Sep 6, 2018

Women with advanced degrees are having more kids

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Data: Hazan and Zoabi, 2015, via a World Economic Forum article; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

More education typically leads to fewer children — but now, demographers say American women with an advanced degree are having more kids on average than those with only bachelor's degrees.

The big picture: Increased education and opportunity for women has been a key driver of globally falling fertility rates and aging populations. But in the U.S., the trend over several decades seems to be reversing itself among the most educated women, according to data from the World Economic Forum — possibly because they're in a better financial and social position to have children.

Between the lines: Because of financial barriers, economic concerns or the desire for more leisure time, most young adults in the U.S. expect to have fewer kids than they consider ideal, according to a recent survey by The New York Times and Morning Consult.

  • But women with more advanced degrees are often in a better financial and occupational position to have their ideal number of children.
"[W]omen with advanced degrees are more likely to be well-off than those with undergraduate degrees, and married to a high earner, and therefore able to afford to have more children."
— Eric Kaufmann, demographer and professor at Birkbeck College, University of London

The number of kids considered ideal tends to decrease with better educated women, according to Wolfgang Lutz, the founding director of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital. But the most educated women are more able to plan and have the family size they consider ideal.

  • While this trend has been noted in other wealthy countries — particularly those with high gender equality, such as Scandinavia — it's not a universal trend. South Korea, for example, has the highest level of female education of OECD countries, but also has the lowest overall fertility rate, Richard Jackson, president of the Global Aging Institute, tells Axios.

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