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PREGNANCY & CHILDBIRTH | Census Bureau Report Finds Women Having Fewer Children, Giving Birth Later in Life

PREGNANCY & CHILDBIRTH | Census Bureau Report Finds Women Having Fewer Children, Giving Birth Later in Life
[Aug. 20, 2008]

More U.S. women in their early 40s do not have children, and women who are having children are having fewer than ever before, according to a Census Bureau report released Monday, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports.

According to the report, from 1976 to 2006 the percentage of women ages 40 to 44 with no children doubled from 10% to 20%. In 2006, 40- to 44-year-old women who had children had an average of 1.9 children each, more than one child fewer than women in the same age group in 1976 (AP/Long Island Newsday, 8/19). The only group bucking the trend is Hispanic women, who are averaging 2.3 children by their 40s, the New York Times, reports. The report also found that women with advanced degrees are more likely to be childless. Of women in the 40 to 44 age group with graduate or professional degrees, 27% did not have children, compared with 18% among women who did not continue their education beyond high school (Zezima, New York Times, 8/19).

The report also found that Idaho, Nebraska and Utah have the highest fertility rates, while New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont have the lowest. In addition, 36% of women who had children were not married, and 57% of women who recently gave birth were in the work force (Kornblum, USA Today, 8/19). Fertility rates among low-income women were about twice as high as those of middle-class or wealthy women, the report found (San Jose Mercury News, 8/19).

The report does not address the reasons for the changes in the rates, USA Today reports. David Hacker, an assistant professor of history at Binghamton University, said that "a lot of it is delayed marriage and women getting started a little bit later in life." Carl Haub, a demographer at the Population Reference Bureau, said the declining birth rate among older women "shows that patterns of family formation have obviously changed," adding, "There are significant numbers of women in the U.S. who would choose a career over having a child -- married or unmarried" (USA Today, 8/19).

The report found that if it were not for the total fertility rate for Hispanic women in the U.S., the country "could be confronting long-term population declines similar to those in Germany, Japan and other industrialized countries," the Miami Herald reports. According to the report, the total fertility rate was 1.7 among Asian-American women, 1.8 among non-Hispanic whites, 2.0 among blacks and 2.3 among Hispanics. Native Americans were not included in the report. "The Hispanic population is growing; whites and Asians are not replacing themselves," Jane Dye, author of the report, said (Glass, Miami Herald, 8/19). Consequently, the U.S. population is "growing more diverse," Dye said (USA Today, 8/19). William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, said that high birth rates among Hispanic women should force policymakers to reorder their spending (Miami Herald, 8/19).