The Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project has revealed some distinct shifts in the demographics of mothers in the United States over the past two decades in “The New Demography of Motherhood.” How has America’s population of mothers made significant changes?
Overall, mothers today are older and better educated than those in 1990. Pew attributes these fluctuations to the trend of women getting married later—or not at all—and more women attaining higher levels of education: “The more education a woman has, the later she tends to marry and have children.” However, attitudes toward single parenthood have not shifted significantly. According to the report, “Americans have softened slightly in their disapproval of unmarried parenthood, but most say it is bad for society.”
Here are some of the highlights of the notable changes our country has seen in U.S. mothers over time:
- Race/ethnicity: The two groups that saw the most change in their numbers were white women and Latinas. The number of births among white women in 2008 was 53 percent, a 13 percent decrease since 1990. On the rise, however, were births to Latina mothers, 24 percent, reflecting a 13 percent increase from 1990.
- Age: The age of mothers of newborns has increased across all racial/ethnic categories. Mothers ages 35 to 39 have increased by 47 percent, but the most significant jump has been mothers ages 40 to 44, which made an 80 percent jump.
- Marital status: The number of married mothers has decreased by 13 percent (from 72 percent in 1990 to 59 percent in 2008), compared with a rise in the number of unmarried mothers, from 28 percent to 41 percent. The share of births that are non-marital is highest for Black women (72 percent), followed by Latinas (53 percent), but the increase over the past two decades has been greatest for whites—the share rose 69 percent.
- Education: There has been a notable increase in college-educated mothers during the years of this study. In 1990, 41 percent of mothers had some college or more. In 2008, that group rose to 54 percent, a 13 percent increase.
Click here to see Pew Hispanic Center’s Associate Director Dr. Mark Hugo Lopez’s presentation on the growing Latino population from DiversityInc’s event.