Birth Rate Drops to All-Time Low in 2011

The CDC reports that the 2011 US birth rate hit a historic low, at 63.2 births per 1000 women aged 15.44.  The prior low was 63.6 in 1997.  The rate in 2010 was 64.1, down from a recent high of 69.3 in 2007.  This confirms the CDC’s earlier report in May of this year, and provides details on age, race and marital status of the new moms.

Results— The 2011 preliminary number of US births was 3,953,593, 1 percent less (or 45,793 fewer) births than in 2010; the general fertility rate (63.2 per 1,000 women age 15-44 years) declined to the lowest rate ever reported for the United States. The number of births declined for most race and Hispanic origin groups in 2011, whereas the rate declined only for Hispanic, non-Hispanic black and AIAN women. • The birth rate for teenagers 15-19 years fell 8 percent in 2011 (31.3 births per 1,000 teenagers 15-19 years), another record low, with rates declining for younger and older teenagers and for all race and Hispanic origin groups. • The birth rates for women in their twenties declined as well, to a historic low for women aged 20-24 (85.3 births per 1,000). • The birth rate for women in their early thirties was unchanged in 2011 but rose for women aged 35-39 and 40-44. • The birth rate for women in their late forties was unchanged in 2011. • The first birth rate in 2011 (25.4 births per 1,000) was the lowest ever recorded for the United States. • The birth rate, the number of births, and the percentage of births to unmarried women each declined for the third consecutive year. The birth rate was 46.1 birth per 1,000 unmarried women aged 15-44 and the percentage of births to unmarried women was 40.7.  (CDC, NVSR 61.5, October 2012)

The big birth rate declines we’ve seen since the recent high in 2007 (a 9% fall overall between 2007 and 2011) have been sharpest among teens 15-19 (a 25% drop over the four years) and to young women 20-24 (down 19%).   Both of those rates hit historic lows in 2011.

On the other hand, rates among women 25-29 have fallen 9% since 2007.   Rates among women 30-34 fell 4% between 2007 and 2010 and held steady in 2011.  Rates to women 35-39 also fell 4% between 2007 and 2010, but rose 3% in 2011. Rates to women 40-44 never fell: they’d been rising steadily since 1981, and rose another 7% between 2007 and 2011. 
Big changes to US birth timing, continuing the trend toward delaying motherhood that this blog has been tracking lo these several years.
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The Myth of Male Decline, Later Motherhood, & the Anti-Birth Control Movement

Here’s a great piece by Stephanie Coontz in today’s NY Times correcting recent claims of the imminent disappearance of men from the national economy.   This follows on the heels of related excellent points made in the Sunday Times’s review of Hanna Rosin’s book The End of Men in last week’s Times (by Jennifer Homans) and Philip Cohen’s multiple posts on the topic on his blog Family Inequality.

The basic point in these discussions is that women are still nowhere near equal in salary or in cultural power to men, though we have made some advances.  The claim to dominance is based in a misuse of sociological data.  As Coontz puts it:

“Proponents of the ‘women as the richer sex’ scenario often note that in several metropolitan areas, never-married childless women in their 20s now earn more, on average, than their male age-mates.But this is because of the demographic anomaly that such areas have exceptionally large percentages of highly educated single white women and young, poorly educated, low-wage Latino men. Earning more than a man with less education is not the same as earning as much as an equally educated man.”

Without this apples-to-oranges comparison, the argument that childless women in their 20s are now doing better than childless men in their 20s disappears, and of course it never  even tried to address what happens to women’s wages when women have kids.  Or are the proponents of the equal-wages-are-here theory anticipating that these women just won’t (and shouldn’t) ever have kids?  Strange logic.

I’d like to add two elements to this discussion — briefly, for further discussion later.

