For Allyson Jacobs, life in her 20s and 30s was about focusing on her healthcare career and enjoying the social scene in New York City. It wasn’t until she was 40 that she and her husband began trying to have children. They had a son when she was 42.
Over the past three decades, this has become increasingly common in the United States, as birth rates have declined for women in their twenties and jumped for women in their late thirties and early twenties. quarantine, according to a new report from the US Census Bureau. The trend has pushed the median age of American women giving birth from 27 to 30, the highest on record.
As an older parent celebrating Mother’s Day on Sunday, Jacobs feels she has more resources for her 9-year-old son than she would have had in her 20s.
“There’s definitely more wisdom, definitely more patience,” said Jacobs, 52, who is a patient services administrator at a hospital. “Because we are older, we had the money to hire a nanny. We might not have been able to afford it if we were younger.
While fertility rates fell from 1990 to 2019 overall, the decline was considered to be fairly stable compared to previous eras. But the age at which women had babies has changed. Fertility rates have fallen by almost 43% among women between 20 and 24 years old and by more than 22% among women between 25 and 29 years old. At the same time, they increased by more than 67% among women between the ages of 35 and 39, and by more than 132% for women between the ages of 40 and 44, according to Census Bureau analysis based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics.
The decisions of college-educated women to invest in their education and careers in order to be financially better off when they have children, as well as the desire of working-class women to wait until they are more financially secure , have contributed to the move toward older motherhood, said Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland.
In the past, parents often relied on their children to earn a living, making them work in the fields, for example, when the economy was more based on agriculture. But over the past century or more in the United States, parents have become more invested in their children’s futures, offering more support as they go through school and transition into adulthood, a- he declared.
“Having children later generally puts women in a better position,” Cohen said. “They have more resources, more education. The things we require of people to be good parents are easier to provide when you’re older.
Lani Trezzi, 48, and her husband had their first child, a son, when she was 38, and a daughter followed three years later. Even though she had been with her husband since she was 23, she felt no urgency to have children. That changed in her late thirties, once she had reached a comfortable position in her career as an executive for a retail company.
“It was just an age where I felt confident in many areas of my life,” said Trezzi, who lives in New Jersey outside of New York. “I didn’t have the confidence that I have now.”
Over the past three decades, the largest increases in the median age at which American women give birth have been seen among foreign-born women, ranging from 27 to 32, and black women, ranging from 24 to 28. years, according to the Census Bureau. .
With foreign-born women, Cohen said he wasn’t quite sure why the median age was increasing over time, but it was probably a “complicated story”. related to their situation or the reasons for coming to the United States.
For black women, the pursuit of education and a career played a role.
“Black women are pursuing higher education at higher rates,” said Raegan McDonald-Mosley, an obstetrician and gynecologist, who is CEO of Power to Decide, which works to reduce teen pregnancies and unwanted births. “Black women are increasingly engaged in their upbringing and this is an incentive to delay childbearing.”
Since unwanted pregnancies are highest among teenage girls and women in their twenties, and more of their pregnancies end in abortion compared to older women, ending Roe v. Wade would likely move the onset of childbearing earlier on average, reversing the trend of the past three decades, “although the magnitude is unknown,” said Laura Lindberg, senior researcher at the Guttmacher Institute, a group research that supports abortion rights.
“The burden will disproportionately fall on women of color, black women, undocumented people, people living in rural areas, people in the South – where there are a lot of black women – and in the Midwest,” said McDonald-Mosley, who also served as chief medical officer for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Motherhood also came later in the developed countries of Europe and Asia. In the United States, this could contribute to the slowing of the country’s population because the ability to have children tends to decline with age, said Kate Choi, a family demographer at Western University in London, Ont. .
In areas of the United States where population is not being replaced by births and immigration is low, population decline can create labor shortages, higher labor costs high and a workforce that supports retirees, she said.
“Such changes will put significant pressure on programs aimed at supporting older adults like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare,” Choi said. “Workers may have to pay higher taxes to support the growing number of retirees.”
Although data from the Census Bureau report ends in 2019, the pandemic of the past two years has further delayed childbearing for many women, with 2020 U.S. birth rates dropping 4% in the steepest drop in a single year in almost 50 years. Choi said there appears to have been a slight rebound in the second half of 2021 to similar levels to 2019, but more data is needed to determine if this is a return to a “normal” decline.
During the pandemic, some women in their late childbearing years may have given up on becoming parents or having more children due to economic uncertainties and greater health risks for pregnant women who contract the virus, he said. she declared.
“These women may have missed their window to have children,” Choi said. “Some parents of young children may have decided to forego the second… birth because they were overwhelmed by the additional childcare demands that have arisen during the pandemic, such as the need to send their children to school. children at home.”