Number of U.S. births to mothers under 20: 533,000
Number of U.S. births to mothers over 35: 368,000

Number of U.S. births to mothers under 20: 441,000
Number of U.S. births to mothers over 35: 603,000

Yes, according to the Pew Research Center and reported in today’s Washington Post, in the U.S. there now more “older” women giving birth than teenagers. In 2008, 14% of U.S. births were to older women and 10% were to teens — almost an exact flip in the percentages in 1990.

That’s big (and generally good) news — with many repercussions for child health and poverty, workplace policies, and educational opportunities. Another (less happy) surprise: A record 41% of births in 2008 were to unmarried women, including most births to women under 20.

13 Responses to “Factoid of the day: Whoa, mama”

  1. MT says:

    didn’t realize we were forecasting so far out into the future…surprised we expect to stay so steady over the next 18,000 years! 😉

  2. I wonder – are there less teenagers in America, period?

  3. You said, “A record 41% of births in 2008 were to unmarried women, including most births to women under 20.”

    I wonder if this signals a change in the married game?

  4. Shirley Munk says:

    As a woman who adopted a child, as a single parent, at age 41, I have to say that from my perspective, the single biggest factor in this “flip” is higher education. Devoting the bulk of one’s 20’s to education means that the 30’s are wrapped up in establishing oneself in work. I know lots of woman who started parenthood after 35…we chuckle about getting to sit up front at the high school grads for our kids because of our wheelchairs and walkers and hearing aids.

  5. Maybe life is getting harder and it is more secure to start a family at late thirties….

  6. Carol says:

    Setting the teen issue aside, I do not see the rising age of mothers an improvement.

    The rise in post-35-year-olds seeking to be pregnant has also caused an upswing in expensive infertility treatment which is typically covered by health insurance. I don’t think that the choice to delay a pregnancy until one’s reproductive capabilities are nearly nil should be encouraged, and I do not think that health insurance should cover it.

    I think we should set out to make policies/incentives that encourage women to have kids when their bodies are more adept at carrying pregnancies to full term – which is when they are in their 20’s.

  7. Ric Dragon says:

    Maybe it also means that more children will be parented by people who’ve gained a bit more life experience, and (hopefully) as a result, are recipients of better parenting. I could be signalling the dawning of a whole new age.

  8. Chip says:

    I’m surprised the lower rate of marriage is considered an unhappy trend. It seems to me to speak more poorly of the institution of marriage than of the couples giving birth. Having seen several divorces up close, I can entirely understand eschewing marriage entirely.

  9. Usman says:

    Something to add to Carol’s two posts up.

    “Approximately 1 in 1,400 babies born from women in their 20’s have Down syndrome; it increases to about 1 in 100 babies born with Down syndrome from women in their 40s.”


  10. Steve says:

    Actually, having seen several divorces up close, I can entirely understand eschewing divorce entirely. Blaming marriage for divorce is twisted logic.

  11. What? says:

    I don’t know what Steve is smoking, but divorce, as ugly and cruel as it so often is, is still far less ugly and cruel than a bad marriage. I’m with Chip — I think we’re seeing fewer people believing myths about what marriage does. Interestingly, it’s not that less marriage would be culturally unusual, but that it would be culturally normal — we’ve been in a period of freakishly high marriage rates.

  12. Keith says:

    Apparently “What?” missed Steve’s point because blaming marriage for bad marriage is also twisted logic. *sigh*

    Steve’s logic is far more sound than your random, unsubstantiated opinion that “bad marriage” is worse than some ambiguous notion of an all encompassing definition of “divorce”.

  13. Jim says:

    I wonder how many of these women over 35 giving birth were under 20 in 1990 (18yrs ago)giving birth. Maybe somethings never change except the age.

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