Recent Declines in Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States

There were sharp increases in nonmarital childbearing from 2002 to 2007, following the steady increases beginning in the 1980s. The upward trends have mainly reversed since 2007–2008. In addition, the nature of nonmarital childbearing may be changing as cohabiting unions have increased over the last few decades in the United States along with pregnancies within those unions. Births to unmarried women are at greater risk for adverse outcomes, including low birth weight, preterm birth, and infant mortality. Social and financial supports for unmarried mothers may be limited.

A new NCHS report describes recent trends in nonmarital births from the National Vital Statistics System and in cohabitation for unmarried mothers using data from the National Survey of Family Growth.

Key Findings from the Report:

  • Nonmarital births and birth rates have declined 7% and 14%, respectively, since peaking in the late 2000s.
  • Births to unmarried women totaled 1,605,643 in 2013. About 4 in 10 U.S. births were to unmarried women in each year from 2007 through 2013.
  • Nonmarital birth rates fell in all age groups under 35 since 2007; rates increased for women aged 35 and over.
  • Birth rates were down more for unmarried black and Hispanic women than for unmarried non-Hispanic white women.
  • Nonmarital births are increasingly likely to occur within cohabiting unions—rising from 41% of recent births in 2002 to 58% in 2006–2010.

 

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