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.
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.
For whites, it was about 25%
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.
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.
They’re the ones having more than two kids, more often. Many of them are the women starting their baby-having in their 30s. Late marriage ages have not completely crashed birth rates because married party girl reverts are willing to have a third or fourth child despite starting in their 30s. And the ones who had a couple of kids in their 20s are having a few more in their late 30s once they have teenagers to help them out. They aren’t “red pill women” though, since nearly all of those mysteriously stop at two kids, if they have any. They aren’t the divorcers, they aren’t the childless careerists. They’re the ones rearing the next generation with great difficulty while childless conservative men sit around flapping their hands about reduced birth rates in America among the “right” people.
Brought to you courtesy of the world of vital statistics microdata. It’s a sick day at our house and this curiosity in the data charmed me.
I was looking around in old Census data the other month and stumbled upon a fairly shocking bit of demographic information–white American women have pretty much always been at the lower end of fertility. I am defining “American” here as “after 1776”. They were having only a couple kids per woman way back in the 1840s and such.
Regionalism is part of how the myth of fecund white women oppressed into sterility by “the libs” or “feminism” gained traction. In a few regions, white women did have huge families, 8-12 kids being quite usual. However, this was a single-digit percentage of all white women of childbearing age, and this has been the case almost from the very beginnings of America as a nation. White women in America have always tended towards having relatively few children, long before 1960s or even 1920s feminism. The Baby Boom years weren’t a bunch of white women feeling free to have five or six kids, they were a bunch of white women *who would have otherwise had none having one* being added to the overall pool of mothers. This is, needless to say, not part of the conservative happy 50s mythmaking.
American women have frequently throughout American history taken more personal freedom and economic power in exchange for the lack of genuine domestic support, on average. This is part of how childrearing in America has become so awful and health-damaging for women. Men bought our great grammas off with “freedom” and this was supposed to compensate for not having a feminine or domestic sphere. And there’s always been extreme subcultures having huge families to point to, even though they never represented much more than 15-20% of the total population themselves.
But I guess that’s also part of the secret history of domesticity in America–a typical American woman really wasn’t raising six kids alone while her husband worked all day or was gone for months. She was about as likely to be raising one or two in 1870 as 1970, which explains quite a bit.