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A postgraduate degree or having children used to be a choice women made, whether consciously or not. But that is changing now. More highly educated women are having babies these days, according to a new study. In fact, childlessness among all women in their early 40s is at its lowest point in a decade, largely fueled by the increase in having babies for those women who are more educated.
Darwinists looked pessimistically at the fact that better educated people, particularly women, had fewer offspring than those with barely a high school education. It did not bode well for future generations. However, childlessness for those women who have a master’s degree or even more education is apparently falling, as is the number of highly educated people who only have one child.
Nowadays, approximately one out of five women (actually 22 percent) between the ages of 40 and 45 who earned at least a postgraduate college degree are childless. Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows that the number has dropped from 30 percent in 1994. For woman who went to medical school or earned a Ph.D., the change is even more dramatic. In 1994, 35 percent of women with those credentials in their early 40s had no children; now, only 20 percent do not have any babies.
One big reason for the change could be that more women have advanced college degrees. The number of women in medical school, law school and other career requiring an advanced education is now equal to or surpassing men in many fields. Going to graduate school is not the anomaly is once was for women, and it does not delay childbearing more than those who earn a B.A. do for their careers, so perhaps it matters less today.
In fact, more highly educated women are having more than one child. Sixty percent of the women with postgraduate degrees have more than one child. The number was 51 percent 20 years ago. The Pew researchers also found that the percentage of educated women who have three or more babies increased 6 percent in the past two decades.
The researchers believe the trend was driven by societal changes and career growth for women. They attribute the increased numbers of professional women and those now in managerial and/or leadership positions to helping more of them deal with juggling the conflicting roles of work and family, and support other women seeking greater balance. That does not jive with previous Pew Research.
Previous studies found that women devote less time to their jobs with each child they have. Pew found that a working-age woman who has no children works on average 27 hours per week. By the time a woman has at least three children, she has cut her working hours to 18 per week on average. Additionally, women still report a difficulty in advancing their careers if they have children. Pew data shows that working moms are three times more likely than working dads (51 percent versus 16 percent) in believing their family has made career advancement more difficult.
The statistics broken down by race show the almost twice as many white women remain childless and Hispanic ones (17 percent versus 10 percent). Fifteen percent of Black woman and 13 percent of Asian were still childless in their early 40s. (The Pew data uses ages 40 to 44 as a barometer of childlessness because few women have babies after hitting age 45.)
The educational “gaps” that dominated for years are narrowing, with post-graduate education and motherhood going hand-in-hand for more women. As the data shows, more highly educated women are choosing to have babies than in the past.
By Dyanne Weiss