NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 23, 1996

Out-of-wedlock births are not only a costly social problem, but the children themselves are at a significant disadvantage compared to children born to two-parent families.

  • They are 50% more likely to be born with a low birth weight, and the rate of infant mortality is higher in this group.
  • Some 29.7% must repeat a grade at school, compared to the overall rate of 11.6%.
  • Children from single-parent families or stepfamilies are two to three times more likely to have emotional or behavioral problems.
  • Daughters of single parents are 53% more likely to marry in their teens, 111% more likely to have children as teenagers, 164% more likely to have premarital births and 92% more likely to end their marriages.
  • Studies show that when they reach their 30s they earn an average of $11,500 less than those from two-parent families - regardless of race or parent income.
  • Children born out of wedlock are seven times more likely to be poor than those born to couples who stay married.
  • Illegitimacy is a springboard for other social ills.
  • Girls raised in single-parent homes on welfare are three times more likely to give birth out of wedlock when compared to girls from intact non-welfare homes.
  • A boy from a single parent home in the inner city is twice as likely to engage in crime when compared to a similar boy who is poor but living with a father and mother.
  • Seven in ten juveniles in long-term correctional facilities did not live with their fathers while they were growing up.

The cost of illegitimacy is economic as well as human. It is estimated that the economic cost approaches $750 billion. And the problem is growing.

  • The national out-of-wedlock birthrate climbed from 7.7% in 1965 to 31% in 1993.
  • White illegitimacy rates increased from 4% of all births in 1965 to 24% in 1993.
  • For black births, the numbers leaped from 25% to 69% over the same period.
  • More than 1.2 million children are born out of wedlock each year.

Sources: Matthew Robinson, "Can the U.S. Afford Illegitimacy?" Investor's Business Daily, October 16, 1995; Robert Rector (Heritage Foundation), "Welfare Reform and the Death of Marriage," Washington Times, February 23, 1996.


Browse more articles on Government Issues