Women waiting until they are thirty-five before having first child
Women graduates wait until they hit 35 before having their first child
The number of female students has more than doubled in 20 years
Women who don’t go to university are having children at much the same age as their mothers and grandmothers did
Sheffield University professor Danny Dorling, who compiled the research, said: ‘Society has split into two groups’
If phenomenon continues, grandparents may not have their first grandchildren until the age of 70
By Daily Mail Reporter
PUBLISHED: 13:55, 21 October 2012 | UPDATED: 01:52, 22 October 2012
Women graduates are delaying the age they have children until 35 – almost a decade later than those who do not go to university.
The phenomenon has grown as the number of female students has more than doubled in the past 20 years – in 2010 half of all young women in England went to university.
Now, new research suggests, a baby’s social class can be determined by the age of their mother.
Delaying motherhood by a decade helps secure these women’s position on the career and housing ladders, but it may be at some personal cost.
Les Mayhew, professor of statistics at Cass business school, part of City University London, said: ‘Women who have children later in life may well have established their careers, but they also face the risk of becoming the sandwich generation – looking after ageing parents or other relatives while also bringing up children.’
Danny Dorling, the professor of human geography at Sheffield University whose research identified the trend, said: ‘Until the massive expansion in university education, you couldn’t guess social class by the age of a child’s mother.
‘Birth age was similar at all levels of society. Now the word ‘generation’ doesn’t mean the same thing across society any more.
‘Society has split into two groups. One group, of women graduates, clustered particularly in London and the commuter belt, is having children very late and the rest are having them at much the same age as their mothers and their grandmothers did.’
If the phenomenon continues for another generation, it means some grandparents will have to wait an extra 20 years, until the age of 70, to have their first grandchild.
Prof Dorling pointed out that although life spans are increasing, this is not happening quickly enough to make up for the gap.
Women who delay childbirth are also at higher risk of birth abnormalities, are more reliant on IVF and cannot draw on the same energy levels as younger mothers.
Last year, the average age at which married women had their first child rose to 30.6, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The average age for all births outside marriage was 27.1, and 31.8 for all those within marriage.
The ONS figures, however, fail to pick up the sharp divide between graduate and non-graduate mothers, because birth registers do not question a mother on her education.
Ann Berrington, reader in demography at Southampton University, has just published a paper showing that half of women born in 1958 who obtained no educational qualifications had a child by the age of 22, while for those with degrees the age was 32.
Prof Dorling has mapped the impact with more women graduates by looking at the number of babies born to mothers aged 35 or older across European parliamentary constituencies, and comparing them with the number of university graduates identified in 2001 census data.
Six London constituencies each had more than 150,000 births to mothers aged 35 or over, over an eight-year period, while a further seven in commuting range had more than 125,000. They also had some of the highest concentrations of university graduates.
By contrast, South Wales West had only 5,550 births in the same period to mothers aged 35 or over, while Mid and West Wales had 6,500. There are low numbers of graduates in these areas.
Prof Dorling, whose findings will be published by Sage next month in The Population of the UK: A different view of life in the United Kingdom, said: ‘Once you have a cluster of women doing this it becomes normal and these trends become self-reinforcing.
‘You would be seen as very strange as a young graduate woman working in London if you had a baby at 25.
‘Attitudes to women in high-paid work have changed, and many families need two salaries to pay for a London mortgage. Before the house price boom you wouldn’t need that.’
One graduate woman who has delayed childbirth is Nina Davies, 37, who has three degrees.
She had her first child at 33 and her second last year.
Mrs Davies, head of student recruitment at London’s Royal Veterinary College said: ‘I had no intention of becoming a stay-at-home mother when I had a child.’
However, she admitted that she will have to wait three years before she can make full use of her academic background