Student Loans: Best Birth Control Ever

The more you know, the less you mother.  

That’s the inescapable conclusion of two statistics plucked from the new White House report, “Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Wellbeing.”

Regardless of their age, mothers with more education have fewer children.  And women dominate the current generation of college students and new grads, at 57%.  Women are 59% of those currently enrolled in grad school.

The obvious forecast is for fewer and fewer babies. College-educated mothers have only 1.5 children on average, by age 29. By the time college-educated mothers reach 44, they have only 2.2 children, on average, compared to an average of 2.9 for those with less than a high school education.

Why does more learning result in fewer kids?

It’s easy to chalk it up to a more ambition and a wider spectrum of career opportunities. The more skills, education and experience you attain, the more marketable you are. Working long hours is its own birth control. (This we know from personal experience.)

But let’s look a bit harder to see what else might be going on. In 2010, the average college grad carried $24,000 in student loans on her mortarboard – up 6% from the prior class.

If women are the majority of college grads, that means that more young women are burdened with debt as they start their careers.  Young women do make more than young men – partly because their degrees make them more qualified entry-level employees. But they quickly start to fall behind, and that accelerates when they have children. In the long run, education does not erase the gender wage gap: women make 75% of men across all educational levels. But, of course, those loans must be repaid regardless.

So, let’s add it up: women are better educated, but make less money – and have to pay back student loans on those shrunken paychecks. Add to that the fact that women should save more for retirement because they live longer and it’s easy to see why highly educated moms don’t have more kids: they can’t afford them.

Image courtesy of Morguefile contributor grietgriet.

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