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NEW YORK (Reuters) - More American women are choosing not to have children than three decades ago, according to a new report.
Nearly 20 percent of older women do not have children, compared to 10 percent in the 1970s, the Pew Research Center said.
"In recent decades, social pressure to play traditional roles has lessened in a broad variety of ways and there is more leeway for individual choice. This could play a part in lowering pressure for people to get married and bear children," said D'Vera Cohn, a co-author of the report.
"Women have more options than in the past to build strong careers and to exercise the choice not to have children," she added in an email.
The findings in the report are based on data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey.
Cohn said another reason for the increase is that children are seen by some as less important for a successful marriage. A 2007 Pew survey found that 41 percent of adults said that children are very important for a good marriage, down from 65 percent in 1990.
One in five white women ages 40-44 were childless in 2008, compared with 17 percent of black and Hispanic women and 16 percent of Asian women. Between 1994 and 2008, the childlessness rates for black and Hispanic women rose by almost a third, much higher than the 11 percent increase for white women.
Education also seems to be a factor in a woman's choice to be a mother. The more educated women are, the higher the childless rate is.
For women with a high school diploma, the rate is 17 percent, compared to 24 percent of women with a bachelor's degree. But the childlessness rate has decreased for women with advanced degrees from 31 percent in 1994 to 24 percent in 2008.
"Economists will tell you that more educated women have more to gain economically from prioritizing their careers, compared with less educated women," said Cohn.
"The most educated women also tend to marry at older ages and to postpone childbearing until older ages more than less educated women do," Cohn said.
Reporting by Daniel Lippman; Editing by Patricia Reaney