Rise of the older, educated, unwed mom

Increasingly, new mothers are older than 35, college educated and haven't put a ring on it

By Tracy Clark-Flory

Published May 6, 2010 8:30PM (EDT)

With Mother's Day fast approaching, researchers sure are unloading the mommy research. In this week alone, we've seen a survey on how mothers' depression influences their kids, the importance of touch in newborn development and TV's impact on toddlers. Well, today, the Pew Research Center adds a fascinating new report on top of the pile finding that new moms are increasingly older, educated and unmarried. Mothers who are wise, book-smart and independent -- what is the world coming to?!

"The New Demography of American Motherhood" reports that in 2008 one in seven babies were born to women age 35 and older. Just two decades ago, teenage mothers accounted for more births than women at least 35 years of age, but times are a changing, folks. Now, 10 percent of new mothers are teens and 14 percent are 35 and older. Among new moms, 54 percent had some college education (compared to 41 percent two decades ago), and 71 percent of new mommies over 35 had logged at least some time in college. On top of all that, the rate of unmarried mothers jumped from 28 percent in 1990 to 41 percent in 2008.

You can thank (or blame, depending on where you stand) the rising number of "mature" moms on advances in infertility treatment. There's also a tangle of cultural factors at play here. The stigma surrounding older mothers has eased considerably, according to the report. Americans have become far more accepting of "the growing number of women ages 40 and older who have babies" and "the increasing number of women, often those over 30, who undergo fertility treatment in order to have a baby."

The report makes a connection, which seems pretty intuitive, between women's increasing education and the rise in postponed motherhood: "The more education a woman has, the later she tends to marry and have children." Add to that the fact that people are increasingly putting off marriage or not getting hitched at all, and the boom in unwed motherhood makes perfect sense. Sadly, while there is less judgment toward single mothers than there once was, most Americans still deem it as being "bad for society."

This study leaves me with one question: How long until hardcore traditionalists start using these stats to blame feminists for the destruction of American families?

Tracy Clark-Flory

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