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In her social circle, Hasanah Chhom, a year-old Garden Grove mother of two, is the exception, not the rule. She married at 18 and has two children: James, who turns 4 this month, and Benjamin, 2. Her closest friends are all single.
Chhom and her girlfriends exemplify sharply divergent paths in child-bearing across Southern California and the nation. Teenage pregnancy and birthrates continue to fall. And as female millennials outpace their male peers in education — and the cost of housing soars — growing s are prioritizing their careers and personal happiness over having children and starting families. New census data show overall birthrates are continuing to decline, as women increasingly delay pregnancy until their mids or later.
In addition, a larger share of women are choosing to rear children alone or with a live-in partner. Thanks to more widespread sex education and availability of contraception, among other factors, the teen pregnancy rate has fallen about 47 percent to eight per 1, women over the decade, according to the federal Garden Grove women married. The trends are in part due to young women leading young men in college attainment and poor job prospects for millennial men, said Dowell Myers, a demography and urban growth professor at USC. A Pew Research Center study released last year shows males between 18 and 33 are less likely to find employment than older, Gen X men, ages 34 to Chhom, the Garden Grove mom, recalled attending classes at MOMS Orange County, a Santa Ana-based nonprofit group that provides free prenatal and parenting education to at-risk families.Garden Grove's Great Wolf Lodge Southern California Open
She said she was the youngest woman there, with some attendees in their 40s. Also, the U. After meeting her husband, who teaches film history at Santa Ana College, she had her son Leonardo, at She and her husband are debating having a second child but are concerned about the financial demands of raising two .
The estimate excludes prenatal health care and college. Despite the financial hurdles, a growing share of women are having children solo or with a cohabitating partner without being married. Of the Orange County women who gave birth inmore than a quarter of them were unmarried, according to census estimates.
She always wanted children but none of her past relationships, including a short-lived marriage, worked out. Pamela Pimentel, CEO of MOMS Orange County and a registered nurse, attributes much of the increase in women parenting alone or outside marriage to greater societal acceptance of such families over the past two decades. She says a woman in her late 30s can have as healthy a pregnancy as one in her 20s, but she acknowledges that as women age, birth risks increase.
But, she also noted, early prenatal screenings and advanced fertility technology can improve the odds of delivering healthy infants. Over the years, various studies have shown children raised by single mothers are more likely to lag in school and in social and emotional development, which may hinder their future success.
Why the lag? Single moms tend to have less time and fewer resources than married or cohabitating couples. However, only 3 percent of single moms fall into that category. Mothers like Coultas are aware the odds are stacked against them.
What she lacks, she says, she makes up with extra effort. Riley plays soccer, a sport Coultas knew nothing about.
That prompted her to the soccer board to familiarize herself with the rules and vocabulary of the game while getting to know other parents. And a lack of adequate housing and paid family leave will make having children even less desirable, he said. One consequence in the decades ahead could be too few able-bodied workers to pay for programs such as Social Security, Myers said.
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