Sunday, August 5, 2018

A great New York Times infographic on motherhood

Today the New York Times released a map that shows the average age at first birth for women across the United States. Being the data nerd that I am, I dove right in and spent a lot of my day analyzing and looking at the various geographies around the country. Some of the patterns are what you might expect. For example, women have children at younger ages in rural spaces and the differences within states can be quite stark. The average age at first birth for a mother in my home county of Robeson County, North Carolina is 22.1 whereas just an hour and a half away in Wake County (home of Raleigh), the average age at first birth is 28.1. Of note, since I use it frequently as a reference point in this post, the average age nationally is 26.3, I round it down to 26 in subsequent mentions.

Much like the voting map that was also released last week, this map allows us to analyze data about known phenomena at a granular level. According to the CDC, the South and Appalachia have the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country and this fact is reflected in the New York Times map. However, the Times map allows us to find patterns within the different states. For example, in Mississippi, Madison County is the only county where the average age is over 26. It is also the only county in Mississippi whose median income exceeds the national average. You can see the same pattern in neighboring Alabama where Shelby County, a relatively affluent suburb of Birmingham, shares the same distinction.

Also of note is the correlation between college attainment and age at first birth, which the article attached to the map notes. In some states, you can even spot relatively rural college areas by looking for areas where the age exceeds 26. This is especially pronounced in North Carolina where rural Watauga County, home of Appalachian State University, stands out. You can also look to Pennsylvania and the fact that Centre County, home of Pennsylvania State University, stands out among its surrounding counties. The same is true in Missouri with Boone County, home of the University of Missouri. This pattern is not always as dramatic as it is in these cases but when it is, it is interesting to see.

I will finish by doing a brief look at New England since it stands out pretty prominently in the map. In Connecticut, there isn't a single county where the average age is younger than 26 (Windham County comes close at 26.1) and in Massachusetts, only Hampden County meets that criteria and that represents something of an outlier since it is home to Springfield, the largest city in Western New England. Its neighbor to the north, Hampshire County, is more in line with the observation made in the previous paragraph. It is home to Smith, Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire Colleges, and UMass - Amherst and has an average age of 29.2.

In New Hampshire, rural Grafton County, home to Dartmouth College and Plymouth State University, has a higher average age than its neighbors Sullivan, Coos, Belknap, and Carroll Counties. Vermont represents something of an outlier since most of its rural counties have average ages that exceed those of comparatively rural communities. However, its northern most counties (with the exception of Essex) all have average ages under 26.

Maine lives up to the old adage "as Maine goes, so goes the nation" by being the New England state that is most similar to the rest of the country. Cumberland and York Counties, the two most urban counties in the state, have the highest ages. Hancock County, home to Acadia National Park, also stands out as having a higher than average age. The rest of the state has average ages below 26. There is also less of a "college town" effect in Maine. Penobscot County, home of the University of Maine, has an average age of 25.6, which is the higher than all of its neighbors but only a year and a half older than its lowest neighbor, Washington County.

I hope you enjoyed this brief look at the map. There are of course multiple layers of reasoning that describes the trends noted here. However, I thought that I would bring it to your attention and highlight some areas that I found particularly interesting.

No comments: