The mothers are part of a far-reaching social trend unfolding across the United States: the number of children being born out of wedlock has risen sharply in recent years, driven primarily by women in their 20s and 30s opting to have children without getting married. Nearly four out of every 10 births are now to unmarried women.Of course, "unmarried" doesn't necessarily mean "single"...
"It's been a huge increase - a dramatic increase," said Stephanie J. Ventura of the National Center for Health Statistics, which documented the shift . . . based on an analysis of birth certificates nationwide. "It's quite striking."
About 1.7 million babies were born to unmarried women in 2007, a 26 percent rise from 1.4 million in 2002 and more than double the number in 1980, according to the new report. Unmarried women accounted for 39.7 percent of all U.S. births in 2007 -- up from 34 percent in 2002 and more than double the percentage in 1980.
"If you see 10 babies in the room, four them were born to women who were not married," Ventura said.
Although experts have been concerned about a recent uptick in births to older teenagers after years of decline, that is not the driving force in the overall trend but more likely a reflection of it, Ventura said. Instead, much of the rise is due to significant increases in births among unmarried women in their 20s and 30s. Between 2002 and 2006, the rate at which unmarried women in that age group were having babies increased between 13 percent and 34 percent, the report found.
The rates increased for all races, but they remained highest and rose fastest for Hispanics and blacks. There were 106 births to every 1,000 unmarried Hispanic women in 2006, 72 per 1,000 blacks, 32 per 1,000 whites and 26 per 1,000 Asians, the report showed.
...Previous research indicates that about 40 percent of births to unmarried women occur in households where couples are cohabitating.