The percentage of new mothers who have college degrees is going up. According to a new study by Pew Research, two-thirds of mothers with infant children in 2011 had at least some college education.
You can read both good and bad into these statistics.
First, the good. This trend is due in part to the fact that the share of women with at least some college education has more than doubled since 1960. In fact, more women than men earn college degrees. And according to Pew, this trend benefits children:
Experts have identified a strong linkage between child well-being and maternal education levels. On average, a mother with more education is more likely to deliver a baby at term and more likely to have a baby with a healthy birth weight. As they grow up, children with more educated mothers tend to have better cognitive skills and higher academic achievement than others.
The bad news is that the overall decline in birth rates and the much steeper decline in birth rates among less-educated young women is a sign of the severity of the Great Recession and the continuing problems of the labor market. Pew says, “Since the Great Recession began, educational attainment of women of childbearing age has risen rapidly.” Women who have the option are choosing to stay in school rather than take their chances in an economy where there are three unemployed workers for every job opening.
And more people are postponing starting a family because of the lousy economy. “For instance, a Pew Research Center survey revealed that, among childbearing-age respondents, younger adults and lower income adults were far more likely than others to say they delayed childbearing as a result of the recession.”
I guess in this time of continuous attacks on women’s health services, a miserable job market is the new birth control.