Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Interactive map of when mothers have their first babies highlights education, urban-rural differences

Average age of mother at first birth. (NYT map; click on the image to enlarge it; click here for the interactive version)
An analysis of four decades of birth records shows that the age when women become mothers varies significantly by geography and education, which results in children born into different family lives and headed for diverging economic futures. "Researchers say the differences in when women start families are a symptom of the nation's inequality — and as moving up the economic ladder has become harder, mothers' circumstances could have a bigger effect on their children’s futures," Quoctrung Bui and Claire Miller report for The New York Times.

Women in rural areas, the Great Plains and the South tend to become mothers earlier, and so do women without a college degree. Younger and/or less-educated first-time moms tend to be poorer, which means they sometimes can't afford enriching activities like violin lessons or math tutoring for their children. On the other hand, younger and more rural moms are also more likely to live near their own parents, which is helpful for child care and overall support.

"The gulf aligns with other disparities in the way Americans live — including differing attitudes about the role of women," Bui and Miller report. "Law professors June Carbone and Naomi Cahn described in a 2010 book how red and blue families were living different lives. The biggest differentiating factor, they said, was the age that mothers had children. Young mothers are more likely to be conservative and religious, to value traditional gender roles and to reject abortion. Older mothers tend to be liberal, and to split bread-winning and care-giving responsibilities more equally with men, they found."

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