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Fewer American Women Having Kids

American women loves to import trends from Europe. We eat up European fashion, parenting styles, and cute modular furniture. Here’s another one: not having kids.

The birth rate in most of Europe has been dropping for decades. No EU country presently has a high enough birth rate to sustain their population. America has generally bucked this trend, but the tide may be shifting.

Nearly one in five American women in her 40s has no biological kids, a new study shows. That’s double the number from the 1970s, when only one in ten women made it to her forties without giving birth.

What’s going on there?

Most simply: not everyone wants kids.With birth control more readily available and career options open to women, fewer of us are choosing motherhood.

That’s not the whole story of course. Some women want kids and can’t have them, others have chosen to adopt or are raising stepchildren (choices that are not touched on in this study).

In almost every social and economic demographic, fewer American women are having children. The one exception: women with advanced degrees. In 1994, over 30 percent were childless in their 40s. Now that number has fallen to 24 percent. That change probably reflects shifting social attitudes about juggling career and family.

The opposite is true for women with less than a high school education: 15 percent of women in that group have no children, up from 9 percent. Again, this probably reflects a social trend toward delaying or simply opting out from marriage and children.

Maybe our shifting attitudes towards childbirth will eventually score us some of those sweet social benefits European mamas enjoy. With fewer women choosing to have children just for the simple joy of their smiling faces, the state and our corporate culture may need to start sweetening the pot with paid maternity leave, affordable childcare and real work-life balance.

Photo: mahalie

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