We recently told you about the average age men and women get married in each state, but how does parenthood fit into that picture? We combed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out how the numbers stack up today and how they’ve changed over time.
The graphic above shows the average age of a mother at the birth of her first child for each state, with stats from 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2013 (with the exception of Pennsylvania and Delaware, for which 2012 data was used—at the time of writing, neither state had finished processing their data for 2013). According to a National Center for Health Statistics spokesperson, with the exception of a few states, the most recent state-level data on the mean maternal age at first birth comes from 2006; in order to get more recent numbers, we turned to the epidemiologists and data specialists at various state health departments. (A few states had already published recent data for a mother's average age at first birth, while our trusty researcher Jocelyn Sears calculated approximate averages from raw data for Florida, Kansas, Rhode Island, and Vermont.)
As you might expect (or already know) the average age that women are first having children is on the rise—but that's not the only story the data is telling. For the year 2013, in all but a handful of states, the average age at first birth was actually lower than women's average age at first marriage. Only Ohio, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming saw lower first marriage numbers than first birth numbers (it was the same—27 years old—in Minnesota). On average, the age at first marriage is 27.4 years old in the U.S., while the age at first birth is 26 years old.
According to the CDC, 40.6 percent of all births (not just first-borns) in 2013 were to single and/or unwed mothers, a percentage that has greatly increased in the last few decades, but has actually decreased over the last few years. However, this doesn't hold true for women over 35; the number of single mothers in this demographic is actually on the rise. That, along with the broader social tendency to put off having kids, suggests that this trend will likely continue.
Graphic by Chloe Effron.