A report released yesterday on AOL by the National Center for Health Statistics shows that a record number of babies, 4.3 million, were born in the U.S. last year. That’s a lot of diapers. It was the largest number of births reported since 1957, the middle of the baby boom.
People have been talking about a baby “boomlet” for a while, but it’s not the same as in the ’50s when all the moms were about the same age, in their 20s, living in suburbia with their post-military husbands who were employed in the economic boom. On my street, every family had children about the same age. Not any more.
Demographer Arthur Nelson of the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, is quoted in the AOL report as saying that this boom won’t be nearly as big as the 1950s version. It can’t because so many of us remain childless. Plus the babies are coming from different groups, primarily immigrants, professional women who waited until their 40s to have children, and the 20-to-30-year old children of the original boomers. It’s just happening all at the same time. In a few years folks may wish they hadn’t turned so many schools into senior centers and shopping malls.
Although the numbers are up in some areas, it’s important to look at WHO is giving birth. Another report this week, coming from Melborne, Australia notes that the rate of childlessness among 20-to-44-year-old professional women is up to a whopping 62.5 percent. The overall childless rate among Australian women of that age group is 40 percent.
My point to this meandering wash of statistics? Having children in your 20s or 30s is not a given anymore. Although the overall birth rate may rise and fall, now that we have legal abortion and birth control, there will always be a segment of the population that does not have children, and we are too big a group to be ignored. People cannot assume that women of a certain age are mothers and grandmothers. They must consider the possiblity that all we have raised are puppies and goldfish.