Pregnancy can be risky and expensive at any age. But for those who can afford the costs, holding off until an older age can be advantageous. A recent article in The Atlantic describes how first-time moms over 40 tend to have greater education and financial stability. Drawing from a national fertility study, sociologist Karina Shreffler finds that half of women over 40 had to pursue expensive treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF) in order to get pregnant. Older women are also at higher risk for various medical conditions. However, more affluent women have the financial ability to bear these expenses. Shreffler discusses numerous advantages that accompany this choice:
“People who are pursuing college are more likely to create this broader life plan: when to time their education, when to form their families, when to go for the promotion…We just don’t see that to that extent with women who don’t have college degrees.”
Waiting to have children can lead to more financial success and additional career opportunities, benefiting the children of older moms. Sociologist Karen Guzzo explains,
“These women are aware that, the longer they work before having kids, the more established they’ll be when they need to take time off — and the more valuable they’ll be to their companies.”
But again, these benefits are contingent upon the economic ability to bear the added costs that come with waiting to have children. As long as affluent, educated women are better equipped to benefit from late motherhood than women without college degrees, these benefits will perpetuate inequality.