Do you ever look around and think, “It seems like everyone is having a baby?” Of course, if you have children yourself, odds are you’re often surrounded by other parents, whether it’s at schools, parks, or activities. Still, new research shows it’s not just in our heads — more women are actually having kids compared to 10 years ago.
The new analysis of U.S. Census Data from Pew Research found that U.S. women “at the end of their childbearing years who have ever given birth was higher in 2016 than it had been 10 years earlier.” And not only that, but women are having more children now than in past decades as well.
According to the study, as of 2016, women have 2.07 children during their lives on average — up from 1.86 in 2006, when birth rates were the lowest on record. I’m not completely sure how one has 2.07 children instead of 2, but I’ll defer to the researchers and statisticians on this one.
What’s also interesting to note: “86% of women ages 40 to 44 are mothers, compared with 80% in 2006,” the Pew study found. And the majority of 40- to 44-year-old women who have never married have had a baby.
Specifically, according to the Pew study, there has been an almost threefold growth in the number of never-married white women who have had a child: from 13% to 37%. Around three quarters of never-married African-American women also now have kids, up from two thirds 20 years ago.
We’ve all heard about the trend in women becoming mothers later in life. Many seek to establish themselves in their own careers and earn a steady income before deciding to have a family. There are also more options for older women to conceive through in vitro fertilization, egg freezing, frozen embryos, and donor eggs, than in decades past — which allows women the opportunity, and choice, to wait until the time is right for them. That is good news for all involved.
There have been studies that have found having children after 40 is associated with happier mothers compared to those who have children at a younger age.
I can attest. I was 37 when I had my last child, and I was infinitely happier, more patient, and less stressed about, well, everything when I had him. I felt more at ease as a mother and more confident in my role. It’s not for everyone, but for those who choose to wait, it can be a blessing.
“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. Given these social and cultural shifts, it seems likely that the postponement of childbearing will continue,” the study said.
These discoveries show there is no right way to do motherhood, but it’s clear there are many more women who want to be mothers. And that is a beautiful thing.