Statistics have recently confirmed that the New Zealand total fertility rate fell last year from 2.01 babies per woman in 2013 to just 1.92.  What is interesting is that fertility rates are lowest among women who are educated and receive higher incomes in many countries around the world.  New Zealand demographer, Ian Pool, notes that fertility rates are now lowest where women are better educated, have higher incomes and are more likely to be in paid work.    

One would think that those who have more money would feel that they are able to afford to have more children.  These statistics indicate that the recession is definitely not all that is at play with people putting off having children.  They also suggest once again that women feel undervalued when spending time bringing up children, and valued more by society in their jobs.  So they tend to limit their families and, in some cases, put off having children until it is too late to have more than one, or any at all. 

The New Zealand Herald comments that “babies are going out of fashion again as Kiwi women increasingly put work and study ahead of childbearing”.  This article details some interesting real life stories about individual woman’s struggles with this societal mindset.  The less families with young children there are around, the harder it is for mothers who are at home looking after children to feel supported in their role and gain confidence from a sense of comradery with the mothers around them.

Dr Susan Morton, who directs the Growing Up in NZ study of about 7000 children born in 2009-10, confirmed that women with one child who had not had any more children since the study started “tend to be older mums and better educated and living in more advantaged areas with higher incomes”.  These trends make one worry about new findings that getting too much is not good for our children.  I imagine it is hard to resist giving a lot of time, attention and “things” to an only child when you are wealthy.

New Zealand’s overall fertility rate has been slightly below the replacement rate of 2.1 babies per women in most years since 1980.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...