Fewer Women in the US Becoming Mothers

In the 1970s, 1 in 10 American women ended her childbearing years without having borne a child. In 2008, that figure is now 1 in 5, according to a just-published study from the Pew Research Center‘s Social and Demographic Trends Project. The study is based on data from the June fertility supplement of the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

What’s more, in 2008, 24% of women between the ages of 40-44 with a master’s, doctoral or professional degree had not had children. (That’s almost a quarter of women between the ages of 40-44.) In 1994, 31% of women with such advanced degrees had not had a child. In comparison, women who had less than a high school diploma  had a childless rate of 15%; women who had graduated from high school had a childless rate of 17%. Women with some college education had a childless rate of 18%.

A few more figures: 20% of white women between the ages of 40-44 had never borne a child. 17% of black and of Hispanic women were childless in 2008, while 16% of Asian women were childless.

I can’t help considering my own situation. I’m 41 years old, Asian American, with a doctoral degree. And, I have a child, a teenager (gawd!) to be exact, Charlie now being 13 years old as he was born in 1997.

More than a few of the women whom I went to graduate school with are childless and not married. And, more than a few (as in the majority) had their children when they were in their mid-30s, when they felt that they were far enough in long in their careers to be able to devote less time to those. 

That said, motherhood and the better part of my professional life as a Classics professor have overlapped. I have had to make decisions that have meant my professional career has not been quite what I had envisioned it to be. But for me, motherhood always comes first. Charlie (who’s on the moderate to severe end of the autism spectrum) has had a great, great many needs and many times the question of ‘how should I prioritize’ doesn’t even arise. There are very few (very, very few) people who can take care of Charlie and understand his communications and needs. A recent study indeed notes that mothers of autistic children who work ‘pay’ at their jobs, due to the extra demands of raising their kids. While I do feel a tug when I read about their latest book or award, I really do feel it’s all more than worth it.

Women in the US have choices today that they didn’t in the past; it’s not assumed that the only way a woman can feel ‘fulfilled’ is by having children and being a mother. Will this mean a change in how our society sees women’s roles?

Photo by Eden Pictures.


Elizabeth Z.
Elizabeth Z8 years ago

I have never wanted kids, and I still don't..and I'm 31. They seem like a whole lot of work and expense. People keep saying its worth it though..

Mary C.
Mary C8 years ago

Fewer responsible mothers, who know how expensive children are, are having fewer children. They know they have to pay for the overpopulation of children of those who think the government handouts are a way of life. Sad to say, but the truth.

Bernadette K.
Bernadette K8 years ago

In other words the most effective population control, maybe education.

Angela Dubie
Angela Dubie8 years ago

Yes I too had to quit school, because i got pregnant, but lost them because of the Reagans zero tolerance toward drugs, on an anonomous tip that my then boy friend had drugs in the house, and i was never allowed to even face my accuser!
I hardly ever get to see or even talk to my 15 year old son, yet i received a felony charge for being $10,000 behind in back child support, and i didn;t even know that i owed one red cent, because i never was invited to court over the matter! Now since it is legal to discriminate against the uneducated, and felons...i cant even get a job to pay my current child support of $200.00 a month, so my disabled husband has been stuck with that bill, along as all of the others!
He started me up 3 businesses, for i would not go to jail for not having a job, and for i could pay my own way, but there not doing as well as expected, but i bit the hand that feeds me, when his brother and adopted dad of which he also took in because they were homeless, tried to convince me that i could do better without him, so i had an affair with his brother, who was planning to eliminate him, because i signed a pre-nup, because all of this has happened before, so just by stealing me, we got nothing, but is death would give it all to me, i could not go through with killing him and finilly confessed after 2 months of lieing to him after he caught us!
Lieing cheeting and stealing must be legal, or adultry would be a crime! Marriage is taxation withour representation!

