MIKE SCHNEIDER – Associated Press

For Alison Jacobs, life in her 20s and 30s was focused on her career in healthcare and enjoying the social scene in New York City. Only when she turned 40, she and her husband began trying to have children. When she was 42, they had a son.

Over the past three decades, this has become more common in the U.S. as birth rates have declined for women in their 20s and jumped for women in the late 1930s and early 1940s, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau. This trend pushed the average age of women giving birth in the US from 27 to 30, which was the highest ever.

As an older father who celebrates Mother’s Day on Sunday, Jacobs feels she has more resources for her 9-year-old son than she would have in 20 years.

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“Definitely more wisdom, definitely more patience,” said Jacobs, 52, who is a hospital care administrator. “As we are older, we had the money to hire a babysitter. We could not afford it if we were younger. “

Although the birth rate generally declined from 1990 to 2019, the decline was seen as fairly stable compared to previous eras. But the age at which women gave birth has shifted. The birth rate fell by almost 43% for women aged 20 to 24 and by more than 22% for women aged 25 to 29. At the same time, they increased by more than 67% for women aged 35 to 39 and more than 132% for women aged 40 to 44, according to an analysis by the Census Bureau based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

The decisions of women with higher education to invest in their education and careers so that they can have a better financial position when they have children, as well as the desire of working women to wait until they become more prosperous, contributed to the transition to older motherhood. said Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland.

In the past, parents often relied on their children to make a profit – allowing them to work in the fields, for example, when the economy was more based on agriculture. But over the past century or more in the U.S., parents have begun to invest more in their children’s future, providing more support as they go to school and enter their youth, he said.

“Having children later basically puts women in a better position,” Cohen said. “They have more resources, more education. The things we require people to be good parents are easier to give when you get older.”

Lani Trezi, 48, and her husband gave birth to their first child, a son when she was 38 and a daughter three years later. Although she was with her husband of 23 years, she did not feel the need to have children. Everything changed in her late 30s when she achieved a comfortable place in her career as a retail company manager.

“It was just an age when I felt confident in many areas of my life,” said Tresey, who lives in New Jersey, outside of New York City. “Then I didn’t have the confidence that I have now.”

According to the Census Bureau, over the past three decades, the largest increase in the average age at which women give birth in the U.S. has been observed among women born abroad between the ages of 27 and 32, and black women between the ages of 24 and 28. .

As for women born abroad, Cohen said he wasn’t entirely sure why the average age had increased over time, but it was probably a “complicated story” related to their circumstances or reasons for coming to the United States.

For black women, training and careers played a role.

“Black women are getting higher education at a higher rate,” said Reagan MacDonald-Mosley, an obstetrician and gynecologist who is CEO of Power to Decide, which works to reduce teenage pregnancy and unwanted childbirth. “Black women are starting to really get involved in their education, and it’s an incentive to postpone having children.”

Because unwanted pregnancies are highest among adolescents and women in their 20s, and more of their pregnancies end in abortion compared to older women, stopping Rowe vs. Wade is likely to shift the onset of childbearing on average earlier, the reverse trend over the past three decades. “Although the scale is unknown,” said Laura Lindbergh, chief researcher at the Gutmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

“The burden will be disproportionate on colored women, black women, undocumented people, people living in rural areas, people in the south where there are many black women, and the Midwest,” said MacDonald-Mosley, who also previously served. chief physician of the Federation of Paternity Planning of America.

Motherhood also came later in the developed countries of Europe and Asia. In the U.S., it could help slow the country’s population growth, as the ability to have children tends to decline with age, said Kate Choi, a family demographer with Western University in London, Ontario.

In areas of the U.S. where the population does not replace itself with birth, and where immigration is low, declining populations can cause labor shortages, higher labor costs and a supportive workforce, she said.

“Such changes will put significant pressure on programs to support older people, such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare,” Choi said. “Workers may have to pay higher taxes to support the growth of retirees.”

Although the Census Bureau report stops in 2019, the pandemic over the past two years has further delayed motherhood for many women: the U.S. birth rate fell 4% in 2020 in the biggest drop in a year. almost 50 years. Choi said there seems to have been a slight rebound to levels similar to 2019 in the second half of 2021, but more data is needed to determine if this is a return to a “normal” decline.

During the pandemic, some women in their late reproductive years may have refused to become parents or have more children because of economic uncertainty and greater health risks for pregnant women infected with the virus, she said.

“These women may have missed their window to have children,” Choi said. “Some parents of young children may have decided to abandon second … births because they were overwhelmed by additional childcare requirements that emerged during the pandemic, such as the need to teach children at home.”

Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP

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