The childlessness rate among women nearing the end of their childbearing years in the United States is among the highest in the world, according to the latest World Fertility Report by the United Nations, which also shows that 41 percent of all U.S. births occurred to unmarried women.
Among 118 places for which comparable data is available, only six have rates of childlessness higher than the U.S. rate of 19 percent, Pew Research Center noted Friday in its analysis of the World Fertility Report 2012.
Women between the ages of 40 and 44 in the U.S. have, on average, about 1.9 children in their lifetimes, which is one of the lowest levels of 171 countries analyzed, with just 19 places having an equal or lower lifetime fertility levels.
However, U.S. women fall squarely in the middle range when it comes to the age at which they first become mothers, which according to the U.N. is 25 years for U.S. women.
In the area of non-marital births, the U.S. ranks 49th among 91 places with comparable data. The U.N. report shows that 41 percent of all U.S. births occurred to unmarried women.
"In 64 countries with data on extra-marital births for all three periods, the median percentage of births that occurred outside of formal (legal) marriage rose substantially, from 7.2 percent in the 1970s to 35.9 percent in the first decade of the twenty-first century," the report says.
Fertility has declined worldwide to unprecedented levels since the 1970s, the report noted. "Total fertility fell in all but six of the 186 countries or areas for which data are available for all three periods considered in the analysis. In the most recent period covered, 80 countries or areas had a total fertility below 2.1 children per woman, the level required to ensure the replacement of generations in low mortality populations."
The report also observed that contraceptive use has risen in the last four decades in nine out of 10 countries with data available on trends over time, and that modern method use accounts for most of the increase.
"The use of contraception among women aged 15 to 49 who are married or in a union increased in 88 percent of the 74 countries or areas with available data," the report said. "Among countries with current high fertility and intermediate fertility, contraceptive use increased sharply: the median proportion of users rose from 10.2 percent in 1970-1979 to 29.6 percent in 2000-2011 for high-fertility countries, and from 36.9 percent to 61.4 percent in intermediate-fertility countries."