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Poll Reveals America Thinks Women Should Have Babies By Age 26

Illustration for article titled Poll Reveals America Thinks Women Should Have Babies By Age 26

Sometimes, as a woman, I find myself adrift on a rudderless sea of indecision bereft of the opinions of others weighing in on my conduct. How should I dress? Should I be thin or what? Should I do anything to my face to make it look different? How should I conduct myself sexually? How should I age? When should I talk? When should I have babies? Well, ladies, I'm proud to answer that now, finally, American society has weighed in on How Women Should Act. And America, collectively, has decided that you should have babies before you turn 26 and your uterus fills up with cobwebs.

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A new Gallup poll that, for some reason, asked 5,000 people when they think that women should have their first child revealed that the majority of people think that it's really just best of ladies start popping them out at age 25 or younger. Only 3% of the wizened masses believe it's best for women to wait until they're over 30 to have babies. Related: America believes my reproductive choices to be faulty. There isn't an emoticon strong enough to express my sadness.

Unsurprisingly, America doesn't believe exactly the same standard should apply to men, but a surprising proportion — 43% — believe that men should get to babymaking at age 25 or younger.

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Now that the sting of judgment re: my personal life choices has worn off, allow me to ask this pressing question: What the fuck, America? Who raised you (you = America) to think that it would be perfectly hunky-dory if this nation's 24 year olds went out and started knocking each other up, just, en masse? THINK OF A 24-YEAR-OLD YOU KNOW. Why are you encouraging them to have a baby? Circa 2013 twenty-four-year-olds, adjusted backward for immaturity inflation, are only the 1973 equivalent of 13-year-olds, child readiness-wise. In 1945 years, 2013 24-year-olds are only 6 years old!

The age breakdown of the respondents adds an extra layer of weirdness to Gallup's results. Adults over age 65, eyes wild with a crazed hunger for grandchildren to spoil, were most likely to believe that women should have babies before they hit the big 2-6 (72% of baby hungry geriatrics would just love it if the Youths could get off that MySpace and start making wee ones). But a solid majority of 18-29-year-olds — 60% — believe that their peers should be reproducing. To steal a go-to quote from "cool" substitute teachers everywhere: Guys. Guys.

As Slate's Jessica Grose points out, there's an inverse relationship between level of education and likelihood that a person would tell a pollster that they think babymaking should start at age 25 or younger. The more school a person attended, the more likely they are to believe parenting should wait. Probably because one of the things that you learn in school is that not having kids is super fun.

And there's also this grain of salt: Gallup really fucking sucks at polling. During last year's Presidential race, they ranked 23rd of the 23 polling firms that Nate Silver analyzed for accuracy. So, let's hope that this poll, like its surveys showing the Presidential race in a dead heat, also skews slightly conservative.

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Otherwise, heaven help us.

[Gallup]

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DISCUSSION

arischwartz
Ari Schwartz: Dark Lord of the Snark

So before the "BUT BIRTH DEFECTS" brigade comes marching in, let's consider the per capita rates of various issues based on maternal age. We will assume that paternal age is either a non-factor or constant at "whatevs" because this is about women being shamed into babby-making, not the other way around.) Also because I don't have stats that reliably control for paternal age and... ehh... I'm lazy. But maternal age is a reasonable proxy for now.

Firstly, if you are having your first child between 20 and 40, congrats, your rate of fetal mortality is pretty consistently low regardless of age. Arguably, the risk between 20 and 40 is going to be roughly the same as an individual regardless of age. And even over 40, it's pretty low overall (1% chance, roughly.) So that's on your side.

But what about Down's? Still less than 1% until 40:

What about autism? Still less than 1% up until 40 (and beyond!)

But what about preterm births?

Still roughly the same up until around 40.

And if I may take a moment to inject some politics into this, guess what your highest risk as a future mother is, outside of being over 40?

Being poor and not-white:

But you never hear the "HAVE TEH BABBIES NOW" crew wringing hands about this one, do they?

So yeah, not sure what the thesis is here other than "stop worrying about having kids by some pre-ordained age. Have kids when you can best support them." Also that our pre-natal care for minorities is atrocious.