The US median age for birth is 30

For Allyson Jacobs, her 20s and 30s were about focusing on her healthcare career and enjoying New York City’s social scene. It wasn’t until she turned 40 that she and her husband tried to have children. They had a son when she was 42.

Over the past three decades, it’s become increasingly common in the US as birth rates have declined for women in their 20s and have skyrocketed for women in their late 30s and early 40s, according to a new report by the US Census Bureau. The trend has pushed the median age of US women at childbirth from 27 to 30, the highest on record.


As older parents celebrating Mother’s Day on Sunday, Jacobs feels she has more resources for her son, 9, than she would have had in her 20s.

“There’s definitely more wisdom, definitely more patience,” said Jacobs, 52, who works as a patient services administrator at a hospital. “Because we’re older, we had the money to hire a nanny. We might not have been able to afford that if we had been younger.”

While overall fertility rates have declined from 1990 to 2019, the decline has been considered rather stable compared to previous eras. But the age at which women have babies has shifted. Fertility rates fell by almost 43% in women aged 20-24 and more than 22% in women aged 25-29. At the same time, they increased by more than 67% for women 35-39 and by more than 132% for women 40-44, according to the Census Bureau analysis based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics.


The decision of college-educated women to invest in their education and careers so that they will be financially better off when they have children, as well as the desire of working-class women to wait until they are financially secure, have resulted in a shift towards older motherhood contributed, said Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland.

In the past, parents were often dependent on their children’s income – for example, they let them work in the fields when the economy was more rural. But over the past century or more, parents in the United States have become more invested in their children’s futures, providing them with more support as they go to school and into young adulthood, he said.

“Most of the time, having kids later puts women in a better position,” Cohen said. “They have more resources, more education.


Lani Trezzi, 48, and her husband had their first child, a son, when she was 38, followed by a daughter three years later. Although she had been with her husband since she was 23, she felt no urgency about having children. That all changed in her late 30s, when she had reached a comfortable point in her career as a retail executive.

“It was just an age where I felt completely secure in many areas of my life,” said Trezzi, who lives in New Jersey outside of New York City. “I didn’t have the confidence then that I have now.”

According to the Census Bureau, over the past three decades, the largest increases in the median age at which U.S. women give birth have been ages 27 to 32 for foreign-born women and ages 24 to 28 for black women.

As for foreign-born women, Cohen said he wasn’t entirely sure why the median age had increased over time, but said it was likely a “complicated story” to do with their circumstances or reasons for coming to the US


For Black women, education and careers mattered.

“Black women have sought higher education at higher rates,” said Raegan McDonald-Mosley, an obstetrician-gynecologist who is CEO of Power to Decide, which works to reduce teenage pregnancy and unwanted births. “Black women are becoming more involved in their education, and that’s an incentive to delay childbirth.”

Because unwanted pregnancies are highest among teens and women in their 20s, and more of their pregnancies end in abortion compared to older women, ending Roe v. Wade likely postpones the onset of childbirth earlier on average, reversing the trend of the past three decades, “although the extent is unknown,” said Laura Lindberg, senior research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute, a research group promoting abortion rights uses.


“The burden will fall disproportionately on black women, black women, undocumented people, people in rural areas, people in the South — where there are a lot of black women — and in the Midwest,” said McDonald-Mosley, who also previously served as chief Medical Officer of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

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

In areas of the US where the population does not replace itself with births and where immigration is low, declining populations can lead to labor shortages, higher labor costs and a work force that supports retirees, she said.

“Such changes will put significant pressure on programs aimed at assisting seniors such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare,” Choi said. “Workers may have to pay higher taxes to support the growing number of retirees.”


Though data stops in the 2019 Census Bureau report, the pandemic has delayed motherhood even further for many women over the past two years, with U.S. birth rates falling 4% in 2020, the largest drop in a year for almost 50 years. Choi said there appeared 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 may have given up on becoming parents or having more children at the end of their reproductive years due to economic uncertainties and greater health risks for pregnant women who catch the virus, she said.

“These women may have missed their window to have children,” Choi said. “Some parents of young children may have chosen to forego the second… birth because they have been overwhelmed with the additional childcare demands that have arisen during the pandemic. like the need to homeschool their children.”



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