Saturday, February 25, 2012

Academics and starting a family later, if at all

I was a graduate student for 5+ years.  Most of my friends are graduate students and have been for at least 3+ years.  Also, almost all of my good friends who are also currently graduate students are male.  And today, because of this, I came to an amazing revelation:

In one week, I will be going to my first baby shower.  In two and a half weeks, I will turn 29.  I made it to almost 29 without attending a single baby shower.

I may be highly educated, but I have almost NO idea what to do here. (picture from
We can back up and analyze this six ways from Sunday.  A large part of it is that I just do not have that many close friends who have had children.  And a large part of THAT is because my close friends are eternally in school and not financially ready for kids.  And going deeper into the rabbit-hole, a large part of THAT is that my friends are largely male.  Venn diagram, anyone?  Let's be safe and assume U.S. friends only.
Pardonnez pour le Open Office illustration.
My female friends are not less-educated.  I just have less of them (and that's what I'm trying to illustrate).  I would say that by and large, people who are graduate-level educated make up the majority of my friend base.  Because I am in a STEM field, and so are many of my friends, the population of males is just going to be larger.

There have been many, many science bloggers that have exhaustively discussed the prevalence of children in Ph.D.-parent relationships, the average age of Ph.D.-parents at first child, the dearth of women in tenure-track professor jobs because of the difficulties (or not?) of balancing work/life, or because of the general environment, etc.  The general trends are what you would expect: those with more education wait to have children and typically have fewer children than those who are less-educated.

But hold on.  Then there is something else.  The average age for EVERYONE (highly educated or not) having children is increasing.  So perhaps I, at almost 29, and my friends, who are typically younger than I am, just haven't hit the baby boom yet, and those blue circles will increase in size as time goes on.

And here I sit making graphs and analyzing instead of thinking of how to prepare/shop for a baby gift.  In light of the above graphs, it's not too surprising, eh?

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