In a nutshell, MOTHERS OF TODAY'S NEWBORNS ARE OLDER, MORE EDUCATED, AND LESS LIKELY TO BE MARRIED than they were twenty years ago.
The study had some good news for women who want to have babies but fear (or prefer) never getting married.
REGARDING THE AGE OF NEW MOTHERS:
Over all, new moms are older than their counterparts were two decades ago. In 1990, women ages 35 and older made up only 9% of the pool, whereas now (or 2008, the most recent year for which they could crunch the numbers) they represent about 14%.
Birthrates have risen for all women ages 30 and older. Although in some cases the number of births is small, the rate increases have been sharpest for women in the oldest age groups — 47% for women ages 35-39 and 80% for women ages 40-44, for example.
Today, when it comes to mothers of newborns who are 35 and older, 71% have at least some college education.
As the Pew points out, the delay in the age of motherhood is associated with a societal delay in the age of marriage and with growing educational attainment; that is, the more education a woman has, the later she tends to marry and have children.
A record 4 in 10 births (41%) were to unmarried women in 2008 — and most births to women in their early 20s were to unmarried ladies — whereas in 1990, 28% of births were to unmarried women. (Incidentally, the unmarried-mother share of births has increased most sharply for whites and Hispanics.)
When asked why they decided to have their first (or only) child, the overwhelming majority of parents (87%) answer, "The joy of having children." But nearly half (47%) also say, "There wasn't a reason; it just happened."
All this seems to indicate that more older, single women are choosing to have babies on their own — for "the joy" of having them — after realizing or deciding they're not going to get married.
BUT IS DECIDING TO HAVE A BABY ON YOUR OWN SO SMART?
In most cases, however, I think having a baby solo is a major stress — financially, emotionally, and otherwise. When I hear my single female friends talking about doing it if they haven't gotten married by 40, I think they're a little nuts.
1) Is it really good for a kid to be raised by a single parent who might be financially or emotionally strapped? I ended up being raised by a single parent (my father) who was constantly worried about everything — money, etc. — after my mother died. It wasn't that fun.
2) Is it selfish to have babies just for "the joy" of having them? Will the kid's life really be so joyful — especially if you are having the kid as a way of displacing your own ambitions and intimacy needs? And will your life really be so joyful? Because most studies done on the matter have shown that kids actually don't seem to make a life happier.
As the Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert put it: "Economists have modeled the impact of many variables on people's overall happiness and have consistently found that children have only a small impact. A small negative impact." (Emphasis mine.) According to Gilbert, researchers have found that people derive more satisfaction from eating, exercising, shopping, napping, or watching television than taking care of their kids.
Now, sure, you'll have someone to feed you mashed vegetables out of jar when you're 93 and have lost all your teeth ... and maybe you'll feel less lonely ... but ...
What do you guys think?
I think if you're older and single and you want to have a baby — and do something good for the planet and for one single human being — you should adopt.
Maybe this is easy for me to say, since I'm quite wary of having babies.
I fear your wrath. But I also feel I need to be honest. Tell me what you think.