This article paints a rosy picture of women having more freedom, more opportunities, more choices. They can do things previous generations could not — thanks to medical and social advances that make almost anything possible.
But there’s a lot that goes unmentioned here, including the consequences of a demographic winter.
For decades, delaying parenthood was the domain of upper-middle-class Americans, especially in big, coastal cities. Highly educated women put off having a baby until their careers were on track, often until their early 30s. But over the past decade, as more women of all social classes have prioritized education and career, delaying childbearing has become a broad pattern among American women almost everywhere.
The result has been the slowest growth of the American population since the 1930s, and a profound change in American motherhood. Women under 30 have become much less likely to have children. Since 2007, the birthrate for women in their 20s has fallen by 28 percent, and the biggest recent declines have been among unmarried women. The only age groups in which birthrates rose over that period were women in their 30s and 40s — but even those began to decline over the past three years.
“The story here is about young women, whose births are plummeting,” said Caitlin Myers, an economist at Middlebury College who analyzed county-level birth records for The New York Times. “All of a sudden, in the last 10 years, there’s this tremendous transformation.”
A geographic analysis of Professor Myers’s data offers a clue: The birthrate is falling fastest in places with the greatest job growth — where women have more incentive to wait.
“Maybe there are fewer babies right now, but people are able to live the lives they want to, and that’s a profound thing.”
In more than two dozen interviews with young women in Phoenix and Denver, some said they felt they could not afford a baby. They cited the costs of child care and housing, and sometimes student debt. Many also said they wanted to get their careers set first and expressed satisfaction that they were exerting control over their fertility — and their lives — in a way their mothers had not.
“I can not have a kid and not have to feel bad about it,” said Eboni McFadden, 28, who grew up in rural Missouri and is now two weeks from graduating as a medical technician in Phoenix. “I feel powerful that I can make that decision with my own body. I don’t have to have a kid to be successful or to be a woman.”
…The lower rate of unplanned pregnancy is a signal that the decline in births — despite the hand-wringing about what it portends for the nation’s work force and social safety net — could be good news for individual women.
“One of the big shifts has been fewer people having kids before they wanted to,” said Amanda Jean Stevenson, a demographer at the University of Colorado. “Maybe there are fewer babies right now, but people are able to live the lives they want to, and that’s a profound thing.”