In the wake of the Great Recession, American women are having fewer kids — both in and out of wedlock.
According to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics, the non-marital birthrate peaked in 2008 with about 52 babies for every 1,000 unmarried women of child-bearing age, falling to 45 in 2012.
The decline was most noticeable for women in peak childbearing years, 18-29, while unmarried women over 35 actually saw a small birthrate increase.
The dip mirrors a total drop in American fertility following the economic crisis.
The report also served to highlight the fundamental shift in who’s having babies: Between 1960 and 2012, births to unwed mothers skyrocketed, going from 5 percent of all American births to nearly half.
The U.S. is in the middle of the international pack when it comes to children born to unmarried women.
In many northern European nations, more children are born outside of wedlock than in, while in some southern European countries the non-marital birthrate is substantially lower than America’s 41 percent, according to Pew Research Center analysis.
In Muslim-majority Turkey, the non-marital birthrate is less than 3 percent, according to Pew analysis, and in other Islamic nations including Albania, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, it’s less than 1 percent.
Several factors likely contributed to the rise of unwed motherhood in the U.S., including the fact that marriage is no longer the norm it once was and the fact that a record-high percentage of Americans view having a child out of wedlock as morally acceptable.
While the non-marital birth rate in the U.S. has been declining in recent years, the share of births to unmarried women has held steady in the short-term, and increased dramatically in the longer term. In 1960, some 5% of all births were to unmarried mothers. That number rose to 11% by 1970, and by 1990 it had jumped to 28%. By 2000, the share of births to unmarried mothers was 33%, and since 2008, it has remained at 41%.
The long-term increase in the share of births to unmarried women has been caused primarily by two factors: 1) overall increases in the likelihood of an unmarried woman having a baby — the “non-marital birth rate” — and 2) increases in the share of women who are unmarried. Pew Research Center analyses reveal that while in 1960, 72% of all adults were married, by 2010, that share was only about 51%. The fact that birth rates within marriage have declined have also contributed to long-term increases in the share of non-marital births.
It’s worth noting that, while the share of children being born out of wedlock has risen dramatically over the years, not all of those children are winding up in single-parent households.
As the National Center for Health Statistics reported, about 58 percent of out-of-wedlock births were to women who were cohabiting with a partner.
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