Motherhood Not on Every Woman’s To-Do List

Census Finds More Women Are Choosing to Be Childless; Others Opt for Fewer Children

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on August 20, 2008
From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 20, 2008 -- Motherhood sure has changed in the past 30 years.

Today, U.S. women are having fewer babies, and more women are choosing to be childless.

A new report looking at state-by-state information from the U.S. Census Bureau paints a changing landscape of motherhood today when compared to the 1970s.

Consider this: 20% of women today aged 40 to 44 have no children. That percentage is double what it was 30 years ago.

The data are from the Census Bureau's 2006 American Community Survey and the Current Population Survey.

The surveys aimed to discover how many children are being born, to whom, and what the fertility rates are around the country.

Women aged 15 to 50 were surveyed about fertility between 2005 and 2006

More of the Highlights

The average number of children a woman aged 40-44 will have is 1.9.

  • 67% of women who recently gave birth worked outside the home.
  • 36% of women who reported giving birth for the survey were never married or were separated, divorced, or widowed.
  • Mothers in North Carolina, Mississippi, and the District of Columbia were the least likely to have never married.
  • Of those 1.5 million mothers who were not married, 190,000 of them were living with an unmarried partner.

Face of Poverty

  • 25% of women aged 15-50 who'd recently given birth were living below the national poverty level.
  • Fertility rates were twice as high for those living below the national poverty rate when compared to those living more than 200% above the poverty rate.

International Moms

  • 20% of all births reported in the survey were to U.S. moms who themselves were born in another country.
  • In California, that percentage doubled, with 41% of moms being foreign-born.

Who's Having the Most Children?

Hispanic women average the most children (2.3). That's higher than for Asians, non-Hispanic whites, and African-Americans, although second-generation Hispanic women have fewer babies than their mothers did.

Delaying Babies for School

  • Women with a bachelor's degree or more college education had the highest fertility rates between the ages of 30 and 34. (133 births per 1,000 women)
  • Women who did not complete high school had the most birth rates between the ages of 20 and 24 and 25 to 29. (199 births per 1,000 women and 146 births per 1,000 women.)
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U.S. Census Bureau report. "American Community Survey 2006 and 2006 Population Survey."

News release, U.S. Census Bureau.

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