Scientists Discover Why More Educated Women Have Fewer Children


Many studies have shown that more educated women have fewer children, but researchers have never been able to explain why that is. Does education make women less interested in producing a Brangelina-sized brood, or does having children prevent women from continuing their education? A new study suggests the latter situation is driving these statistics; Many women who have children early aren’t able to stay in school.

The new study, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences focuses on 26,349 women in Norway who were born in 1964. The researchers compared yearly data on the women’s childbearing and educational careers. Joel E. Cohen, who is a professor at Rockefeller University and the Earth Institute of Columbia University, says:

“These results suggest that women with advanced degrees have lower completed fertility on the average principally because women who have one or more children early are more likely to leave or not enter long educational tracks and never attain a high educational level.”

According to Time, the women who had children by their mid-20s were far less likely to continue their eduction past the first two years of high school, which are mandatory in Norway. They’re also less likely to earn a higher degree later in life compared to women who started having children after they graduated from college.

The researchers suggest that governments should do more to make women aware that they’re less likely to attain their educational goals if they have children young. (Apparently, Teen Mom‘s B-plots about the moms trying to attend school aren’t hammering the message home.) Better yet, we could make it easier for mothers to attend college by providing more low-cost child care, and give women more access to family planning services, so unwanted pregnancies won’t stand in the way of their education.

New Study On Childbearing And Education Offers Surprising Findings [EurekAlert]
Less-Educated Women Have More Children. Or Is It the Other Way Around? [Time]

Image via Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.

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