Census data since 1960 show remarkable changes across the decades for the average 30-year-old woman. She is more likely to be educated and to work, and although her earnings still lag behind her male peers, they are closer than they once were. She is less likely to be married. She is having fewer children and becoming a mother later in life. Here’s a look at how 30-year-old women today compare with previous generations.
More 30-year-old women have a college education than ever before.
An overwhelming majority of them attended college and nearly 40 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree — something that, since 2000, women have achieved more often than men. In 2015, for the first time, married women were better educated than their husbands, making men more likely to “marry up” educationally.
The charts below show the change in the highest level of education obtained by 30-year-old women.
Fewer 30-year-old women are staying at home.
Female participation in the labor force rose at least 5 percent every decade from 1960 to 1990. Around the 1970s, more women started looking for jobs and, eventually, careers.
30-year-old women still earn significantly less than their male peers.
The gap in what women earn for every dollar men make has narrowed, particularly for younger workers. Although women are gaining on their male counterparts, on average they still make about 15 cents less on the dollar. For women of color, the gap is even wider.
Note: Earnings compares median wages of 30-year-old women and men who worked and earned wages.
72 percent of the time, a wife earns less than her husband of the same age.
Again, although the gap is closing, in households where a 30-year-old husband and wife both work, the woman earns as much or more than her spouse only 28 percent of the time.
Marriage at this age is becoming less popular.
It was once rare for a woman not to be married by age 30, but if current trends continue, the majority of women may soon be single at that milestone. The median age of marriage for a woman now hovers around 28. Because people are waiting longer to get married, divorce rates for 25- to 39-year-olds are dropping.
Note: Widowed, divorced and separated categories are not shown but account for the remaining 9 percent of 30-year-old women in 2017.
Almost half of women now have no children by age 30.
The sexual revolution of the 1960s drastically changed how women started families. The Food and Drug Administration approved the pill as an oral contraceptive in June 1960. By 1965, 1 in 4 American women under 45 used the pill.
If women are having children, they’re having them later in life.
In 1960, the majority of women with children had their first baby before age 25. Today, more are having them later in their 20s. This means 30-year-olds today are much more likely to have a child under the age of 5.
Sources: A Post analysis of census data from IPUMS USA, University of Minnesota. Note: Figures may not add to 100 due to rounding.