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The Statistics on Motherhood

A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center offers a fascinating look at the changing demographics of motherhood in the United States by comparing women who gave birth in 2008 with those who gave birth in 1990, on the basis of data collected from the National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The highlights of the study indicate vast changes in the age, race, and marital status of the majority of mothers. First-time mothers today are older and tend to be better educated; more than half of the mothers of newborns in 2008 had at least some college education. The racial dynamics of all mothers has changed dramatically as well, with just over half of births in 2008 being to white women, and a quarter to Hispanic women. Moreover, a quarter of all birth mothers today are foreign-born. Mothers today are less likely to be white, and more likely to be unmarried. In 2008, 41% of births were to unmarried women; a notable increase from 28% of births in 1990.

Researchers note that most Americans are neutral or approving of the majority of the modern trends that have an impact on birth patterns, such as the growing number of women over 40 who have babies and the growing number of women who undergo fertility treatment to have children. Many Americans are trending toward marrying later in life or not marrying at all, contributing toward the increased rate of births outside of marriage. Although Americans have softened slightly in the traditional disapproval of unmarried parenthood, most still agree that it has a negative impact on society.