A new Gallup poll shows that most Americans want women to get pregnant before the age of 26, with 58 percent of respondents saying that 25 or younger is the ideal age for a woman to have kids. Putting aside the intrinsically-awkward nature of asking people to dictate when others ought to get pregnant, the survey is worth looking at for one notable finding: Out of the 5,000 Americans surveyed, only one demographic deviated from the belief that women should get pregnant as soon as possible.
It's got to be young Americans, right? Nope — a full 60 percent of respondents in their teens and 20s thought women should have a kid before 25. In fact, it is only people with college degrees who think that having a kid as soon as possible maybe isn’t the best idea.
Only 44 percent of college graduates, and 39 percent of post-graduates, believed that women should get pregnant before 26. Those are still relatively high numbers, to be sure, but they’re the lowest of any other demographic surveyed, and they sure seem quaint when compared with the 71 percent of non-college grads who think women should be giving birth before hitting 26.
The high support for younger pregnancies amongst Americans without any college education does comport with data showing a significant correlation between teen pregnancy and low education. But while a merely correlative relationship might imply that teen mothers don’t finish school because they’ve gotten pregnant, the Gallup poll suggests the causation could run in the opposite direction. In other words, it could be the case that less-educated Americans simply value earlier pregnancy in itself, and are thus choosing to have children before finishing school. Perhaps.
There were some other noteworthy results in the poll. While 48 percent of male respondents thought men should ideally have kids before 26, only 37 percent of women agreed. This further challenges the pop-culture stereotype of women pressuring men into having babies before they’re ready — if anything, there’s more reason to believe the opposite, at least on the basis of this poll. Also, perhaps less surprisingly, people over the age of 65 were the strongest proponents of early pregnancy, with 72 percent telling women to have a kid before 26.
All that being said, most Americans apparently aren’t heeding their own advice, as the age at which women have their first kid has been steadily on the rise. In 1970, the average age of new mothers was 21.4 years; by 2010, it was 25.4, and in 2011, it ticked up to 26.5.
Despite this, a recent study of 37 North American and European countries found that the average age of first-time mothers was lower in the United States than in all but five other countries. Those countries are, in descending order of average birth age: Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia and Mexico. Even mothers in Estonia wait a bit longer before having kids than their American counterparts.