Angela Dubie
Angela Dubie8 years ago

We have replaced families with corporations, a strong family can take care of themselves, have you not ever watched the waltons on t.v.?
Most of our laws are there to grant special licience, to corporations, tkaing this right from the individual, taking away our free enterprize, therefore our livilyhood, independance, and the gain of our own industry!
Since the 70's most of our factories have left the country, and the foreign invasion has taken more than it's fair share of jobs! You have to buy the right degree of nobility from the proper university, or you can't ever get a proper job, unless your a union member, or work for the government, can you even afford to raise even one child!
While the muslems are having multipal children, and will soon, in the next 10 years, out number every other religion on the face of the earth! I believe that was why .J.F.K. was assassinated, was to stop Catholic power and proliferation! I am not an educated women, I went to eight grade, but I see that most people on this site has been indoctranated into a new kind of thinking, Different than the America that I remember, from my family in rural missouri. I now live in Salem Missouri, and have no clue about the over population that you speak of, because it is wilderness for miles in any direction, with a population of 5000 or so! So if you are fealing overcrowded than move and ruff it! I,m glad that there are big cities, and that people live to live like that, but with that too, we have a

Eli Is Here
.8 years ago

Eye-opening article. Thank you Kristina!

Glenna Jones-kachtik
Glenna Kachtik8 years ago

I think Bette M, that Angela is not too worried about anyone starving to death or being crowded or whatever. It seems to me that the Bible is her source & she is counting on GOD or Jesus & possibly the 2nd coming...??? After reading that - it sounds really snotty - & I really don't know what Angela thinks; but it does sound as if she is advocating for having as many children as GOD sends your way - because if we don't then the concept of family will be destroyed and we will become decimated. She did mention that terrorists were having more children than we were.
She doesn't say anything about where we will put them, or how we will feed them or how they will grow up or live - I am not sure WHO is going to be in charge of that. Perhaps we will take over some other countries land & shove their kids out in the cold??? Just don't know. Like you I got lost in the bloodlines. Maybe Angela will explain just what she thinks and let us know where are all these people going to live & what are they going to eat.
I am really asking this question Angela - & I am not putting you down - just would like an explanation.

Bette M.
Bette M8 years ago

Angela........I got lost on what your comment meant. So, what is your point anyway?
Or, are you suggesting that all women have as many children as they possibly can spit out?
Think about this before you leap: There are SEVEN BILLION people on this planet!!! Our Mother Earths cupboard is getting close to being barren!

Now.......That we have more than a few billion on starvation & near starvation what is your plan for salvation of the other billion or so left to feed, house, educate, medicate & cloth?
Or, are we all going to be running around like mad animals & kill off each other for survival?

Mother Earth does not need any more humans born on this earth for like 500 years!!!! Thats would be five generations knocked off & hopefully by then man/you/me and everyone would be wise enough to read a book instead of dipping head first into sexual fantasies & nothing bad will ever happen because of it.

Plant & protect trees for life.......................

Angela Dubie
Angela Dubie8 years ago

If men could have babies, would we as women even let them? Women have a monopoly on that for now,( until we surrender that right to Ford baby factory) it is what makes us different and special!
It took millions of years for us to become us, the father is the son of the father who is the son...we just did not appear out of this air! We are our seed, for our seed is our inmortality! What gives us the right to end our own blood line, or family name/ genology...from Adam to steralivation...born 4004 bc...died 2010 from our own hands!
Hitler never died, he just became an American, still trying to create a perfect race, still ridding society from inferrior races, cultures, religions, and peoples, still steralizing, eunithinizing, and damming the natural flow of the seed!
Still creating eunics, with homosexuals, and barren women, still creating an accepted and unnaccepted class of people, looking to create that perfect rece!
From what i have been reading on this topic, is that America is ready to out law family all together, and install Hitlers and Huxleys "brave new world"! Are we not ready for genetically altered man made children, with no responsibility!...if your obedent, we will clone you...for science is now god, instead of nature!
Has man kind become obsolete? Are we but entertainment? Are we all be consummers? Are we all but slaves? How long before we become a food source as well...is that the new Mc Donalds half way plan...half burger, half burgler!

Bette M.
Bette M8 years ago

AMEN-AMEN-AMEN Evelyn..........

I once ask my mother why she had so many of us(11), she did not answer & that answered my question.

all I ever wanted was two & that is what I got..........I've concluded I was born with two eggs & that is just fine with me!!

And, I've concluded also we/mankind has done nothing more than made seven billion copies of ourselves for that is how many people there are one this BLUE DOT(Google BLUE DOT-Carl Sagan)....................It will wake you up!

Plant & protect trees for life...................