Later Motherhood: The delayed birth trend indicates the failure of the work system to admit women unless they employ delay as a workaround.  The increase in the trend is a marker, indicating the continued unfriendliness of the system to people caring for families.  The trend has allowed a progress up the career and pay ladders for women, but it cannot indicate a dominance, since if women were anywhere close to dominant, they would have changed the system to something friendlier to women long ago.   That has not happened yet.  And a fairer system, if achieved, would not per se indicate dominance, but something closer to equity.  Why does even an approach to equity look like dominance to some?  Not a feminist argument, more an argument meant to sell books and magazines by provoking anxiety about change .

The trend to delaying kids has developed in large part because women have recognized that they are only NOT PUNISHED (in terms of long term salary and social power), if they delay.   NOT PUNISHED (and it might be better stated as “not punished as much“) is not the same as dominant, but that’s the way it’s being discussed.  This argument potentially undermines further progress by creating a false impression that women advance at men’s expense, and that they have in fact already done that.  As Cohen puts it, “woe to any woman trying to convince a jury she’s being discriminated against while these books are in the headlines.” Rather than representing a loss for men, gains in equitable treatment for women represent a win for the nation across the board, since higher female paychecks add to the revenue of the family as a whole and female workforce participation in a wider range of jobs means an expanded national resource pool.

The Anti-Birth Control Movement: The recent coordinated push to limit access to birth control and abortion in state legislatures across the country represents an effort to push-back against feminist gains.  Though women have far to go to equity, the progress we have made in putting more women in policy-making roles seems to be scaring some old-boy employers, who don’t like change that could mean a change in their chokehold on policy or on the current unfair wage system.  More later, but I did want to note that non-fact-based anti-feminist East Coast journalism on “female dominance” plays to the same fears that seem to be motivating the anti-birth-control push, though presumably with a different sector of the national audience in mind.

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Respecting the Mom Bod

Today’s New York Times ran a solid defense of the real mom bod (Can a Mom Get a Break?), by a new later mom of three who happens to be the editor at the Hollywood Reporter – and the former editor of Us Magazine, Janice Min.

As she notes, as past-Us editor she’s partly responsible for the delusion we suffer nationally that all moms should be slender seconds after delivery. Flash to cover photos of celebs who do make the quick change. If Beyoncé can, why can’t you?

Well, great for those who can. But for most moms, including many celebs, it takes a while. And no-body needs to feel bad about doing the hard physical work of carrying and bearing the next generation. Cut out the mom bod mockery! R E S P E C T it with a friendly smile.

Can’t find a better illustration than this cartoon from Mikhaela Reid

And here’s a blog devoted to respecting (and normalizing) reality, from many angles, combined with encouragement for getting back in shape in reasonable time, per your bod: The Shape of a Mother

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The Benefits of Later Motherhood: Pay Them Forward!

Here’s my post today on Janice D’Arcy’s Washington Post “On Parenting” blog: she asked me to respond to Nona Aronowitz’s WashPo op-ed on second-generation later motherhood and the effects on grand-parenting and elder care (the fallout to the fact that 40 + 40 = 80).

As ever, my big interest is in the process that delay enables for getting women’s voices heard in business, government and society.Here’s the close:

“Not to ignore the pains of infertility or elder-care struggles or of not being able to consult with our moms about childrearing. Rather to use that pain and the portent of such pain to bring the upcoming generation of young women out in the street banging the drums for change — with the older generations by their sides singing the chorus.

“Time to stop punishing women for having kids and then blaming them when they don’t. All the later moms, all the contracepting boomer women, this is our moment to share the wealth we’ve enjoyed, a wealth not just of cash but of heretofore unknown opportunity, with the younger women. To hand down not just a new set of problems, but a new set of solutions.

And it is time for the younger women to use the new status we’ve earned to demand those solutions: Fair wages. Good affordable childcare for all. Equal representation. Equal education regardless of local property tax base. A national elder care network. Jobs engines all.

“Stop taking ‘unrealistic’ or ‘wait until we have a woman president’ for an answer, and make it so.

“We can do it! Just as our mothers and grandmothers did when called to action in decades past. We just have to know our own strength, and use it — collectively.“

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