Unmarried US Women Are Having Fewer Babies

The number and rate of nonmarital childbearing declined from the 2008 peak.
The number and rate of nonmarital childbearing declined from the 2008 peak. –CDC/ NCHS

A recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics shows the birth rate for unmarried women in the US is declining for the first time in decades.

According to the study, the rate peaked in 2008 at about 52 babies per 1,000 unmarried women of childbearing age. It then dropped to 45 births in 2013. There’s a good chance this decline mirrors the economic recession and declines in overall fertility that started in 2008.

According to The Pew Research Center, 2007 marked a record-high number of births in the U.S.—4,316,233. But since then, fertility has been declining. Births in 2010 were just over 4 million.

As the economy slowly recovers, however, non-marital births (and overall fertility) could bounce back, as fertility trends tend to follow economic cycles.


Some key takeaways from the report:

-Non-marital birth rates in the US and Europe are pretty similar. In 2011, 39 percent of births in the European Union were non-marital births. In the US, 41 percent were.

The data is from Eurostat and the NCHS. —Pew Research Center

-Even though the averages are similar in Europe and the US, the prevalence of non-marital childbearing varies greatly across the 28 EU member states: Countries in northern Europe, have pretty high rates, with more than half of all births in Norway, Sweden, Belgium, and Denmark occurring outside of marriage. But Croatia, Greece, and Turkey report less than 20 percent of all births occurring out of wedlock.

-Despite the recent decline in the non-marital birth rate, the long-term trend in the US is that births to unmarried women have dramatically increased. In 1960, about 5 percent of all births were to unmarried women. By 2000, this number had shot up to 33 percent, and in 2008, it was 41 percent.

-More people are ‘okay’ with the idea of people having children out of marriage. A Gallup poll this year showed that 58 percent of Americans think having a baby outside of marriage is morally acceptable. In 2002, fewer than half said the same.

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