Unwed Births Increase in U.S.
Special Report - December 19, 2011
Births to unmarried women have increased substantially in the United States since 1970, mainly due to changing family structures, such as the rise in cohabitation, according to a new report from Child Trends. The Child Trends Research Brief, “Childbearing Outside of Marriage: Estimates and Trends in the U.S.,” shows that births to unmarried women in all age groups increased from 11 percent in 1970 to 41 percent in 2009. The majority of nonmarital births occurred to adult women, not teenagers, and to women who were living with the child’s father in a cohabiting relationship.
One of the major findings of the report is that the “the makeup of the women having births outside of marriage has changed,” with an increasing percentage of these women living in cohabiting relationships with the child’s father at the time of the birth, and the majority of women “over the age of 20.” For example, 50 percent of all nonmarital births in 2009 were to women in cohabiting unions, and 62 percent of all nonmarital births were to women ages 20 to 24. Additionally, the report shows that while unmarried childbearing continues to be highest among black women, it has “increased the most” for Hispanic and white women. For example, between 1990 and 2009, the percentage of nonmarital births among white women increased from 17 percent to 29 percent, and the percentage of nonmarital births to Hispanic women increased from 37 percent to 53 percent. By comparison, the percentage of nonmarital births to black women increased from 67 percent to 73 percent during this same time period. “This trend may be explained partly by greater economic strains, growing acceptance of nontraditional family forms, and increased barriers to marriage, particularly among people of lower socioeconomic status,” the report states.
The Child Trend report echoes the findings of other recent studies that show a substantial decline in teen childbearing nationwide, noting that, “Teen women account for a diminishing share of all births outside of marriage.” Specifically, teenagers accounted for only 21 percent of all nonmarital births in 2009, compared to 49 percent in 1970. Today, women ages 20 to 29 account for 62 percent of nonmarital births.
Other key findings from the report include:
- Over half (or 59 percent) of nonmarital births in 2009 were second or third births;
- Most nonmarital births are “unintended” (either mistimed or unwanted by the mother).
“Children born outside of marriage tend to grow up with limited financial resources, to have less stability in their lives because of their parents are more likely to split up and form new unions, and to have cognitive and behavioral problems, such as aggression and depression,” the report warns. “Reducing nonmarital childbearing and promoting marriage among unmarried parents remain important goals of federal and state policies and programs designed to improve the well-being of women and children and to reduce their reliance on public assistance.”
Report Examines Marriage and Parenthood - December 12, 2011
Belonging and Rejection Report - November 21, 2011
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