The share of American women at the end of their childbearing years who have ever given birth was higher in 2016 than it was a decade earlier, reversing a near 40-year trend where fewer women in that age group were having babies. Some 86% of women ages 40 to 44 were mothers in 2016, up from 80% in 2006, according to an analysis released Thursday of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Pew Research Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C.
‘Not only are women more likely to be mothers than in the past, but they are having more children.’
“Not only are women more likely to be mothers than in the past, but they are having more children,” the report found. Overall, women have an average of 2.07 children during their lives — up from 1.86 in 2006, the lowest number on record. And among those who are mothers, family size has actually increased. In 2016, mothers at the end of their childbearing years had about 2.42 children, compared with a low of 2.31 in 2008.
“The recent rise in motherhood and fertility might seem to run counter to the notion that the U.S. is experiencing a post-recession ‘baby bust,’” Gretchen Livingston, a senior researcher at Pew, wrote in the report. Pew’s analysis is based on a cumulative measure of lifetime fertility (the number of births a woman has ever had) while reports of declining U.S. fertility are based on annual rates, which capture fertility at one point in time.
By that latter measure, however, fertility is still on a downward trajectory in the U.S. The St. Louis Federal Reserve reported 1.85 births per woman in 2015, down from 2.12 births per woman in 2007, but up from a low of 1.73 births per woman in 1976. However, those figures pale in comparison to 1960 when there were 3.65 births per woman.
Don’t miss: Western men suffered a 50% decline in sperm count over four decades
‘Over the last 35 years, America’s fertility rate has reflected, to some extent, the business cycle.’
Why the decline? Many families require two paychecks and must postpone buying a house — and starting a family — while they save for a down payment. Other women are delaying having a family to focus on their career and education. Child care remains one of the biggest household expense, according to Child Care Aware of America, a nonprofit group in Arlington, Va. The average cost of sending two children to day care outpaces median annual rent costs in all 50 states.
“Over the last 35 years, America’s fertility rate has reflected, to some extent, the business cycle,” a 2015 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland stated. Between 2008 and 2013, the fertility rate of women with college degrees fell to 57 babies per 1,000 women from 64, and to 50 babies per 1,000 women from 57 for women without college degrees. Other studies have claimed pesticides on fruits and vegetables, may also complicate fertility.