May 17, 2006

Demography is Destiny?

"Faced with the prospect of juggling a career and parenting children, high-skill women are delaying motherhood or skipping it altogether. In fact, among 40-year-old college-educated women, 27 percent have not yet had a child -- and many of them never will."

This from a Harvard Magazine article titled Fertility and Destiny by Erin O'Donnell that examined the implications of educated women delaying or foregoing motherhood, based on research done by Harvard Professor, David Ellwood and others, using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

I am one of those college-educated women, born from 1960-1964, who will never have children. Not because I delayed, but because I skipped it altogether.

Why? Because I valued freedom and independence more than I valued the experience of Motherhood. I also recognized that if I did have kids the bulk of the burden of raising children would fall squarely on my shoulders. I would have to abandon my career and be financially dependent on a man, or I would have to leave my children in some other person's care and hope the market would pay enough for my skills to cover child-care and other expenses.

In the climate of high divorce rates and rising child-care costs, neither of these options seemed appealling or even smart. My college-honed critical thinking skills, Economics 101, and my own desire to chart an alternative course made the decision to remain childfree a no-brainer.

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Stephanie said...

It seems to me that younger college educated women (like myself) are not decided as far as delaying/skipping childbearing the way these study subjects are. Graduating from college in a matter of days, I feel quite out of the ordinary in my rigid determination that children are not for me.
In fact, I got "bingoed" at my first meeting with my graduate program director... I brushed it off, since we had never met before, but being told that my cat would make good practice for "when you have children" was very disconcerting because I was there to talk about my academic future, not my personal life decisions. We were making smalltalk, and the point of the comment was that the university has a good childcare center.. But still, I felt bothered. And I get the impression from my cohort of women that the presumption of childbearing in the future is more common and accepted by and for women my age than older ones.

Whoops, huge long comment. Sorry about the length.

Anonymous said...

Length in comments is no problem. Original posts should be to the point, however. When someone clicks through to view comments there's a certain level of interest and commitment!

Thanks for leaving a comments.

I have repaired the link to this article if you'd like to view the entire the entire text.

Anonymous said...

Here's a quote that stands out for me:

"With so few children being born into homes that offer the advantages of education and steady income, where will tomorrow's high-skill workers come from? If this economy is going to grow in terms of workers, if productivity is to increase," he says, "we'll have to look to older workers and immigrants."

I agree, that U.S. immigration policy has a long way to go and our older workers should be more valued, but the researcher really buys into his own data and leaps to an assumption that the plight of less advantaged children cannot be changed.

His quote gives the feeling that these children are just to be set aside, with no hope or opportunity. It’s simply not true. America's vast nonprofit sector fills in where government grants and aid leave off in the form of scholarship and charity.