Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 2004. Non-marital Birth Risk Factor 1. Births to Unmarried Women

04/27/2005

Figure BIRTH 1. Percentage of Births to Unmarried Women, by Age Group: 1940-2002

Figure BIRTH 1. Percentage of Births to Unmarried Women, by Age Group: 1940-2002

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, “Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States, 1940 - 1999,” National Vital Health Statistics Reports, Vol. 48 (16), 2000; “Births: Final Data for 2002,” National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 52 (10), December 2003.


  • The percentage of children born outside of marriage to women of all ages has increased over the past six decades, from 3.8 percent in 1940 to 34.0 percent in 2002. This increase reflects changes in several factors: the rate at which unmarried women have children, the rate at which married women have children, and the rate at which women marry.
  • The percentage of children born outside of marriage is especially high among teen women and women ages 20-24. Four-fifths (80 percent) of all births to teens and a little over half (52 percent) to women ages 20-24 took place outside of marriage in 2002.
  • Since 1994, the upward growth in percentage of unmarried births to all women has begun to level off. The growth in percentage of unmarried births to teen mothers also has slowed since 1994, although it is still rising (from 76 percent in 1994 to 80 percent in 2002). The steepest growth since 1994 is among the 20 to 24 year old age group, where the percentage of births to unmarried women has increased from 45 to 52 percent.
  • Recently, the percentage of out-of-wedlock births has leveled off among black teens and all black women. Among white teens and all white women, the trend continues upward (see Table C-1 in Appendix C for non-marital birth data by age and race).

Table BIRTH 1. Percentage of Births to Unmarried Women, by Age Group: Selected Years

Year Under 15 15-17 Years 18-19 Years All Teens 20-24 Years All Women
1940 64.5 N/A N/A 14.0 3.4 3.8
1945 70.0 N/A N/A 18.2 4.7 4.3
1950 63.7 22.6 9.4 13.9 3.7 4.0
1955 66.3 23.2 10.3 14.9 4.3 4.5
1960 67.8 24.0 10.7 15.4 4.8 5.3
1965 78.5 32.8 15.3 21.6 6.8 7.7
1970 80.8 43.0 22.4 30.5 8.9 10.7
1975 87.0 51.4 29.8 39.3 12.3 14.2
1980 88.7 61.5 39.8 48.3 19.3 18.4
1981 89.2 63.3 41.4 49.9 20.4 18.9
1982 89.2 65.0 43.0 51.4 21.3 19.4
1983 90.4 67.5 45.7 54.1 22.9 20.3
1984 91.1 69.2 48.1 56.3 24.5 21.0
1985 91.8 70.9 50.7 58.7 26.3 22.0
1986 92.5 73.3 53.6 61.5 28.7 23.4
1987 92.9 76.2 55.8 64.0 30.8 24.5
1988 93.6 77.1 58.5 65.9 32.9 25.7
1989 92.4 77.7 60.4 67.2 35.1 27.1
1990 91.6 77.7 61.3 67.6 36.9 28.0
1991 91.3 78.7 63.2 69.3 39.4 29.5
1992 91.3 79.2 64.6 70.5 40.7 30.1
1993 91.3 79.9 66.1 71.8 42.2 31.0
1994 94.5 84.1 70.0 75.9 44.9 32.6
1995 93.5 83.7 69.8 75.6 44.7 32.2
1996 93.8 84.4 70.8 76.3 45.6 32.4
1997 95.7 86.7 72.5 78.2 46.6 32.4
1998 96.6 87.5 73.6 78.9 47.7 32.8
1999 96.5 87.7 74.0 79.0 48.5 33.0
2000 96.5 87.7 74.3 79.1 49.5 33.2
2001 96.3 87.8 74.6 79.2 50.4 33.5
2002 97.0 88.5 75.8 80.2 51.6 34.0

Note: Trends in non-marital births may be affected by changes in the reporting of marital status on birth certificates and in procedures for inferring non-marital births when marital status is not reported.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, “Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States, 1940 - 1999,” National Vital Health Statistics Reports, Vol. 48 (16), 2000; “Births: Final Data for 2002,” National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 52 (10), December 2003.

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