014 from 48% to 70% among people with a high-school education or less, for example, and from 12% to 32% for college grads. The figure among postgraduate degree-holders shot up from 5% to 25% over those two decades.
Never-married white women in their early 40s experienced a substantial spike in motherhood — 13% to 37% — while black women saw a modest increase from 69% to 75%. The rate among never-married Hispanic women, for whom 1994 data wasn’t available, was 68% in 2014.
Women overall are having more children, the study further found, with a current average of 2.07 kids per mom compared to the record low of 1.86 in 2006. They’re also embracing motherhood later in life: The median age for motherhood increased from 23 in 1994 to 26 now. “The Great Recession intensified this shift toward later motherhood, which has been driven in the longer term by increases in educational attainment and women’s labor force participation, as well as delays in marriage,” Pew explains. “Given these social and cultural shifts, it seems likely that the postponement of childbearing will continue.”
The perks of being an older mom, including increased longevity and healthier kids, are well documented: For example, women able to have kids after age 33 are more likely to live longer than those who delivered their last kid before age 30, according to a 2014 Boston University School of Medicine study. And a 2012 British Medical Journal study linked “increasing maternal age” with “improved health and development for children up to 5 years of age.”
Perhaps most importantly, older moms make bank by putting off motherhood: Women who had their first kid before age 25, regardless of college education, were associated with lower lifetime incomes, according to a 2016 Danish study in PLOS One; meanwhile, lifetime incomes among those who first gave birth after age 31 were “relatively higher.”
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