Total fertility rates controlling for marital status have not changed very much over the last 15 years. But with marriage coming later, the share of women at peak childbearing ages (20 to 40) who are married has steadily fallen.One of the biggest fertility declines across the US is taking place in Utah, because age at first marriage is rising for Mormons just like for other women.
The number of children women say they want is not declining; according to the government's "Social Survey", it has hovered around 2.5 since the 1970s, and right now it is 2.7. But the average woman in her 20s today is likely to have only 1.8 children, leaving a gap of 0.9 children per women, the largest ever measured.
I wonder, what does that gap measure? The hard reality of raising children in a two-career world? The physical hardships of older mothers? Or the myriad distractions of life in our 20s that keep people from focusing on marriage until they are too old for a third or even a second child?