Sex & The ’60s: How Many Live Births Occurred During the Decade?

'Mad Men' season 3 still (LA Times Blogs)

‘Mad Men’ season 3 still (LA Times Blogs)

This week, we’re examining sexuality data from the 1960s, in celebration of the upcoming final half-season of “Mad Men” beginning Apr. 5th.

On “Mad Men,” two significant female characters, Don’s wife Betty Draper (January Jones) and his subordinate Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), gave birth to sons. (Oops, spoiler alert?) While each character made different decisions regarding their progeny, it became a pivotal moment for both of them.

Tracking the number of live births within a population is an essential checkpoint to determine how healthily a population is growing. We’ve already looked at population and marriage stats from the 1960s; now let’s look at birth stats from the decade.

I found a table put together by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) cataloging registered live births from 1933 to 1998, breaking down the data by the age and race of the mother. For our purposes, we’ll look at age only and narrow it down to mothers ages 15-49.

Here’s the data table:

1960s Live Births by Mother's Age and Year Data Table

1960s Live Births by Mother’s Age and Year Data Table

But the patterns are a little hard to see. So I made a line graph:

1960s Registered Live Births by Mother's Age and Year Line Graph

1960s Registered Live Births by Mother’s Age and Year Line Graph

Now we can begin to see some patterns.

It appears that 1964 was a tipping-point year, as some of the age-ranges pivoted from their determined patterns at that year. The number of mothers ages 20-24, the largest group in the series, dropped below 1.4M+ that year, and settled around 1.3M+-1.5M+ for the remainder of the decade. Likewise, the number of live registered births for the 25-29 cohort hit 1M+ that year for the last time that decade. For the rest of the 1960s, births for women ages 25-29 stayed within the six-figure range.

Previous to 1964, women ages 30-34 numbered around 600K+ live births. But 1964 began a drop into the 500K+ range for a couple of years, before ending the decade within the 400K+ range.

Women ages 15-19 (well, teens) stayed within the same range of births throughout the decade (585K+ to 605K+, with an outlier of 621K+ in 1966). But the line graph above makes it appear as if the cohort had a more dramatic rise, but that’s because it’s set off by the 30-34 range’s changes.

In terms of the “Mad Men” characters, Peggy Olson would’ve been 21 years old, and would’ve given birth around 1960. That places her in the largest age cohort of that year. (Ages 20-24 outstripped the next-highest range, ages 25-29, by 334K+ births.) Betty Draper was around 31 years old in 1963 when she gave birth. So she was within the largest of the age ranges that year which didn’t hit 1M+ live births, but still on the downswing of common pregnancies. (Women ages 30-34 registered 610K+ live births).

It seems that showrunner Matthew Weiner’s obsessiveness towards period accuracy extended even to birth ages of his female characters.


Sex & The ’60s: The Basic Stats

'Mad Men' cast photo (AMC)

‘Mad Men’ cast photo (AMC)

This week, we’re examining sexuality data from the 1960s, in celebration of the upcoming final half-season of “Mad Men” beginning Apr. 5th.

To kick off our series, let’s start by examining some basic background on 1960s population statistics. I looked at numbers from both the 1960 and 1970 Censuses to get a better idea of the decade’s growth. One caveat: the growth numbers are estimated, since the numbers I calculated would assume direct linear growth and that, in all likelihood, would not be the case due to varying factors (and the fact that population growth doesn’t happen within a vacuum).

I created some Excel tables to better show the data.

Overall Population:

1960-1970 population data (US Census)

1960-1970 population data (US Census)

As you can see, men experienced a 12%+ growth over the decade, while women grew at a faster pace of 14%+, averaging out to a total population growth of 13%+.


Population Breakdown by Sex per Census:

I wanted to see how the split changed in each iteration of the Census (or if it did at all).

1960 population sex split (US Census)

1960 population sex split (US Census)

In 1960, women just barely made up more of the population than men.

1970 population sex split (US Census)

1970 population sex split (US Census)

The scales tipped further in 1970, as men lost half a percentage point of their population to the women.


Median Age at First Marriage:

1960-1970 median age at first marriage by sex (US Census)

1960-1970 median age at first marriage by sex (US Census)

Throughout the decade, both men and women waited longer to get married for the first time. But even though women waited longer, they still married around age 20. (Contrast that to now, where the average age of women getting married stands at 27.)


Marital Status Breakdown by Sex:

Each of these breakdowns looks at respondents over the age of 14 (so no babies are skewing the data).

Here’s the 1960s:

1960 mens' marital status (US Census)

1960 men’s marital status (US Census)

Married men outnumbered single men by a near 1:3 ratio.

1960 women's marital status (US Census)

1960 women’s marital status (US Census)

Married women outnumbered single women by over a 1:3 ratio, and almost headed into 1:4 territory. There was also a much larger discrepancy between the number of widowed men and women (who reported as such, at least).

And here’s the 1970s:

1970 men's marital status (US Census)

1970 men’s marital status (US Census)

There are more single men, and more married men. Widowed and divorced men became virtually equal.

1970 women's marital status (US Census)

1970 women’s marital status (US Census)

The number of widowed women grew faster than the number of divorced women. The rate of growth between single men and single women, respectively, held steady throughout the decade.