When Jay was born in May 2009 Caroline and I were only the second couple among our extended group of friends to become parents. In world-historical terms 28 wasn’t young to be having a first kid, but in our peer group it felt a little like we’d taken to the frontier.
Things have changed since then. A couple months ago I spent a weekend in South Carolina with some college friends. Our first night there we were out at a bar, playing pool and drinking pitchers of Dale’s Pale Ale, when one of the guys gathered us all around to announce that his wife was pregnant with their first kid, due June 3. Euphoria ensued. Then when things had settled down another guy said “Actually, I have an announcement, too.” Pause. “June 2.” Pause. “Twins!” Pandemonium.
So, 2012 is shaping up to be a bumper crop of babies in our social circle, which for comparative purposes, is comprised almost entirely of white, college-educated people born in 1980 or 1981 (making them 30 or 31 today).
With Caroline’s help* I put together a graph showing the percentages of our friends with kids by age. Out of 45 friends, only three people (6%) had kids by age 28. Five people (11%) had kids by age 29. Then a big jump at age 30, when 6 people had kids, bringing the total number of parents to 11 (24%). I didn’t include age 31 in the graph because the year is still in progress. But we have several friends who are set to deliver their first kids at age 31 and several more who have told us they’re trying to get pregnant- so if anything, age 31 stands to be an even more fertile year than age 30.
To put this trend in context, here are some statistics for the US as a whole:
- Overall, the average American has his/her first kid at age 25.
- Among people with college degrees, the average woman has her first kid at age 30 and the average man has his first kid at age 32.
- Among women with a bachelor’s degree, about 24% won’t end up having children.
It’s too early to say how my friends will square with these statistics but if I had to guess I’d say that they’ll become parents later than national averages would suggest. This seems particularly likely since only 42% of my male friends are married. Among my very closest friends, however, the story is a different. I lived with five other guys in college. Four of the six of us will be parents by this summer. It’s a small sample, but I think at least to some degree fertility has begotten fertility- you see someone you know well raising kids and you think, “I could do that, too.”
*I should note that Caroline’s involvement in this post is limited largely to helping me figure out how to use Excel. She’s not at all complicit in the methods I used to construct the chart, which are not quite up to snuff in the eyes of a demography PhD.