And here we see visually where you can find most of America’s children.
It’s not mine, but I’m not sure who did it, it floats around on twitter in fertility discussions. If anyone drops me a line, I’ll add an attribute, or when I find time to dig out a reference. It is estimated TFR by household income. I will probably post some variations on this chart showing the percentage of children represented at each level of household income later this week.
There was a lot of research done on the Pill when it was first made available to American women on a mass scale in the early 1960s. The big takeaway, relevant since use was primarily restricted to already-married women, is that women on the Pill had a higher “coital frequency” than women not on the Pill and that pre-Pill, women were in fact having less sex with their husbands over time to avoid pregnancy. Marrying young was resulting in not as much sex after the first ten years, due to desire for limiting fertility rather than lack of interest according to separate surveys of husbands and wives.
But once the Pill was introduced, women who went on it had more sex and of course had fewer children. It sure seemed like cake was being had and eaten too. This is particularly interesting given that decades later research on women taking the Pill showed it to be heavily correlated with reduced sex interest in women and lower libido. Thus we have the origin story for the mythical housewife who wasn’t that into it but just trying to keep her man satisfied.
The other thing I just remembered about this is that the Pill was the only contraceptive with a substantial increase in sex-having vs non-Pill users. Sterilizations on either male or female side, condoms, jellies, and the like never showed people utilizing them to have more sex than people avoiding contraceptive use.
From PhD to “never finished”, women of all races, minus California which stopped breaking out marital status in 2017 (it doesn’t change the percentages, the pattern is the same there as well for earlier years).
Some college without any degree completion: ~57%
For perspective, the level of college education for women of all races aged 25-29 is as follows:
AA or additional education beyond: ~52%
BA or additional education beyond: ~41%
MA or additional education beyond: ~11%
A great many women who had children from 1955-1964 wanted exactly two children, but due to contraceptive inefficacy compared to the Pill, they ended up with 3+. And women who wanted large families of 6+ found themselves having around 5-6 with a suspiciously high frequency.
Long story short, even without the Pill, the desire for contracepting into a smaller family was already baked into the postwar cake for American women. It’s not clear that large family desire is particularly common to American women when they aren’t part of an intensely religious subculture. Frontier women had large family sizes, but this is confounded by the frontier being a hotbed of highly religious subcultures.
Now the story of how more education for women went from being strongly correlated with fewer kids to…not is a different story, mostly still unwritten by any demographic researcher.
What is interesting about this is that education aids in married fertility, but a little goes a long way. Completing a level of education corresponds to lower out of wedlock birth rate regardless of how high the level of education is.
Thus in a lot of ways, simply having people complete the highest level they reasonably can of education would be a better way to structure the educational system and allow for more options to enter the workforce successfully at younger ages. This would probably have a side effect of increasing marriage before 25 in a way that favored long-term marital stability.