Fewer teen births are freeing a generation of US women

Working toward the future.
Working toward the future.
Image: REUTERS/Phil Noble
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Post-millennials, or anyone born from 1997 onwards, have only just started to come of age in the US and are the digitally native future of the workforce. A new study from the Pew Research Center shows that post-millennial women in particular are focusing on their career and education more than any other generation before.

Pew’s report, published today (Nov. 15) and based on US Census Bureau data, found that post-millennial young adults (sometimes called Generation Z) are less likely to be detached from school or the workplace than earlier generations. This is a good sign: According to the US Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, youth ages 16-19 who are neither in school nor working miss out on core activities that guide the transition to adulthood, and as a result limit their future prospects. The declining share of detached youth, which is especially noticeable amongst young women, suggests that the post-millennial generation might be gearing up for a brighter future.

In 2018, only 9% of young women ages 16-21 are detached from education or the workplace, compared to 12% in 2002 (millennials) and 16% in 1986 (Generation X). For men, this figure has only shifted 1% from 1986 until now.

“Post-millennial women are more likely to be engaged in school and work than earlier generations in part because they have fewer parenting responsibilities,” the authors of the report, Kim Parker, director of social trends research at Pew, and Richard Fry, a researcher, wrote.

They point out that in 2016, 88% of women ages 18-21 were childless, an increase from 79% of millennial women, and 80% of Gen X women, at a similar age. Declining teen birth rates, the authors wrote, have also contributed to this. According to a Pew study in 2016, the rate of teen births declined since the late 1950s and has been facing an especially steep fall since the 1990s.

Earlier this year, a report published by the National Center for Health Statistics also found teen births to be at record lows—down 7% in 2017 to 18.8 teen births per 1,000 women, compared with 20.3 births per 1,000 in 2016. If this trend continues, it suggests that more female youth can continue to enter the workforce and enroll in higher education without interruption.