More college mom ruminations

This was some comments I made on Steve Sailer’s blog continuing to think about the college mom situation.

“In 1960 about 20% of first-time mothers were college attending or completing, which is striking given that less than 10% of women graduating high school were college attending then. You want to know why we have a college fixation, you might consider that aspect and that it was nearly 60 years ago. Currently a supermajority of first births are to college attending mothers, particularly white non-Hispanic ones. College since the postwar era was and is trade school with pretensions for men and marriage protection/guarantee for women and increasingly also trade school for them too.”

(in response to someone dusting off the “college women end up childless bitter spinsters” canard)
“Those college moms are rarely baby mamas and they send their sons to college. Christian colleges have a distinct lack of mattress girl or sjw type drama. Same for most colleges really. The system is working well for white college mothers since they have most of the white babies and have for decades now.”

(replying to a different someone dusting off the “college teaches nothing useful to anyone” canard)
“College is what women do to signal fitness for marriage and motherhood, among reasons that are obvious from data but go unmentioned. A system where women have to at least attempt college to be eligible for marriage and kids in that order is the one we have, even though it doesn’t work quite that strictly for men, which is one of the other reasons there’s a sex gap in admissions.

It also means the data showing lower income is misleading, since enough women taking 3-10 years out of the workforce or working very part time to have 2-4 kids would cause a pretty substantial drop without really devaluing the degree in the typically meant sense of the term.”

(same guy who also “wasn’t sure” it was true that the college mom plan was working outside the upper class)
“It’s more true than ever, most white babies are born to women with completed college and a supermajority are born to women who have attempted college and not completed a degree. The unwed motherhood for white women is concentrated among non-college attending women.

Attending and completing college, getting married and having kids in that order is not so much upper class (for whites) as the new norm among whites who have kids, plural. White single moms tend to have one child and no college coursework, while married white mothers are experiencing a relative increase in 3rd and higher children.

You can’t really get rid of the college bubble until you figure out how to change the incentive for the overwhelming majority of white mothers, for whom things are working fine and whose children will attend college, marry and have 2-4 kids same as they did. You can’t even throw the increase in unwed motherhood at them, since it’s concentrated in “Fishtown” and skews interracial anyway. And they don’t know those women in their social circles, except a smattering of…college educated ones with decent jobs or careers.”

Itty bitty teeny weeny post about Scandinavian birth patterns.

They are, for the most part, very similar to American ones, but in a way I didn’t expect once I looked into the data.  They have nearly the same percentages of women having 3 or 4 kids as America does (so, about 25% or so combined).  They have a similar pattern of fewer women signing onto the motherhood project, but the ones that remain having 2-3 and a bit less often than in America 4 or more.  It’s not a sea of women having just one and grudgingly two at all.

I have run into a lot of references to having three kids in English-language articles about various Scandinavian countries and it turns out that is partly because a three child family is not actually that uncommon in those countries.

This is interesting.  I tried to see if this was true in non-Scandi Europe (France, Germany, UK), but the data wasn’t laid out for English speakers in a way that made this easy to find, so  I still have no idea if it’s true with them too.  It’s also pretty SWEET that Scandinavian countries put up some pretty elaborate birth data charts ‘n’ graphs in English.

College education and birth numbers, 2007-2015

The CDC has a birth database,, and it is pretty complete.  It’s where the numbers come from.

What I was talking about here  is a little more obvious once the percentages are there.  This is just for black and white non-Hispanic women, the groups you can go back to 1960 or earlier on.

Black women: 53% of births to women with high school completed or less, 47% of births to women with some college education, including completing bachelor’s and advanced degrees.  Nearly 4 million births for that timeframe.

White women: 32% of births to women with high school completed or less, 68% to women with college education.    Nearly 15 million births for them.

These numbers represent all births for this timeframe, first kid, second, fifth, whatever.

Now we look at the impact of education level on marital status for black women:


Race Education Level Percent Married at Birth Percent Unmarried at Birth
Black 8th grade or less 38.49% 61.51%
9-12 grade 9.63% 90.37%
Finished High School 18.30% 81.70%
Some college 27.68% 72.32%
AA degree 44.23% 55.77%
BA/BS 62.28% 37.72%
MA 76.47% 23.53%
PhD or Professional Degree (MD, JD, etc.) 86.00% 14.00%

Though not ideal, the impact of more education is evident, women with even a little college education represent a substantially lower number of out of wedlock births.

Here’s the impact for white women:

Race Education Level Percent Married at Birth Percent Unmarried at Birth
White 8th grade or less 67.41% 32.59%
9-12 grade 30.05% 69.95%
Finished High School 50.39% 49.61%
Some college 63.35% 36.65%
AA degree 79.10% 20.90%
BA/BS 92.69% 7.31%
MA 95.74% 4.26%
PhD or Professional Degree (MD, JD, etc.) 96.06% 3.94%

Amish births distort their 8th grade numbers in favor of marriage, but given the radically different structure of Amish society,  one could argue that this is a more education= more marriage situation too.  It is worth noting that the out of wedlock numbers for white women with BAs or more have remained in the single digits for decades now, despite the group itself being much larger a chunk of the mothers.

