During your parents’ generation, it was probably the norm to have kids at a very young age. Your parents and their peers likely started their families straight out of college or within a few years of graduating. These days, however, the norm has shifted: The AP has reported that women in their early 30s are having more babies than women in their 20s, and this is good news for a lot of people.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women from ages 25 to 29 had the highest birth rate for more than three decades, but that rate decreased last year. The average age for a woman to have her first child was still in the late 20s-range, at age 28. Data-wise though, the birth rate for women ages 30 to 34 was 103 per 1000, compared to 102 per 1000 for women ages 25 to 29.
These findings might not be so surprising, considering the increased cost of living and in turn, the increased costs of raising a family in this century. That’s a big part of why women are putting off having kids till later in life. Also, women in general may want to travel more, finish school. and/or accelerate their careers before settling down with kids. Emotional preparedness for parenthood is another huge factor for putting off having children till later.
In 2016, writer Rebecca Traister told NPR that women in the past were likely to marry and have kids earlier in life because they were dependent on husbands, who typically were the breadwinners in a household. “Now, thanks to a lot of the political battles that were waged in the mid-20th century, women have much more opportunity to earn on their own,” said Traister. “Though we’re still not close to equal pay, women can be economically independent.” Pretty wonderful to be in modern times, right? This sense of independence is also why more women are having children out of wedlock as well.
Aside from having more leisurely time and time to achieve educational, career, and other personal goals, women who have kids in their 30s may actually have a higher life expectancy. According to U.S. News, a study in the journal Menopause reported that women who had their last child after the age of 33 were twice as likely to live to age 95 or older than women who had their last child before the age of 30.
There also may be some benefits for children with older parents: U.S. News also quoted a study from the journal Population and Development Review. which basically found that kids with older parents were more likely to stay in school longer. They tended to do better on standardized tests and were more likely to attend college, compared to their peers with younger mothers. Additionally, a Danish study quoted in Glamour found that children with older parents were less likely to be physically disciplined and have less emotional and behavioral problems. People in their 30s tend to be more patient and stable, and that seems to carry over into parenting.
Another factor contributing to the shift is the ongoing decline in the teen birth rate. The CDC reports that the birth rate for U.S. women aged 15 to 19 was 22.3 per 1000 women in 2015. This is attributed to increased abstinence and birth control use. Because less women are having kids in their teens, they are likely to wait till later to do so.
With the continuous developments in contraception and fertility treatments, choices and possibilities can become realities for most women in determining their motherhood. From a health standpoint, it is still considered ideal to have kids in your 20s. According to Healthline, women in their 20s tend to have the lowest risk and fewest complications during the gestational period.
However, if you do plan on having children but aren’t quite there yet, just know you are okay where you are now—and once you do have those kids, the payoffs can be huge.
(Featured image via @allthatisshe)