The percentage of new mothers with a college education is rising to record levels, while births among less-educated American women continue to drop, a study shows.
Two of every three new mothers had at least some college education in 2011, according to the study released Friday by the Pew Research Center. The rate has almost quadrupled since 1960, when only 18 percent of new mothers had college experience.
“These benchmarks reflect a decades-long rise in the educational levels of all women, as well as a decline in births that has been particularly steep among less-educated women,” the authors wrote. The drop in births among the less educated intensified after the onset of the recession in late 2007.
Pew said the decline in birth rates was most pronounced among blacks, Hispanics, young adults and low-income women, all of whom were hit hard by the 18-month recession that marked the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Almost half of new mothers who were high school dropouts were younger than 25, Pew said. Only 3 percent of new mothers with a college degree were that young.
The percentage of older, college-educated mothers without children has dropped more than 15 percent since the early 1990s, according to Washington-based Pew. Only 22 percent of women with a bachelor’s degree from 40 to 44 years of age had no children in 2010, down from 26 percent about two decades ago.
Meanwhile, the number of female 40- to 44-year-old high school dropouts who never had children increased to 13 percent, up from 10 percent in the 1990s.
Even though births among women who have attended college are increasing, Pew found less-educated mothers still surpass them in the number of births. The typical mother without a high school diploma has 2.5 children, while women with a bachelor’s degree average 1.7 kids. Women with high school diplomas or some college typically have 1.9 children during their lives, the study said.