The surprising reason why women are waiting longer to have babies

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

Being a childless woman today is hardly seen as the cursed existence it once was, and a growing number of young women have not yet—or may not ever—give birth. Gasp! But even the ones who plan on procreating are waiting until an older age to get started, because, as it turns out, women serve other purposes on this planet besides cranking out babies.

Indeed, American women today are delaying childbirth more than ever before—the average age of first childbirth in 1971 was 21.4, whereas in 2014 it was 26.3. And contrary to many people's beliefs, this is not because they're waiting to find The One. A recent survey of more than 1,200 childless women aged 25 to 45 commissioned by Fertility Centers of Illinois asked these women to share their reasons for delaying childbirth—and, it turns out, their decision largely comes down to money.

The participants were allowed to pick more than one answer for why they had put off having kids, but the number one reason was financial: 82% responded "I want to be financially established so I don’t struggle like my parents did." A close second response was "I want to have life experience and be emotionally stable," with 80% of respondents reported feeling that way.


The third most popular reason (with 63%) was that women "want to focus on [their] career" before having kids; 60% said they value "freedom and don’t want to be tied down." And surprisingly, the least popular reason (with 54%) was "I haven’t found the right partner yet." A minor win for feminism, perhaps?

But despite the last place finish, certain groups of women do place a higher premium on finding a solid partner before having kids. Researchers found economic factors had a marked influence on the results, noticing that "finding the right partner" ranked higher among women who made less money: 61% of women who earned less than $49,000 per year listed this as a reason versus only 37% of women who made more than $100,000. We all want to be in-de-pen-dent wo-men, but a second salary is important for supporting a baby when you're not making a whole lot of dough.

Some other encouraging results: The research found that 51% of first-time moms from 2000 to 2014 were over the age of 30, and 23% of those women were over the age of 35. So if you're panicking about spending your 29th birthday alone watching your biological clock expire, you can rest easy. A lot of women in their 30s (and even 40s) are still cranking 'em out.

As one of the survey participants, I probably would have listed "I don't want to experience pain that's been likened to squeezing a pot roast out of my nostril" as the main reason for delaying childbirth, but maybe that's just me.


For more on the survey, check out this infographic:

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

Taryn Hillin is Fusion's love and sex writer, with a large focus on the science of relationships. She also loves dogs, Bourbon barrel-aged beers and popcorn — not necessarily in that order.

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