More women with advanced degrees are having children, but the the number of women who have three or four children has declined, according to a new study from Pew Research.
Childlessness among the most educated women has declined in the last 20 years: in 1994, 35% of women with an M.D. or Ph.D. were childless, compared to 20% of women with those degrees today. This may be because more women generally are getting higher degrees, but it is also true that having kids and a career are not seen as mutually exclusive for women as they once were. Education level aside, only 15% of all women 40 to 44 do not have children, the lowest rate of childlessness in a decade (in the early 2000s it was 20%, in the ’90s it was 18%.)
Despite the recent downturn, childlessness has generally been on the rise since the 1970s. In 1976, only 10% of women in their early 40s had never had children. And the average age at which a woman has her first child has been steadily rising since the 1970s, which of course means that at any one time, there are more women without kids.
The research also shows even if more women are having children, they’re not necessarily having many kids; the four-child family that was popular in the 1970s has now given way to the two-child family. The share of 40-something women with two children has nearly doubled since 1976 (from 24% to 41%) while the share of women with four or more children has declined by almost three quarters (from 40% to 14%.) The percentage of women with one kids has also doubled, from 11% to 22%, while the percentage of women with three kids has stayed roughly the same, about 25%.
Despite the decrease in childlessness among highly educated women, education is still the most accurate predictor for how many children a woman will have. Among mothers without a high school diploma, just 13% have one child, while 26% have four or more. Among moms with a masters degree, 23% have one kid, and just 8% have four. The research also found that family size varied by race: 20% of Hispanic moms and 18% of black moms had four or more children, while 11% of white moms and 10% of Asian moms did.
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