Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 2005 . Nonmarital Birth Risk Factor 1. Nonmarital Births

08/30/2005

Figure BIRTH 1. Percentage of Births that are Nonmarital, by Age Group: 1940-2003

Figure BIRTH 1. Percentage of Births that are Nonmarital, by Age Group: 1940-2003

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, “Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States, 1940 - 1999,” National Vital Health Statistics Reports, Vol. 48 (16), 2000; “Births: Preliminary Data for 2003,” National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 53 (9), November 2004.

  • The percentage of children born outside of marriage to women of all ages has increased over the past six decades, from 4 percent in 1940 to 35 percent in 2003. 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. A little more than four-fifths (82 percent) of all births to teens and over half (53 percent) of all births to women ages 20-24 took place outside of marriage in 2003.
  • After reaching a peak of 33 percent in 1994, the percentage of births that are nonmarital has remained fairly steady. The growth in the percentage of nonmarital teen births also has slowed since 1994, although it is still rising (from 76 percent in 1994 to 82 percent in 2003). The steepest growth since 1994 is among the 20 to 24 year old age group, where the percentage of births that are nonmarital has increased from 45 to 53 percent.
  • Recently, the percentage of births that are nonmarital 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 nonmarital birth data by age and race).

Table BIRTH 1. Percentage of Births that are Nonmarital, by Age Group: Selected Years

Year Under 15 15-17 Years 18-19 Years All Teens 20-24 Years All Women
1940 64.5 NA NA 14.0 3.7 3.8
1945 70.0 NA NA 18.2 4.7 4.3
1950 63.7 22.6 9.4 13.9 3.8 4.0
1955 66.3 23.2 10.3 14.9 4.4 4.5
1960 67.9 24.0 10.7 15.4 4.8 5.3
1965 78.5 32.8 15.3 15.3 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 14.3
1980 88.7 61.5 39.8 48.3 19.4 18.4
1981 89.2 63.3 41.4 49.9 20.4 18.9
1982 89.2 65.0 43.0 51.4 21.4 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 32.9
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
2003 preliminary 97.1 89.7 77.3 81.6 53.2 34.6

Note: Trends in nonmarital births may be affected by changes in the reporting of marital status on birth certificates and in procedures for inferring nonmarital 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: Preliminary Data for 2003,” National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 53 (9), November 2004 and unpublished NCHS data. Additional computations by ASPE staff of percentages for all teens (this age category not reported by NCHS).

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