Some new numbers from a Pew Research Center (PRC) FactTank article got me pondering. It states that “Millennial women (those born from 1981 to 1997) accounted for about eight-in-ten (82%) U.S. births in 2015.” Now that is a high percentage.
Wharton School study
The book, Baby Bust, which summarizes a cross-generational study by the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, lays out some numbers that would not necessarily predict this kind of high percentage.
The Wharton study found that “the rate of  graduates who plan to have children has dropped by nearly half over the past 20 years.” When 2012 college grads (who were and are of millennial age) in the study were asked, “Do you plan to have children?”:
41% of women graduates said yes, 14% said probably, and 27% said probably not or no
42% of men graduates said yes, 12% said probably, 30% said probably not or no
The FactTank article refers to a 2010 study that indicates, “While Millennials may be delaying parenthood, it’s not for a lack of interest in eventually becoming moms and dads.”
Baby Bust results in 2012 reveal something a bit different
- “Social consciousness now competes with motherhood: making a contribution to the world has become an increasingly common means for women to achieve a sense of meaning and purpose.”
- In 2012 young women feel “less constrained by the societal expectation that to be a good, caring and nurturing woman means one has to bear and care for one’s own children.”
- The reality that “women are increasingly focusing on social involvement through achievement of goals other than the pursuit of children.” A desire and value on helping others does not automatically mean motherhood; it “means generating social impact through a successful career.”
Looking back at the Baby Bust study and the number of Millennial women who had children in 2015 makes me wonder – might the 2015 numbers reflect a change of mind about kids over time? Or is it more a result of Millennials making up a large segment of the population?
To explore the answers, a longitudinal study would be very interesting – one that surveys them at the time of graduation and over the course of time to see how their feelings change/not change about parenthood.
I am actually in the midst of a study like this myself. While it does not have a sample of Millennials at the time of college graduation, the childfree women were all of Millennial age when we started. I have been tracking their position on having kids and their lives for seven years now – three years to go!
One thing for sure, when Millennials do have kids, they are continuing the trend of starting later. As the PRC FactTank piece says, “Millennial women are waiting longer to become parents than prior generations did.” I would not be surprised if we continue to see this trend with future generations as well.
What do you see out there with people born between 1981-1997, or about ages 19-35, when it comes to having/not having kids?