The number of women with advanced degrees who are childless in their mid 40s has fallen drastically over the last two decades, according to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center. Of those with a Master’s degree or higher, around 20 percent are childless (down from 30 percent in 1994), while the decline is even steeper for women with a Ph.D. or M.D. (20 percent compared to 35 percent in 1994). According to demographers, the shift reflects the growing sense among female professionals that a career and motherhood shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Also, many women who were building a career put off having children until later. As more women are earning advanced degrees, the profile of this group has changed too, Dr. Gretchen Livingston, the Pew senior researcher responsible for the analysis said. “From where I stand, as someone with a Ph.D., I see that lots of people get Ph.D.s now, and they don’t all go off to be research professors … Perhaps it’s a different group now, less single-mindedly focused on their career.” Nevertheless, highly educated women are still less likely to have large families, but this education gap is closing. Family size in the U.S. is on the decline in general and younger women are having fewer babies, research has shown. “Since the 1990s, birth rates among women under 30 have been declining, particularly during the recession, and the younger the women, the bigger the decline,” Dr. Livingston said.
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