Women may no longer need husbands to have children, but that doesn't imply they've given up on men.
Marriage is a social invention. Want to have a child without getting married? A growing number of people are doing so.
In an Ohio State University study out this week, new data show that women now in their late 30s and 40s are having more children than women the same age were having in previous generations. That holds true for married women, said Bruce Weinberg, a co-author of the study, but unexpectedly, also for women who have never married.
"The share of women in their late 20s, 30s, and early 40s that have not been married is increasing," said Weinberg in a phone interview. "That marriage rates are going down makes it more surprising that we find an increase in fertility rates, because never-been-married women are [conventionally] much, much less likely to have children than women who are or have been married."
Let's go over that again: more women are waiting to have children, as we suspected. What we didn't know until now is that many of these waiting women are also single. And together along with married folks, these women are driving up the fertility rate.
To be sure, advances in fertility treatments are partially responsible for this boom. Most of the fertility gains in recent decades, said Weinberg, has come from broadening access to what's known as assisted reproductive technologies (ART) -- the kind where eggs and sperm are brought together in a laboratory.