Kay S. Hymowitz on Fertility rates and Carrie Bradshaw:
Demographers get really excited about shifts like these, but in case you don’t get what the big deal is, consider: in 1960, 70 percent of American 25-year-old women were married with children; in 2000, only 25 percent of them were. In 1970, just 7.4 percent of all American 30- to 34-year-olds were unmarried; today, the number is 22 percent. That change took about a generation to unfold, but in Asia and Eastern Europe the transformation has been much more abrupt. In today’s Hungary, for instance, 30 percent of women in their early thirties are single, compared with 6 percent of their mothers’ generation at the same age. In South Korea, 40 percent of 30-year-olds are single, compared with 14 percent only 20 years ago.
At the end there is an interesting conclusion:
That raises an interesting question: Why are SYFs (single young females) in the United States—the Rome of the New Girl Order—still so interested in marriage? By large margins, surveys suggest, American women want to marry and have kids. Indeed, our fertility rates, though lower than replacement level among college-educated women, are still healthier than those in most SYF countries (including Sweden and France). The answer may be that the family has always been essential ballast to the individualism, diversity, mobility, and sheer giddiness of American life. It helps that the U.S., like northwestern Europe, has a long tradition of “companionate marriage”—that is, marriage based not on strict roles but on common interests and mutual affection. Companionate marriage always rested on the assumption of female equality. Yet countries like Japan are joining the new order with no history of companionate relations, and when it comes to adapting to the new order, the cultural cupboard is bare. A number of analysts, including demographer Nicholas Eberstadt, have also argued that it is America’s religiousness that explains our relatively robust fertility, though the Polish fertility decline raises questions about that explanation.
(NYT did a similarly longish piece on European fertility; can’t find the link). The Hymowitz article talked about the cultural reasons behind the trend, linking it to Sex and the City (a show I find to be of immense social significance).