Byline: CHRIS BROOKE
ALMOST one in three of the country's most educated women are missing out on motherhood, it was revealed yesterday.
A significant number of ' thirtysomethings' with degrees are either choosing never to have children - or have left it too late.
Only around half of those who postpone having a baby by the time they turn 30, but who still intend to start a family, managed to do so in the following six years.
The Population Trends 2004 study by the Office for National Statistics revealed the price many women pay for putting their career first earlier in their adult life.
The figures are based on new analysis of a national survey conducted three years ago of women born in the late 1950s and now in their 40s and around the end of their reproductive life.
The report published yesterday revealed 28 per cent of women with degrees have remained childless.
And almost half of graduates end up having either none or one child by their early 40s. Only around 18 per cent have large families of three children or more.
In contrast, almost 40 per cent of women with no educational qualifications end up with large families.
The report says that the traditional 'nuclear' family of an average 2.4 children is being replaced by smaller, broken families with 1.75 children.
Nationally around one in five of all women born in 1960 and now reaching the end of their reproductive age are childless.
This compares to one in 10 women born in 1945 staying childless.
The study's author Ann Berrington, from the University of Southampton's division of social statistics, says in the report: 'A key question is whether the observed higher percentages of childless among more educated women are the result of planning or from perpetual postponement.' She said it was 'difficult to distinguish' between these groups, adding: 'Women need to be aware of the consequences of the choices they make regarding the postponement of fertility and have a realistic idea of the likelihood that they will end up with their desired number of children.' Norman Wells, director of Family and Youth Concern, said: 'These figures highlight the low status which is increasingly given to motherhood. There is a great emphasis on getting degrees and getting established in a career and even when women do have children there's great emphasis and incentives from the Government for them to return to work.
'The impression given from school onwards is that girls can set their sights higher than staying at home and bringing up children.
'That tends to be frowned upon and any girl who says her ambition is to marry when she is fairly young and have children and look after them, that is seen as being an oddity while in previous generations it would be laudable.'
He said 'two income' couples were often caught in a 'vicious circle' in which they want children but put it off for financial reasons until their 30s, when fertility problems can occur.
The study also found that women in their 30s are more likely to start a family if they are in the top 25 per cent …