Judith Shulevitz has a thought provoking article in The New Republic about the cost of the feminist breakthroughs of birth control and equality in the workplace. Nineteenth-century French critic Alexis de Tocqueville had deplored how the independence of American women was irreversibly lost in the bonds of matrimony, with the burden of immediate and extended motherhood. The technological advancement of birth control has allowed women to choose when or if to have children and the advancement of women in education and in the vocational world in the last century has resulted in deferring starting a family. A new study from researchers at Brigham Young University concurs, showing that college students now target the age of 25 as the right time to get married, a four-year jump since 1970.
As in any change in society, there is always a cost which has been little mentioned until now: the children.
Ms. Shulevitz observed that when college and career women face an unequal penalty for having children that their male competitors don't face, they behave rationally and tend not to reproduce or reproduce later and at a lower level than they would have otherwise desired. But if women are repopulating America at an older age, then it means many men are also becoming fathers with gray on the temples. This has a biological cost, as age diminishes fertility for both sexes and increases the statistical chances for birth defects. For instance, the Center fof Disease Control reports that the number of infants born with Down Syndrome was almost five times higher among births to older mothers than to younger mothers. In addition, fertility treatment is being used by a desperate older population willing to try out relatively new techniques as human guinea pigs, with a slightly increased chance of birth defects from assisted reproductive technologies, according to a recent research published in the New England Journal of Medicine.