In honor of this past Sunday being Mother’s Day, I thought it would be interesting to look into all of what constitutes a mother in America 2010. We turn to the PEW Research Organization for the answer by the statistics they offer. Some of the numbers are good, others maybe an indicator of what direction the institution of motherhood is going in our country.
The basis of this statistical analysis is the difference in demographic characteristics of mothers by comparing women who gave birth in 2008 versus those who gave birth in 1998. In other words what has changed over the past 20 years.
AGE: Mother’s in 2008 are older than mothers in 1990. In 2008 14% of all births in the US were women 35 years or older. In 1998 that figure was only 9%. Conversely the number of teen births in the US has fallen about the same percent from 1998 to 2008.
MARITAL STATUS: 41% of the births in 2008 were to unwed mothers. This is a drastic increase in the numbers as compared with the 28% figure from 1990. The age group of these unwed mothers showing the biggest increase is women in their early 20’s. The unwed mother ethnic group that showed the biggest gains was the whites and the Hispanic. Black women made up the highest share of unwed mothers.
RACE and ETHNICITY: White women made up 53% of the mothers of newborn children in 2008, down from 65% in 1990. Births to Hispanic women have increased to 25% of the mothers of newborn children in 2008. The share of births to foreign born mothers has grown from 15% in 1990 to 60% through 2004. Most immigrants have high birth rates than native born mothers.
EDUCATION: Most mothers of newborns (54%) had at least some college education as of 2006, compared with 41% in 1990. Among mothers of newborns who were age 35 or older, 71% of this group had at least some college education.
The total number of births in America has been relatively flat, with 4.3 million births in 2008 versus 4.2 million births in 1990. The number had been steadily increasing slightly year to year until 2007. Many believe the economic downturn has influenced this number. The nation’s birthrate (which is births per 1000 women of childbearing age) has dropped 20% from 1990. The fertility rate of America is about 2.10 which is about the same as what it was in 1990. The number is about or slightly below the “replacement rate” which is the level at which enough children are born to replace their parents in the population. Compared with many European and Asian countries, the US has a higher fertility rate. Italy, Austria and Japan with rates around 1.4 have produced concern over whether those nations will have enough working population to support their aging population. When asked how many children would make up the ideal family, Americans said “two”, which has been consistent since the 70’s. 43% of those women who had reached the end of their childbearing age had 2 children, with 22% having 3 children and 8% having 4 children and only 4% having 5 or more children.
You might ask yourself what good are these statistics. Well, they certainly are a window to the future. In the marketing and development of products, these numbers can be used to formulate prototypes and ideas on what these women and their individual sectors need. These numbers can be used in formulating public policy or government programs. Our country’s workforce future is being formulated in front of our eyes. What will its makeup be and what training and focus is needed to help us be productive in the future? We can agree or disagree with any or all the statistics, but bottom line they are what they are and its best we understand them and learn how we can make the best of what it is.