Av­er­age age of new U.S. moms at all-time high, now over 26

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FEATURES - BY MIKE STOBBE THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Women are stay­ing in school longer, they’re go­ing into the work­force, they’re wait­ing to get mar­ried, and they’re wait­ing to have kids. It’s been go­ing on in the U.S. since the 1950s. John San­telli, Columbia Univer­sity pro­fes­sor

The av­er­age age of first-time moth­ers is at an all-time high in the U.S - over 26.

The change is largely due to a big drop in teen moms. But more first births to older women also are tug­ging the num­ber up, said T.J. Mathews of the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion.

He’s the lead au­thor of a re­port re­leased Thurs­day that put the av­er­age age at 26 years, 4 months for women who had their first child in 2014.

The govern­ment be­gan track­ing the age of new moth­ers around 1970 when the av­er­age was 21. It’s been mostly climb­ing ever since, and spiked in about the last five years.

The num­ber rock­eted im­me­di­ately af­ter a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court rul­ing le­gal­iz­ing abor­tion, which is used mostly by young un­mar­ried women.

Also fu­el­ing the rise were im­prove­ments in birth con­trol and greater op­por­tu­ni­ties for women, ex­perts said.

“Women are stay­ing in school longer, they’re go­ing into the work­force, they’re wait­ing to get mar­ried, and they’re wait­ing to have kids,” said John San­telli, a Columbia Univer­sity pro­fes­sor of pop­u­la­tion and fam­ily health.

“It’s been go­ing on in the U.S. since the 1950s,” and in many other coun­tries as well, he added.

Over­all, the av­er­age age of first-time moms has been ris­ing in ev­ery racial and eth­nic group, and in ev­ery state. Since 2000, some of the most dra­matic in­creases were for black moth­ers and for moms liv­ing along the West Coast.

How­ever, the North­east still has the high­est av­er­age ages. Top­ping the list are Mas­sachusetts and the District of Columbia, each at about 29, and Con­necti­cut and New York, at or near 28.

In New York’s Park Slope neigh­bour­hood in Brook­lyn - an en­clave for fam­i­lies with young chil­dren - older moms are com­mon.

Push­ing a stroller on a frigid Wed­nes­day morn­ing, Meisha Welch said she didn’t have the first of her two chil­dren un­til just af­ter her 38th birth­day.

“Many of my friends I grew up with, we all have small chil­dren,” said Welch, now 42.

“We had chil­dren at what in the past may have seemed like an older age. But now it feels more av­er­age.”

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