SAN FRANCISCO, California, November 15, 2007 – Over the last two decades, California has experienced an accelerating trend in delayed childbearing, according to a study released today by the Public Policy Institute of California. A growing percentage of women are giving birth in their early forties, while a much lower percentage of teenagers are becoming mothers. Despite the rise in birth rates among older women, trends in childlessness are also increasing.
From 1982 to 2005, birth rates among U.S.-born women between the ages of 40 and 44 tripled, from 3.5 to 10.5 births per 1,000 women. Fertility rates among women in their 30s also increased (from 49 to 68 births per 1,000). However, among women in their 20s, fertility declined from 115 to 85 births per 1,000. And teen birth rates (for females between ages 15 and 19) fell dramatically, from a peak of 74 per 1,000 in 1991 to 38 per 1,000 in 2005.
“Given the social, economic, and health problems historically associated with teen childbearing, this trend is very good news,” says Hans Johnson, the report’s author and PPIC associate director of research. “Last year, teen birth rates in California were the lowest the state has ever recorded.” There are, however, racial and ethnic differences. For African American teens, birth rates dropped by nearly two-thirds (63%) and for Latinas by almost half (46%). Rates also declined for white and Asian teens, but from much lower numbers overall.
Peak fertility rates among U.S.-born white and Asian women now occur in their early 30s, rather than in their late 20s. Peak fertility rates among U.S.-born Latinas occur in their early 20s. In general, Latinas have much higher birth rates than other ethnic groups, with the highest rate in the state belonging to foreign-born Latinas (3.7 children per woman). In contrast, U.S.-born whites and Asians have fertility rates of 1.6 and 1.4 children per woman, respectively. African American women follow a unique fertility pattern with relatively high birth rates at young ages and very low rates at older ages.
The trend in childbearing among women over age 40 is highest among whites and Asians. However, despite the growth of fertility rates for women in their 40s, they still represent a small share of all births: 95 percent of California women have completed childbearing by age 40. Consequently, delayed childbearing may explain substantial increases in childlessness. In 2006, one of every four women in her early 40s had no children, nearly twice the rate as in 1980. This is the highest level of childlessness in the state’s history.
The Public Policy Institute of California is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major economic, social, and political issues. The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett.