Not your mother’s birth rate

New Zealand demographers are scratching their heads over an increase in young women having babies. The proportion of girls aged 15 to 19 giving birth rose for the sixth year in a row in 2008, Statistics NZ reported, and the agency’s top demographer, Mansoor Khawaja, said young women appeared to be refusing to follow their mothers’ decisions to have few children later in life. “I reckon they just don’t agree with their mothers, which is not uncommon,” he said. The mothers of the baby-boomers had roughly four children on average, but the boomers have ended up with less than two children each, he pointed out.

Teenage mums are still only a small fraction of all teenagers (3.3 per cent) but the new figures confirm a trend that can no longer be dismissed as a temporary “blip”. However, there is still a long-term underlying trend towards women having babies later in life. The median age of mothers giving birth is 30.

New Zealand’s birth rate has risen from 2.0 to 2.2 since 2001. Britain, France, Sweden, Denmark and Australia have all a rise in their birth rate. Australia’s has gone from 1.7 in 2001 to 1.9 -- helped by the Howard Government’s $5000 baby bonus, according to some experts. Paid parental leave and recent increases in family assistance may have had a similar effect in New Zealand. Other factors cited are the higher birth rates of Pacific and Maori women, and the buoyant economy of the recent past. ~ New Zealand Herald, Feb 19



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