Friday, August 12, 2011

The Childless Generation

Here's something interesting: In a study of the childbearing patterns of three cohorts of women--born in 1910, 1935, and 1960--the women born in 1910 were most likely to be childless at age 50, according to the National Center for Health Statistics (see Childbearing Differences among Three Generations of Women).

Among women born in 1910, one in five was childless at age 50 (19.7 percent). Among women born in 1960--members of the baby-boom generation, which earned a reputation for delaying childbearing or forgoing parenthood altogether--a smaller 15.6 percent were childless at age 50. Only 11.4 percent of women born in 1935 were childless at age 50.

So what gives with the women of 1910? The Great Depression. They entered their childbearing years just as the Depression began in 1929, and apparently many never found the economic stability in which to have children and raise a family.

What does this say about today's young women, who are reaching childbearing age in the midst of the Great Recession? "The cohort moved into its key childbearing years during a significant recession," says the National Center for Health Statistics. Marriage and fertility rates have been falling since 2007. Will today's young women be the next "childless" generation?

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