Having looked at basic out of wedlock differences by education we come to the question the natalist of any sort is most interested in: what percentage of BIRTHS do the higher-educated moms represent?

Let’s look at the numbers for black women first:

Race Education Level Percent of total married births Percent of total unmarried births
Black 8th grade or less 2.35% 1.48%
9-12 grade 6.04% 22.28%
Finished High School 21.68% 37.99%
Some college 26.26% 26.94%
AA degree 10.04% 4.97%
BA/BS 20.67% 4.92%
MA 10.38% 1.25%
PhD or Professional Degree (MD, JD, etc.) 2.57% 0.16%

And the kicker, percentage of total births:

Race Education Level Percent of all births
Black 8th grade or less 1.72%
9-12 grade 17.70%
Finished High School 33.39%
Some college 26.75%
AA degree 6.40%
BA/BS 9.36%
MA 3.83%
PhD or Professional Degree (MD, JD, etc.) 0.84%

As you can see, the ground gets pretty thin for black women with more education, but they still represent about 20% of total births at the AA+ level, and at that level a comfortable majority of births are in wedlock.  This means most of the 30% or so of black births born in wedlock these days are heavily drawn from that 20% group, despite their smaller separate percentages.  It also means that even including the “some college” group’s high OOW rate, black women have a majority of births in wedlock being born to college educated mothers.

But here’s something interesting with the data for white women:

Race Education Level Percent of total married births Percent of total unmarried births
White 8th grade or less 1.33% 1.54%
9-12 grade 3.41% 18.99%
Finished High School 16.11% 37.99%
Some college 19.53% 27.07%
AA degree 10.42% 6.60%
BA/BS 31.53% 5.96%
MA 13.94% 1.49%
PhD or Professional Degree (MD, JD, etc.) 3.74% 0.37%

If you look at unmarried birth percentages, you see that they are nearly identical in distribution to the black percentages.  They are in fact identical at the “Finished High School” level, with that being the largest chunk of unwed mothers for black women and white women.  What we also see is that for white women, there are MORE college educated mothers having OOW births as a percentage, while they have a smaller group of births in the “Grade 9-12 only” category.

That was surprising.

Here’s the total birth percentages for white women by education level:

Race Education Level Percent of all births
White 8th grade or less 1.39%
9-12 grade 8.00%
Finished High School 22.55%
Some college 21.75%
AA degree 9.30%
BA/BS 24.00%
MA 10.28%
PhD or Professional Degree (MD, JD, etc.) 2.75%


Just like with black women, you get a shrinking of percent from some college to AA and then a strong bump for the BA, but it’s much more significant here.  So even if you don’t care about test scores and all that jazz, the basic cognitive sort is blindingly obvious in both black and white women.  Black women who marry before kids are heavily college attending, and white women in general, but ESPECIALLY those who marry are heavily college attending.

Anyway this post is just putting the numbers up.  These births, as noted in the title, are recent and span nearly a decade and are all births, not just first births.  So these children are almost entirely under 10 years old and this represents some completed families and siblings.  This has interesting implications for the future.

Just how dysgenic is the college gap between men and women?

Vox Day feels that it is quite dysgenic, but I think that we kind of see the Grain of Truth thing going on.

The reality is that 70% of white, non-Hispanic (WNH) births each year for the last decade or so are to college educated women.  And still more reality is that a majority of WNH births have been to college educated mothers since sometime in the 80s, when they crossed 50%.  So for about 30 years now, a majority of white babies are being born to educated white mothers.  And by 1960, the percentage was already over 20%.

Now this is a different issue than raw baby count, but even there, white women had about 2 million babies (after minusing 50k or so Hispanic births, this was before they were a separate category) in 1970 (when college educated mothers were around 25% or so of the total) and in 2015, the most current year available, they also had 2 million babies.

People are having fewer children as a population proportion, that is true, sort of.  But the raw count of kids has been very stable for decades, with its structure changing.  The right wing having a big conversation about what it means that most white kids are born to college-moms would be more useful than asserting that such motherhood is definitely dysgenic.  Which is itself an open question.  Intelligence flows from mom, so is having bright women make up more of the moms (particularly the married moms) dysgenic?  Yeah, yeah “watered down curriculum”, but that means arguing that the ones who can’t complete coursework in even a watered down form are somehow smarter.  Which would be a hard sell.

Even among black women, a higher fraction of mothers who get married before the babies come are college educated.  That is, college educated black mothers are often married before the babies come and non-college black mothers are at scary 90% or so out of wedlock levels.  A majority of black mothers with a BA or greater are married before the kids come.

So we have a larger population with a static baby count and thus a lower birth rate, but the women left who are bothering to have babies, plural are majority college-attending and married.  And they have more higher-order births, they have supermajorities of the 3+ births.

