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Report cites huge rise in unwed parents

New York Times / August 17, 2011

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WASHINGTON - The number of US parents who live together without marrying has increased twelvefold since 1970, according to a report released yesterday that says children now are more likely to have unmarried parents than divorced parents.

The report was published by the National Marriage Project, an initiative at the University of Virginia, and the Institute for American Values, two partisan groups that advocate for strengthening the institution of marriage. The report argues that the rise of cohabitation without marriage is a growing risk for children, and their lives are less stable in such families.

The report cites data from the Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and includes work from 18 researchers who study family issues.

According to the National Survey of Family Growth, part of the CDC, 42 percent of children have lived with cohabiting unmarrried parents by age 12, far more than the 24 percent whose parents have divorced.

The numbers also suggest a correlation with class. Parents with only a high school diploma are far more likely to be unmarried than college graduates, according to the report.

“There’s a two-family model emerging in American life,’’ said W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and an associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. “The educated and affluent enjoy relatively strong, stable families. Everyone else is more likely to be consigned to unstable, unworkable ones.’’

Unmarried parents living together are more than twice as likely to break up as married parents, Wilcox said. The increase in unmarried couples having children swept poor communities beginning in the late 1960s, Wilcox said, citing data from the National Survey of Family Growth.

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