Women Are Having Kids Later, and That's Good for Everyone

What Women Really Think
June 21 2012 10:56 AM

Women Are Having Kids Later, and That's Good for Everyone


The CDC has released its latest report on pregnancy rates, demonstrating that despite conservative efforts to discourage contraception use among younger people, the overall trend is toward women delaying pregnancy. Rick Santorum's outrageous claims during the Republican primary about an epidemic of teen pregnancy aside, it's well-known that teen pregnancy rates have been declining lately, mostly due to improved contraception use. This report indicates that they're down 40 percent since 1990, despite a brief upturn that oh-so-coincidentally happened in the heyday of abstinence-only education.

More interestingly, it's not just teenagers that are putting off pregnancy until later in life. The pregnancy rate for women in their early 20s saw a noticeable decline, while the pregnancy rate for women over the age of 30 ticked up. It's not an earth-shattering shift, but significant enough to say that the combination of increased contraception use and increased education levels for women is having an impact on their reproductive choices, and more and more are waiting until they're more mature and stable to have children.


This should be greeted as unadorned good news. Yes, pregnancies in one's 30s have somewhat higher risks, but those risks are far outweighed by the benefit to both mothers and children if women wait until they're ready to have their babies. Unfortunately, the amount of personal power and autonomy women retain if they choose to wait until they're older to have children continues to unnerve our society, as demonstrated by this photo essay Jessica Valenti put together in response to the latest Atlantic coverreiterating the cliche about women not "having it all," with "all" being the time-worn euphemism for "same opportunities as men." (These stories inevitably posit that there's tension between work and being a parent, but in fact it seems there is only tension between work and being a mother.)

Setting aside the irritation felt by upper-middle-class white men at the loss of their fathers' good fortune to have college-educated wives who give it all up without a fight to stay at home, most women don't view their decisions to delay childbirth and get an education as a political move. More than anything, these trends reflect women's responses to their direct economic and social environment. In our stressful economic times, completing your education is simply seen as a necessity for improved economic opportunities. That economic tumult and depressed wages also mean that most women working a job aren't doing so in spite of a husband who makes enough to support both of them and is eager to try. For most women, that income is critical to running their household, because their husband doesn't make enough to support the family or they don't have a husband at all. Having your children earlier in life increases all these pressures, and so it's no surprise that women are opting to delay motherhood a few years longer.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.