New research shows that the average age at which women have their first child depends significantly on geography and education level.
The New York Times released visual data depicting these geographical differences. According to their data, women wait the longest in big cities and on the coasts. On average, women are waiting until they are 31 to have kids in San Francisco County and 32 in Manhattan County. Women from Pitkin County, Colorado (home of Aspen) have a similar average: 31. But in some parts of the country, this average is much different. Women in Todd County, South Dakota and Zapata County, Texas are having children an entire decade earlier, at 20 and 21, respectively.
Here are the ten places where women are waiting to have kids the longest:
1. San Francisco County, Caliornia
2. Manhattan, New York
3. Pitkin County, Colorado
4. Falls Church City, Virginia
5. Marin County, California
6. Arlington County, Virginia
7. Teton County, Wyoming
8. Norfolk County, Massachusetts
9. Alexandria City, Virginia
10. Middlesex County, Massachusetts
On average, women with college degrees have children seven years later than those without. And women with degrees use those extra years to focus on their careers and generate income.
According to Heather Rackin, a sociologist at Louisiana State University, women with a higher socioeconomic status, “just have more potential things they could do instead of being a parent, like going to college or grad school and having a fulfilling career.” She went on to tell the Times, “Lower-socioeconomic-status people might not have as many opportunity costs — and motherhood has these benefits of emotional fulfillment, status in their community and a path to becoming an adult.”
Along with geography and education, there are also stark differences in political affiliations between women who have children at a younger age and women who wait to give birth. Younger mothers are more likely to be religious, conservative, and anti-abortion. Older first-time mothers are more likely to be liberal, pro-choice, and live in a dual-income home where caregiving is equally split.
The average age of first-time mothers in the United States has been increasing since the 1970s, a trend associated with the legalization of abortion, as well as the decline in teenage pregnancy and the development of long-acting birth control like the IUD. The average age of first-time mothers is now 26, compared to 21 in 1972. The average age of first-time fathers increased as well, from 31 to 27.
While the overall average age of first-time mothers has been increasing, there has always been an age gap in first-time mothers. According to researchers, this gap may be more meaningful today. The difference in mothers' ages is leading to a difference in the economic futures for their children. The first-time mother age gap is being seen as a direct result of our nation’s growing socioeconomic inequality, and children are experiencing greater effects than in the past.
Women who have children later in life have been able to generate more money to invest in their families — money to be put toward private schooling, extracurricular activities that contribute greatly to college applications, college application fees, and a college education in general. Parents who have children at a younger age are more likely to be physically healthier, and grandparents are more likely to be nearby and accessible for childcare help. But younger parents are less likely to have a savings or a college degree. Their pregnancies are less likely to be intentional – seventy-five percent of first-time mothers under the age of 25 are unmarried, meaning children might be brought into a single-income household.
Rackin believes there is a solution to the effects brought on by the first-time mother age gap: providing necessary resources like childcare and affordable college educations to young mothers and their children.
“The strategy,” Rackin told the Times, “is to provide the best opportunities for children.”
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