Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Why Aren't Young Women Having Babies?

The United States is in the midst of another baby bust. Births have declined 9 percent from their 2007 peak, the overall fertility rate is at a record low of 63.0 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44, and the birth rate of women in their prime childbearing years--aged 20 to 24--is also at an all-time low. Take a look at the trend in the birth rate of 20-to-24-year-olds...

Births per 1,000 women aged 20 to 24
1960: 258.1
1970: 167.8
1980: 115.1
1990: 116.5
2000: 109.7
2007: 106.3
2011: 85.3

What explains the precipitous decline in the birth rate of women aged 20 to 24? College explains it. Note that the birth rate of 20-to-24-year-olds declined sharply between 1960 and 1980 as women of the baby-boom generation went to college. Only 39 percent of women who graduated from high school in 1960 went to college. By 1980, the 52 percent majority were going to college. The figure grew to 68 percent by 2007, and the Great Recession pushed the enrollment rate as high as 74 percent in 2010.

With nearly three out of four young women in college, there aren't many 20-to-24-year-olds with the time or inclination to have a baby, not to mention the money. College enrollment also explains why women's median age at first marriage has grown from 20.3 years in 1960 to a record high of 26.6 years in 2012.

No comments: