An increasing share of highly educated women in the US are having children and bigger families, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data.
Childlessness among women into their 40s with an MD or PhD has fallen significantly over the last two decades.
Presently, around 22% of women aged 40-44 with a master’s degree (or higher) are childless – down 30% from 1994. In those women with an MD or PhD the decline is even more dramatic falling from 35% of women without children in 1994 to 20% today.
In addition to being more likely that highly educated women will have children, the research finds that they are also having bigger families.
Six in 10 women with a master’s degree have had two or more children – up from 51% in 1994. The share with two children has risen 4 percentage points, while the share with three or more has risen 6 percentage points.
Gretchen Livingston, Senior Researcher of the report “Childlessness falls, family size grows among highly educated women” writes:
“This trend has likely been driven by demographic and societal changes. It coincides with women’s growing presence in managerial and leadership positions and suggests that an increasing share of professional women are confronting the inevitable push and pull of work-family balance.”
Previous research by the Pew Research Center has indicated that overall women devote fewer hours to paid work with each additional child they have. The report found that on average, a working-age woman with no children spends 27 hours per week in paid work, while a woman with three or more children spends 18 hours working.
Moreover, working mothers are suggested to be more than three times as likely as working fathers to reveal that being a working parent has made advancing their career more difficult.
Childlessness among all women ages 40-44 in the US is at its lowest point in a decade, which is likely fueled in part by the increase in motherhood among highly educated women. The average number of children that US women have in their lifetime has remained stable over the past 20 years, at about two children.
Currently around 35% of all women between 40-44 have two children, while just 12% have four or more. Simultaneously, one-child families have gained ground, with 18% of women having an only child at the end of their childbearing years, up from 10% in 1976. About 20% of women have three children, a number that has remained virtually unchanged.
Other key findings from the report focus on fertility trends, educational “gaps” in childlessness and family size and race.
Fertility trends among highly educated women show a clear pattern of decreased childlessness and bigger families. However, childlessness has decreased among women without a high school diploma and among women with a bachelor’s degree, but family size has remained unchanged.
Although educational “gaps” in childlessness and family size have narrowed over 20 years, they still persist.
The higher the education a woman has, up to a bachelor’s degree, the less likely she is to become a mother. Additionally, mothers with more education have fewer children than those with less education. Just 13% of moms lacking a high school diploma have one child, while 26% have four or more. Among mothers with a master’s degree or higher, 23% have one child and just 8% have four or more.
Fertility patterns differ significantly by race and ethnicity. Among women aged 40-44 who are childless:
- 17% are white
- 15% are black
- 13% are Asian
- 10% are Hispanic.
Hispanic and black mothers ages 40-44 are particularly likely to have larger families. About 20% of Hispanic mothers have four or more children, as do 18% of black mothers.
In comparison, just 11% of white mothers have four or more children, as do 10% of Asian mothers. Since 1988, there has been a dramatic decline in the share of mothers with four or more children among Hispanics, blacks and whites.
Medical News Today recently reported on a new study that finds that small differences in family income are associated with relatively large surface area differences in important brain regions among children in these families.