Unmarried Birth Rate Continues Dropping

Married people are starting to have more babies as the recession ends. But unmarried people are still holding off.

Births out of wedlock don’t carry much social stigma nowadays. But there’s still a big economic penalty, and that’s led some unmarried women to avoid having babies as the jobs recession lingers.

The rate of births to unmarried women declined for the fourth straight year in 2012, even as the overall decline in births leveled out, according to new data from the federal government.

The latest report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that the birth rate for 1,000 unmarried women of child-bearing age was 45.3. That’s the lowest level for the group since 2003, and it’s well below the birth rate of 65 for all women in that age group.  Unmarried women accounted for 41% of U.S. births in each of the past two years.

The rate of births to unmarried women has declined for the last four years, in line with the economic recession that started in 2008. Both married and unmarried women defer motherhood when economic times are hard.  (Naturally, the impact on child-bearing statistics lags the economic downturn by nine months).

Data on the economy indicate that the slow recovery has been most helpful for college-educated middle and upper class workers. Blue collar workers and young workers disproportionately suffer from underemployment and the slow jobs recovery. They also are less likely to be married, which helps to explain the decline in the birthrate of unmarried women.

Birth rates among unmarried teenagers led the decline in the group. Last year, only 17% of nonmarital births involved teenage mothers, the lowest percentage ever recorded.

Nonmarital birth rates vary sharply by state. In Mississippi 55% of all births were to unmarried women and in Louisiana it was 53%.  But in heavily Mormon Utah, it was just 19% and in the state of Washington, it was 33%.

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