NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 2, 2007

Younger adults tend to worry less about the stigma attached to having a child or living together without being married -- a dramatic shift in behavior related to marriage, divorce, parenthood and cohabitation, according to a new Pew Research Center study.


  • The rate of non-marital childbearing has ballooned to 36.8 percent of all births in 2005, from 5.3 percent in 1960.
  • As recently as the early 1990s, only about a third of these non-marital births were to cohabiting women -- now it's about half of all out-of-wedlock births.
  • Nearly half of adults (47 percent) in their 30s and 40s have lived in a cohabiting relationship; among those ages 30-49, about one-third have.


  • Teenage unwed mothers, who were often racial and ethnic minorities, made up most non-marital births in earlier decades.
  • Today, experts say, it is white women in their 20s and 30s, who often live with the baby's father.
  • The Pew study reports that the percentage of births to unmarried white mothers rose from 2.3 percent in 1960 to 35.8 percent in 2004.

"Birthrates for unmarried women have been going up for people in their 30s and probably in their 40s as well, while they've been going down for teenagers," says Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University who was not involved in Pew's research.

Source: Sharon Jayson, "Cohabitation, unwed motherhood soaring in younger generation," USA Today, July 2, 2007.

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