The Pew Research Center and the U.S. census are out with the numbers for completed fertility among American women aged 40-44. And they are interesting! Moreover, they tell you more than the often-abused Total Fertility Rate, which is a constructed number for an imaginary woman. These numbers are for real women born between 1970 and 1974 ... i.e., people my age.
Let’s start with the overall numbers. Back in 1976, women born between 1932 and 1936 had each given birth to 2.85 children on average. These women were the tail end of the generation that produced the baby boomers, so the high number shouldn’t be surprising. Only 10% of them were childless; a full 36% of them had more than four children. My mother was part of this group, having been born in 1936.
In 1994, things had changed. Women born between 1950 and 1954 had on average only 1.90 children. 19% of them were childless and only 11% of them had more than four children.
By 2014, however, the average number of children born to women aged 40-44 rose to 2.02, fairly close to replacement. (About 2% of American children tragically die before age 20, which would put replacement around 2.04. See Figure 5.) In the aggregate, the moves were all around the margins: childlessness fell to 15% and families with more than four kids rose to 12%.
The real change, though, was for women with postgraduate degrees. There you had a revolution between 1994 and 2014. (IIRC, Carlos Yu predicted what would happen; Doug Muir was more doubtful.) Completed fertility skyrocketed from 1.33 to 1.74. Childlessness crashed from 35% to 20%. Four-child-plus families jumped from 5% to 7%.
This change is huge.
Any thoughts as to why?