In a couple of weeks, Bethany and Ethan Fey of San Antonio, Texas, are expecting their first baby, a boy they plan to name William. She's 29, and he's 33. They married after both had graduated from college.
Elizabeth and Nick Dall married while they were still in college. They knew they wanted to have a family, but they also knew they wanted to graduate and have good jobs first. Now 27 and 29 years old, respectively, the Salt Lake City couple welcomed baby Oliver seven weeks ago.
These two sets of parents could be the faces of new millennial-generation families.
More millennial moms will marry before giving birth than in the recent past, as older, better-educated women move into marriage and parenthood with a more intentional approach to family formation, according to a new Demographic Intelligence report, the "2015-2017 U.S. Fertility Forecast."
That's a shift: Most millennial moms thus far have been unmarried as they welcomed their first, and sometimes subsequent, children. The coming wave of millennial moms are those who delayed parenthood to further their educations and marry. They expect more egalitarian parenting relationships — what Demographic Intelligence president Sam Sturgeon called "rejection of the doofus dad image."
These millennial women expect and seek to parent alongside bright and capable men, who may not be college-educated since fewer men than women are getting degrees. And these moms expect their spouses to be good at being husbands and dads.
Different millennial story
"It has always been important to me that when I start a family, I give my kid a solid and secure home with both a mother and a father that are committed to each other and to them — who are prepared physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually for the responsibility," said Bethany Fey, who does social media marketing, while her husband is a government employee.
Her preparations for family life included a college education, church missionary service and "the process of setting and meeting personal goals that stretched and challenged me. I definitely wasn't going to jump into getting married and having kids without getting myself to where I needed to be first and finding someone else that had done the same with his life."
She's part of a trend.
A snapshot of millennials shows they are the most educated generation, particularly the women. The median age for a first marriage is 27 for women and 29.3 for millennial men. Most women 25 and older giving birth are married, a pattern expected to continue for millennial women. The largest group of millennial women getting married in the near-term are college-educated, too, Sturgeon said.
"This is a shift to the (former) millennial narrative that was baby first, then marriage, if at all," Sturgeon said.
The number of babies born outside of marriage has never indicated that millennials reject the institution. A Pew Research Center report on millennials noted that "even though their generation has been slow to marry and have children, most millennials look forward to doing both. Among 18- to 29-year-olds who are not currently married and have no children, 70 percent say they want to marry and 74 percent say they want to have children. Among those who have never married and have no children, 66 percent want to marry and 73 percent want to have children."
So far, though, they've been doing it in a baby-first, marriage-maybe order.
The new Demographic Intelligence report predicts a major shift and highlights three findings in particular:
• A large jump in the percentage of babies born to married millennial women going forward. It projects 63 percent will be born to married women, while in 2010 just over half of births were to unmarried millennial women.
• Married women are more likely to have children at older ages than are single women. And college-educated millennials usually wait to have children until they are married. Those well-educated moms have their first child around 28 or 29, while first babies come, on average, at age 19 or 20 for those who are not educated.
• Married families have larger incomes and invest more in their children, homes and overall wellbeing.
The Council of Economic Advisers noted something similar in its late-2014 report to the White House, "15 Economic Facts About Millennials." It said "family formation may come once their careers are established, and they have higher earnings and are more likely to have access to workplace policies that help them balance work and family."
It's a trend advertisers are starting to jump on, as well. The dingbat, incapable dad stereotype is beginning to disappear, Sturgeon said.
The story of the fathers in educated millennial couples is different from the goofy portrayals of dad trying to figure out how to run a washing machine or diaper a baby that have been popularized in mass media. Demographic Intelligence points out that advertisers who cling to such images err because it is not the story of married-couple households. Compared to other families, married families have more resources and spend more on family life, especially when it come to buying household products, groceries, home improvement and insurance.
Children in those married-couple families are less likely to grow up in poverty or with uninvolved fathers.
"These dads are not stupid. They don't just change the diapers, but they purchase the diapers," Sturgeon said. He added that college-educated men and women picture dads not as out of touch or lost. "They're doing this together; it's much more intentional."
That's certainly true of the men Bethany Fey and Elizabeth Dall married.
"Oh, he does it ALL!!! Dishes, cleaning, diaper changes, etc.," Dall said.
Added Fey, "Ethan is definitely the type to help. He cooks, cleans, etc., right alongside me. It's great."
To demonstrate how advertisers are targeting successful, better-educated and better-heeled families, Sturgeon showed a recent Cheerios commercial, #HowToDad. The dad has it all under control — from helping his children and wife get ready for their day to offering a smart commentary on a man's role in the family.
"We never say no to dress up, we build the best forts, we do work work and homework. We lead by example; we blow their minds," this superdad proclaims.15 comments on this story
He's a do-it-all parent, the kind the report says educated, older millennial women seek as partners and co-parents.
Five experts advise Demographic Intelligence, according to the report: Princeton economist Alicia Adsera, University of Pennsylvania demographer Hans-Peter Kohler, University of North Carolina demographer Philip Morgan, University of Washington demographer Ethan Sharygin and University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox. Wilcox is also director of the National Marriage Project.
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