Study reveals rise in highly educated women choosing motherhood, larger families

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Study reveals rise in highly educated women choosing motherhood, larger families

By Jessica Ivins | Posted - May 7, 2015 at 8:12 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — It appears postgraduate education and motherhood are going together quite nicely.

That’s according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data that revealed a drop in the number of highly educated women remaining childless in their 40s. Additionally, the number of children these women have is on the rise.

To be precise, just 1 in 5 women (or 20 percent) between the ages of 40 and 44 with a master’s degree or higher don’t have any children. That’s down 8 percent from 1994, according to the study.

Researchers identified the most dramatic change among women who had a medical degree or doctorate — just 20 percent in this group remain childless today, compared with 35 percent two decades ago.

“In the past, it’s been the attitude that a working mom can’t have a good relationship with her child,” Pew researcher Gretchen Livingston told PBS News. “I think it’s becoming more acceptable for working women to become moms, and that may be having an influence.”


In the past, it's been the attitude that a working mom can't have a good relationship with her child. I think it's becoming more acceptable for working women to become moms, and that may be having an influence.

–Gretchen Livingston, Pew Center researcher


Not only are women with postgraduate education having children, but they’re also having more of them. In 1994, roughly 51 percent of women with a master’s degree or higher had two or more children. Today, that number stands at 60 percent, according to Pew.

Additionally, the number of highly educated women with three or more children has increased by 6 percent over the past 20 years, the study revealed.

These new statistics likely contribute to the fact that childlessness in the U.S. is lower than it’s been in 10 years — sitting at 15 percent. That number peaked in the mid-2000s when 20 percent of women at the end of their childbearing years remained without children, the study said.

The relationship between education and motherhood remains intact, however. Researchers found the more education a woman has up to a bachelor’s degree, the less likely she is to become a mother. Additionally, mothers with more education have fewer children than those who have less education, according to the study.

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Jessica Ivins

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