Drudge had a link today titled “More women waiting until 50 to have children…”. The article it points to is from myfoxny.com, titled 51 and pregnant:
Tracey Kahn is a successful publicist. She is single, lives in a beautiful apartment in Manhattan, has a 2-year-old daughter, and is pregnant with [sic] again. She is 51.
And Kahn is not alone. A growing number of women [sic] putting off motherhood until middle age, especially in New York City, where younger women are career driven and put off growing a family.
Between 1997 in 2008 there was a fourfold increase in the number of women [sic] born to moms over 50 in the United States.
We’ve been through this before, but I decided to take a new look at the data since a few years have passed. The Fox article doesn’t cite the source for the fourfold increase claim, but either way the essential fact they are leaving out is how incredibly rare it is for women over 50 to give birth. It may well be a fourfold increase, but the actual numbers are so small as to be meaningless from a societal perspective.
I can’t find data specifically for women 50 and over, but the 2012 Statistical Abstract of the United States lists the number of births to women age 45 to 54 in Table 80 (PDF, xls). Here is the age distribution of births in 2008, the most recent year data is available for:
Note the minuscule bar to the far right. That is what all of the fuss is about. Actually that isn’t even it, since it includes women 45 to 49 as well. This lead me to see if I could tease out the difference by looking for years where births to mothers 45-49 and births to mothers 45-54 are both available. By comparing the difference for known years, we can get a sense of how many of the most recent births are to women 50 and over.
Fortunately, the 2010 Statistical Abstract presents the data for 45-49 year old mothers, and the 2012 Statistical Abstract presents it for the larger bracket. Here is the data for the oldest age bracket in the respective reports in one table:
Note that while there isn’t 2008 data for 45-49, the 45-54 values for 2006-2008 are constant. Also note that there is no reported difference between births to women 45-49 and births to women in the larger bracket. Whatever the fourfold increased value is for births to women 50 and older, it isn’t enough to round up to the next 1,000 in any of the years we have both figures for. This means we are talking about fewer than 1,000 births in any given year. The 45-54 bar on the graph above is a minuscule sliver, and births to women 50 and over are a too small to register sliver of that sliver. While we may have gone from 25 to 100, or perhaps from 200 to 800 births to women over 50 between 1997 and 2008, this isn’t the kind sweeping change the news story no doubt left its readers thinking has occurred. Births to women over 50 remain extremely uncommon, despite feminist propaganda to the contrary.
See also: Charts on delayed motherhood.