Today’s mom differs from past generationsToday’s new mom is strikingly different than she was a generation ago. She is older and more likely to be unmarried. And regionally, she is part of a small minority if she’s not in the work force. Data also shows new moms in North Dakota were not deterred from having children by the recent recession, as was the case in much of the rest of the country.
By: By Heidi Shaffer, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — Today’s new mom is strikingly different than she was a generation ago.
She is older and more likely to be unmarried. And regionally, she is part of a small minority if she’s not in the work force.
Data also shows new moms in North Dakota were not deterred from having children by the recent recession, as was the case in much of the rest of the country.
“There’s a nice direct correlation between the economy and births,” said Richard Rathge, director of the North Dakota State Data Center. “In good economic times, people decide that they can have more children. … We’ve been bucking that trend.”
Nationwide 2008 birthrates fell 2 percent over the previous year. In North Dakota, however, rates rose more than 4 percent.
North Dakota rates started going up in 2003, and this is the first period of sustained growth the state has seen since the early 1980s, Rathge said.
The increase in births helped feed the state population from July 2008 to July 2009. In that period births outpaced deaths by 3,420, bringing North Dakota’s estimated population to 646,844, up about 1 percent over the previous year, according to the state data center.
Rates in 2008 were down in Minnesota, but Clay and Wilkin counties saw an increase similar to North Dakota’s. The counties saw 849 births in 2008, a 6 percent increase over 2007, Minnesota Department of Health data shows.
Increasing birth rates indicate a growing young adult population, and that’s good news for the state, Rathge said.
“The young population is what regenerates the state population base and adds that vibrancy for the state, so that’s tremendous for us,” he said.
While North Dakota may not follow the national trend on birth rates, it did mirror the increase in the number of unmarried moms.
Nationally, a record 41 percent of births in 2008 were to unmarried women, according to a study out this week from the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project.
In North Dakota and Minnesota the numbers are lower but also rose. Both states saw about 33 percent of moms were unmarried in 2007, up about 5 percent since the beginning of the decade, according to Minnesota Department of Health data.
The Pew study also showed a shift in age demographics for new moms. The percentage of moms older than 35 increased, while the number of teen mothers fell.
Rathge said the change is occurring largely because more women are delaying motherhood for their careers and education.
“I know that all of my friends have waited until they graduated from college and were well established in their careers before having kids,” said Becky Hermann, a 29-year-old graduate student at North Dakota State University who gave birth to her first child on April 26.
In addition, more moms are in the work force today than 25 years ago, Rathge said. For North Dakota mothers of children ages zero to 17, 81.2 percent are in the labor force, a rate almost 15 percentage points higher than the national average, he said.
“Women’s participation rates almost mirror men’s participation rates currently,” Rathge said. “That’s what causes the delay of births, and that’s why you’re seeing the phenomena of births to older women.”
Shaffer is a reporter for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.