- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 12, 2002

American women now typically have their first baby around their 25th birthday more than three years later than their predecessors in the 1970s, federal statistics show.
College educations and careers are main reasons why women are delaying childbirth, said the study, issued yesterday by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), an agency under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 1970, the average age for an American woman's first birth was 21.4 years. By 2000, it was 24.9 years.
During the same 30-year period, "the number of women completing college nearly tripled and the number of women in the labor force went up by almost 40 percent," said T.J. Mathews, a NCHS researcher and co-author of the report.
The increase in women's ages at first birth may also be related to trends such as the decline in teen births, delays in age of first marriage, more widespread use of birth control and an increase among women in their 30s and 40s having children, he said.
Still, American women are not waiting as long as women in other countries to have their first child, the report said: In Switzerland, Japan and the Netherlands, the average age for a mother at first birth in 2000 was 28 years or older.
The NCHS report is the first to offer details about age at first birth by state, race and ethnic origin, added Mr. Mathews.
Women in Arkansas and Mississippi averaged the youngest in their 22nd year at first birth.
In contrast, women in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey were often in their 27th year when they first gave birth, the data showed.
Locally, the average ages for first-time mothers were 23.5 years in West Virginia, 25.7 years in both the District and Virginia, and 26.1 years in Maryland.
Among racial and ethnic groups, black, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Hawaiian and American Indian women tended to give birth for the first time when they were 21 or 22.
At the other end of the spectrum were women of Japanese and Chinese descent, who tended to wait until they were 30 to have their first child.

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