MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A report released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Thursday finds women are waiting longer to have children.

It’s a trend that’s really jumped up in the last five years, but perhaps not for the reasons you might think.

The average age for a first-time mother in United States is now 26.3 years old. That’s up from 24.9 years old in 2000 and significantly higher than 21.4 years old in 1970.

Those ages vary by race and ethnicity.

Asian or Pacific Islander mothers had the oldest average age at first birth – 29.5 years. American Indian or Alaska Native women had the youngest average age at first birth – 23.1 years.

Researchers point to more educational and career opportunities for women as factors for the increase. Contraceptives also rose dramatically between the 1970s and 1990s.

But a closer look at the numbers between 2000 and 2014 reveals another explanation.

“The largest factor in the rise in mean age at first birth is the decline of the population of first births to mothers under age 20,” wrote T.J. Mathews and Brady Hamilton, the authors of the CDC report.

Women over age 30 do help push up the average age of first-time mothers. In 2000, that group made up 24 percent of all first-time mothers. By 2014, it was up to 30 percent.

But there’s a much bigger decline in first-time teenage mothers.

That group dropped from 23 percent of first-time mothers in 2000 to 13.4 percent in 2014.

“There’s a lot fewer younger people having sex than when we look at 15, 20 years ago,” says Jill Farris, a teenage pregnancy researcher at the University of Minnesota. “I think the other major factor that most researchers and folks in the field would point to is better access to contraception and birth control and those methods are better at preventing pregnancy.”

Farris believes the decline in teenagers having kids could be due to more education in schools, better access to information through technology, and more open parents who are willing to talk about these issues.

The CDC also believes that since 2009 more women have been waiting on kids because of the economy.

Heather Brown

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