I can’t get more deeply into this for a couple months unfortunately, because Australia’s natality data is not as granular as America and some of the other nations I have looked at. But this is an interesting starting point.
American birth rates by age for 2015 (using 12 month-ending numbers from the CDC/NCHS)
In Australia, things look more like this for 2015
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.
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.
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.
These are heat maps of where people decide to have the marginal third child that breaks the “family of four” paradigm that is reflected even in consumer goods and packaging because it’s become such a core part of post-Vietnam American culture.
For all races, about 30% of births for 2014 were third kid or higher.
Third births and higher, all races
For whites, it was about 25%
Third births and higher, whites only
A starting point for discussion is that while the coasts with good jobs where both parents can potentially earn 75-100k apiece are punching a little below the national average, they are nevertheless putting up third babies in the double digits in many high-cost counties.
Heat map of where 4th and higher births are by county for all races. National average is 12.4% of all births.
Fourth and higher births
Here’s just non-Hispanic whites. Their national average is 10.2%.
Fourth and higher order births, whites only
The hottest counties have 24-27% of births (all races) and 31-35% of births (white only) as kid #4 or more.
Open for discussion.
For white non-Hispanics, a little over 600k births in 1992 were the third live baby or higher. This represented just under 1/4 of all births. Over 75% of all births for 1992 were first or second births.
The approximate distribution of the 600k higher birth orders (less than 100% due to rounding) was:
3rd order: 66%
4th order: 22%
5th order: 7%
6th order: 2.6%
7th order: 1%
8th order or higher: 1.1%
In 2014, there were over 50k fewer such births, a bit over 550k and that represented just OVER 25% of all births for that year.
The distribution of these 550k higher-order births over 20 years later was:
8th or higher: 2%
The total births for 1992 were around 2.5 million, while for 2014 they were around 2.1 million. So people were having fewer children overall, but the ones having many are chugging along pretty impressively. The problem is that there’s no filtering for how much of that chugging along is in little horse-powered buggies, so there’s that to keep in mind.
To put this distribution of higher-order births in context, here’s the “white” distribution for 1970, ten years after the Pill and IUDs were introduced.
Total white births: approx 3.1 million
Total third or higher order white births: approx 1 million
Percentage distribution of third and higher order births:
Admittedly this includes some Hispanics, but only about 4-5%, not enough to shift the overall pattern. This pattern from 1970 could be returning at the higher orders, but it’s too soon to tell.