One could make an interesting argument that it was mainly the vanguard of college educated women’s daughters who successfully reproduced.  And that also has pretty far reaching implications.


Poking at the large family myth bubble.

As anyone reading along in this blog or the broader American right wing knows, there is a loud contingent of people who assert that in America, large families used to be common as dirt and women loved having them too.

This is not, strictly speaking, accurate.

The Vital Statistics folks (originally at the Census, and now with the CDC) stopped making a new column for births past #17 in 1959. The next year, in 1960, while still in what came to be called the Baby Boom, they stopped doing new columns for births above #8. And the Vital Statistics people are very conservative about these things. They were cheerfully making columns for 312 16th births for years. But 312 out of 4 million or so births a year is a really tiny number and eventually even they just started mushing all those ten and twelfth and seventeenth births together.

The point being that thousands of double digit births can still be happening, but still also be not common as dirt. Pesky math.

The other poke at the bubble for now is that as soon as American women got birth control access, they mysteriously rushed as far away from double digit family sizes as they could. Eight was very much enough, thanks, and keeping births down to six or less was nicer still, as far as white American women were concerned. There is some amusing (for a personal value of amusing) commentary in many of the annual bulletins expressing statistician puzzlement at the plunge in 8 and up births among white women about twenty seconds after the first shipload of diaphragms washed ashore. And while access came decades later for black women, they behaved exactly the same and kablooey went the higher order black birth numbers too.

This is not the behavior of women who looooooved having ten or fifteen kids. It’s also not really much to do with feminists or feminism except that they felt the solution to male sexual incontinence was to have women end run around it with birth control of ever-increasing reliability.

College educated women are having all the babies these days.

This is a teaser post, I hope to get the numbers up later this week. But the long and short of it is that the cognitive sort has happened. Women who have some college education and especially who are married have a majority of the kids these days (since 2007). This is kinda true even among black women, the college educated ones have a significantly lower OOW percentage and also represent a supermajority of married births since 2007. And with white women, percent married and percent college educated are identical shares of their total births since 2007, about 70% each.

By the by, nearly 600k babies were born to married PhDs since 2007. This number is pretty close to the number for women with less than an 8th grade education who are married.

The insight here is that I gotta believe my lying eyes and the CDC’s birth data tables. Men are impressed by women’s accomplishments or attempts at accomplishment if it has to do with higher education. Or they just met her there. Or both. The only ladder left is the college one and if a woman at least jumps for a rung and falls down with a busted rung of credits without the credential, she still has a better chance of getting married before the babies come than if she never tries.

So telling women in aggregate to not “do college” or complaining about them taking classes and not managing to finish enough for a degree is in effect saying that you don’t want kids, plural, in wedlock, to remain the bulk of births.

I have some preference for the world that was, where there were parallel ladders to intellectual life, but the very couples I’m reading about were already sawing up the other ladders about 70 years ago when they collectively agreed back then that college for both boys and girls was what they would sacrifice for. There is a whole section in that study about how much a couple would give up to send a girl to school and the researchers were surprised that as early as 1957, parents were already on Team College for girls in big numbers.

Related: A pew link from a few years ago, including a graph where you can see that this pattern was baked in decades ago.

Urban dads in the 1950s did a surprising amount of childcare.

It looks as though the dad pitching in with the kids and housework is not quite as recent as people, particularly on the right, often claim.  While GI fathers show decent evidence of being hands-off, it appears things had changed for the fathers who came along a decade or so later.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, there were a lot of excited demographers studying the lower age of marriage and relatively higher fertility, and thrilled at the idea that a new pattern of family growth even in urban areas via natural increase might be the new normal.

One of those studies was done in two parts in 1957 and 1961 and it involved over 1100 white collar and blue collar couples in the eight largest major metropolitan areas at the time. It involved white couples who’d had their second child in 1956.  They further narrowed the group with technical requirements beyond the scope of this post, but the upshot was that they got some interesting data that Catholics, Jews and Protestants alike all wanted 2-4 children (90% across the board) and less than 10% wanted 5+.

Another interesting detail of this study is the post title.  Many of the mothers were still housewives, but fully 2/3 of them could count on their husbands to take care of the children as a norm.  Fully 1/3 of these urban women mostly living in apartments could also count on someone who wasn’t their husband (and by definition for the study not one of their own children) to help them around the house as a norm.

If one includes “sometimes”, 85% of the 1100+ wives could expect some recurring level of help with the kids from their husbands.  And including “sometimes”, it was 60% of those wives.  So by 1957, the husband was already viewed as a major source of help by urban wives.

They did a follow-up study covering whether a third (or) child had been born, and I haven’t gotten far into that one yet.  But I found the detail about help that the wife felt she could count on reliably very relevant to 60(!) years later.

Source: Family Growth in Metropolitan America, 1961, Princeton University Press.