Simplistic notions of what family should look like are quickly becoming anachronistic. Old expectations are being replaced by new realities. Forty percent of births are to unmarried women. This is no longer an area where negative stigma is automatically attached.
That is not the only area of change. BuzzFeed.News reports the latest findings.
“Across the U.S., the total fertility rate is decreasing and the average age when women give birth to their first child is increasing — which means women are having fewer children and waiting longer to start a family, if they decide to have children at all. However, there are differences in these measures between rural and urban areas, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).”
There have always been differences in fertility rates between urban and rural populations. It is just that the differences are getting more pronounced. BuzzFeed continues.
“In the last 10 years, these differences have become greater — the gap between women in rural and metropolitan areas widened, Danielle Ely, NCHS statistician and the report’s author, told BuzzFeed News.”
Total fertility rate (TFR) is important because it can help us project and plan for future needs. TFR is not an exact science as it has to account for many factors. It is a tool primarily used to determine generational replacement levels.
The findings indicate that the replacement cycle is getting longer. On one end of the spectrum, women are opting for their first pregnancy at a later age. They are opting for fewer pregnancies. And we are living longer overall.
Education is suspected to be at the root. Urban women are opting for more education and putting off forming families of their own until they are ready financially. Negative pressure from education may also be a part of the cause are some women find themselves buried under student loan debt.
The rural ethos has traditionally valued making families over education. While there is some evidence that this is starting to change, it is not changing fast enough to keep the fertility gap from widening.
It is not clear what other gaps might be affected by these changes. If urban families get even smaller, more educated, and more financially fit, will that represent a rising tide that lifts all ships, or a broadening of the wealth disparity?
One thing is for certain: The very definition of family is undergoing change. It is too early to know what those changes will ultimately mean for the generation to come.