For many decades, births outside of marriage have been increasing in the United States. Now, says Joan Raymond, in an article for NBC News, new data show a drop in the number of babies born to unmarried women.
But, what is increasing is the number of babies born to unmarried couples who live together. “Cohabiting unions” jumped to 58% of all non-marital births between 2006-2010, an increase from the 41% in 2002, as reported by the National Center for Health Statistics, a part of the Centers for Disease Control.
Even though there are some studies that show living together may be less stable than marriage, this new study shows that one-half of the births to unmarried cohabiting women were planned pregnancies. Some other statistics published in the report include:
• 1,605,643 births to unmarried women in 2013
• This number is 7% lower than highest number in 2008 of 1,726,566 births.
• Birth rates are down more for unmarried black and Hispanic women than for unmarried non-Hispanic white women.
• 4 in 10 US births were to unmarried women from 2007-2013.
• Today’s stats show a drop in number of non-marital births, but are still higher than 1980 total of 665,747 non-marital births.
• Today’s birthing totals are 18 times higher than 1940’s 89,500.
• The number of unmarried older moms (ages 35-39) having babies was 7% higher in 2012, or 31 births per 1,000, as opposed to 2007’s 29 births per 1,000.
• Unmarried women, ages 40-44, births increased to nine births per 1,000 in 2012, a 29% jump compared to 2007’s seven per 1,000 births.
Jennifer Manlove, co-director for Reproductive Health and Family Formation at the nonprofit research group Child Trends, says “shotgun marriage” may be changing to “shotgun cohabitation”.
“When people think of non-marital births, they tend to think of single women, but it’s really much more likely to be a two-parent cohabitating family,” she says. “If a woman gets pregnant,” she adds,” some couples may be more likely to move in together.”
Marriage is not dead, according to Child Trend’s senior research scientist Elizabeth Wildsmith. She says there are some data showing that men and women want to get married at some point, but not until they are financially secure. Also, teen pregnancy education efforts may be working, since data show that the biggest drop in non-marital birth rates between 2007 and 2012 was for teenagers.
Catherine Garcia reporting on The Week tells the story of Anne-Marie Rinaldi. She has been with her high school sweetheart for 16 years. Recently, they had a daughter together. They had not planned the pregnancy, but the couple was very happy and excited about their good news. They want to be married at some time in the future.
“We love each other, and we are OK financially, but we want to save more money,” she said. “I guess in some people’s minds we did this backwards, but it works for us.”
The National Survey of Family Growth says that cohabiting unions with children present in the union may be one of the fastest-growing family models in the US.