Median Age for Giving Birth in US Hits Record High

It's now 30, according to US Census Bureau
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 9, 2022 8:03 AM CDT
Median Age for Giving Birth in US Hits Record High
Allyson Jacobs stands for a portrait outside her workplace on Wednesday in New York. For Jacobs, life in her 20s and 30s was about focusing on her career in health care and enjoying the club scene in New York City. She had her first child when she was 42.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

For Allyson Jacobs, life in her 20s and 30s was about focusing on her career in health care and enjoying the social scene in New York City. It wasn't until she turned 40 that she and her husband started trying to have children. They had a son when she was 42. Over the past three decades, that has become increasingly common in the US, as birth rates have declined for women in their 20s and jumped for women in their late 30s and early 40s, according to a new report from the US Census Bureau. The trend has pushed the median age of US women giving birth from 27 to 30, the highest on record, per the AP. While fertility rates dropped from 1990 to 2019 overall, the decline was regarded as rather stable compared to previous eras. But the age at which women had babies shifted.

Fertility rates declined by almost 43% for women between ages 20 and 24, and by more than 22% for women between 25 and 29. At the same time, they increased by more than 67% for women between 35 and 39, and by more than 132% for women between 40 and 44, per the Census Bureau analysis based on National Center for Health Statistics data. Decisions by college-educated women to invest in their education and careers so they could be better off financially when they had children, as well as the desire by working-class women to wait until they were more financially secure, have contributed to the shift toward older motherhood, says Philip Cohen, a University of Maryland sociologist.

Over the last three decades, the largest increases in the median age at which US women give birth have been among foreign-born women, going from ages 27 to 32, and Black women, going from ages 24 to 28, per the Census Bureau. With foreign-born women, Cohen said he wasn't quite sure why the median age increased over time, but it likely was a "complicated story" having to do with their circumstances or reasons for coming to the US. For Black women, pursuing an education and career played roles. Motherhood also has been coming later in developed countries in Europe and Asia. As an older parent who celebrated Mother's Day on Sunday, Jacobs, now 52 and a patients' services administrator at a hospital, feels she has more resources for her son, 9, than she would've had in her 20s. And "there's definitely more wisdom, definitely more patience," she notes.

(Read more motherhood stories.)

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