Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bucking the Class Fertility Divide

From the Washington Post:
Demographic data obtained by The Post indicate that in metro areas nationwide, including cities and suburbs, 13 percent of men and 31 percent of women ages 25 to 29 with four-year college degrees have had children, according to an analysis of 2000-06 social survey data from the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center. By contrast, 49 percent of men and 62 percent of women in that age group with less education have had children, according to the analysis by University of Maryland sociologist Steve Martin.

New data from the National Center for Health Statistics also show that college-educated mothers are usually about 30 when they deliver their first child.

This class divide in fertility deserves much more attention that it has gotten. But it is a natural result of the sexual and social norms put into motion by the combination of feminism and contraception. Women who have the horsepower to make something of themselves professionally are under tremendous social pressure to delay child-bearing. Working class and poor women are not under that particular pressure, and tend to have their children younger.
This Washington Post article is about young professional couples who are bucking that trend by having their children in their twenties. The article features some (justifiable) complaining about the limited options of the "mommy track." I've written elsewhere and here that women deserve more flexible career options, especially if we are going to keep our fertility rate at replacement levels. But nestled in with the complaints is this gem:
Talk at home might revolve around the frequency of eating solids and replenishing baby clothes, but the couple said parenthood is giving them a new level of ambition that is sophisticated and rejuvenating. "When you arrange an environment and provide guidance and see that it actually happens, all the things you're working on, it's this feeling of joint accomplishment between me and Liz," Libresco said. "That's this bliss."

Unviersity of Virginia sociologist Steve Nock Marriage in Men's Livesand others make the point that fatherhood increases men's income because it helps make them serious and it increases their ambition. This young couple is experiencing exactly that.

I find the daring of these young parents a hopeful sign. I wish them all the best.

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