We have written that the fertility of postgraduate women has markedly increased among women born 1970-74 relative to earlier cohorts. Claudia Goldin’s (Harvard) work on college-educated women implies that the change is even greater than it seems. Now, Goldin is looking at all college graduates, not just women with postgraduate degrees ... but that makes her findings even more striking.
Among women born in the late 19th century, fully half of college graduates had no children. That fell over time (in part because, as per Gareth’s hypothesis many more women began to graduate college). Nonetheless, for women born in 1958-68 (cohort 5 in the above table) fully 26% of them had no children by age 40.
Yet the cohort of postgraduate-educated women born just a few years later (1970-74) has a childlessness rate of only 20%. That puts them very near the rate experienced by the college-educated parents of the baby boom. For college-educated women childlessness has fallen even faster.
Something very dramatic is going on to make professional educated women who hit their peak childbearing years in the first decade of the 21st century choose both family and career. Bitsy makes too good suggestions in comments, although I am not sure how to test the first one.
The big question, unanswerable until we have a handle on causes, is whether the fertility rise will continue in the next few decades.