Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. PF 2.2 Percentage of all births to unmarried mothers

04/01/1997

Children who are born to single mothers regardless of the age of the mother are considerably more likely than children born to two parents to grow up poor, to spend large portions of their childhood without two parents, and to become single parents themselves.4

Between 1960 and 1994, there was a considerable increase in the percentage of all births to unmarried mothers from 5.3 percent in 1960 to 32.6 percent in 1994 (see Figure PF 2.2). However, preliminary data for 1995, displayed in Table PF 2.2, indicate a small decline in the percentage of all births to unmarried mothers, to 32.0 percent.

Differences by Age of the Mother. Nonmarital childbearing increased among mothers of all ages between 1960 and 1994 (see Table PF 2.2). For mothers ages 15 to 19, nonmarital births increased from 14.8 percent in 1960 to 75.5 in 1994. For mothers ages 20 to 24, nonmarital births increased from 4.8 percent in 1960 to 44.9 percent in 1994. For mothers in all age groups over age 24, nonmarital births increased from three percent or less in 1960 to between 15 and 22 percent in 1994. Age data are not yet available for 1995, so it is unclear whether the overall decline in the percentage of nonmarital births noted for that year occurred for mothers of all ages or only among certain age groups.

Contrary to popular opinion, nonmarital childbearing does not occur primarily among teenagers. In 1994, about 31 percent of nonmarital births were to teenagers (young women under age 20), 35 percent were to women ages 20 to 24, and about 35 percent were to women ages 25 and older.5

Differences by Race and Ethnicity. The percentage of all births to unmarried mothers increased steadily for whites, blacks, and Hispanics between 1980 and 1994.6 Preliminary data indicate a slight decline for all three groups in 1995. In 1994, Asian and white women had the lowest percentage of nonmarital births at 24.1 and 25.5 percent, respectively. Hispanics were next at 43.1 percent, followed by American Indian and black women at 57.0 percent and 70.5 percent. This ordering is the same for all age groups, though the size of the difference can vary substantially by the age of the mother. For young women ages 15 to 19, for example, whites and Hispanics have very similar percentages of births to unmarried mothers 67.6 and 69.7 percent, respectively while the percentage among young black women ages 15 to 19 is much higher at 95.3 percent. By ages 25-29, however, percentages for Hispanic women move midway between white and black rates, with whites at 16.5 percent, Hispanics at 33.2 percent, and blacks at 57.3 percent (see Table PF 2.2).

 

Figure PF 2.2  
Percentage of All Births to Unmarried Mothers by Age of Mother: 19601995 

FIGPF2_2.GIF

Source: 1960 - 1992 data: Ventura, S.J., 1995. Births to Unmarried Mothers: United States, 1980-92. Vital and Health Statistics Series 21, No. 53, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, June 1995. 1992 Hispanic data from unpublished tables; Stephanie Ventura: National Center for Health Statistics. 1993 data: Ventura, S.J., Martin, J.A., Taffel, S.M., et. al. Advance Report of Final Natality Statistics, 1993. Monthly Vital Statistics Report; Vol. 44, No. 3, Supp. 1, Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics, 1995. 1994 data: Ventura, S.J., Martin, J.A., Matthew, T.J., Clarke, S.C. Advance Report of Final Natality Statistics, 1994. Monthly Vital Statistics Report; Vol. 44, No. 11, Supp., Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics, 1996. 1995 data: Rosenberg, H.M., Ventura, S.J., Maurer, J.D., et. al. Births and Deaths: United States, 1995. Monthly Vital Statistics Report; Vol. 45, No. 3, Supp. 2, Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics, 1996.

 

Table PF 2.2 
Percentage of All Births to Unmarried Mothers, by Age of Mother and Race/Ethnicity:a 19601995

 
     
1960
1970
1980
1985
1990
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
                         
All Races
  All Ages
5.3
10.7
18.4
22
28
29.5
30.1
31
32.6
32
    Ages 15-19
14.8
29.5
47.6
58
67.1
68.8
70
71.3
75.5
 
    Ages 20-24
4.8
8.9
19.4
26.3
36.9
39.4
40.7
42.2
44.9
 
    Ages 25-29
2.9
4.1
9.0
12.7
18
19.2
19.8
20.7
21.8
 
    Ages 30-34
2.8
4.5
7.5
9.7
13.3
14.0
14.3
14.7
15.1
 
    Ages 35-39
3.0
5.2
9.4
11.2
13.9
14.6
15.2
15.6
16.1
 
                         
White
  All Ages 
2.3
5.7
11.2
14.7
20.4
21.8
22.6
23.6
25.5
25.3
    Ages 15-19
7.2
17.1
33.1
44.8
56.4
58.8
60.4
62.3
67.6
 
    Ages 20-24
2.2
5.2
11.7
17.7
27.8
30.2
31.7
33.4
36.3
 
    Ages 25-29
1.1
2.1
5.2
8.1
12.6
13.7
14.3
15.2
16.5
 
    Ages 30-34
1.0
2.1
4.6
6.3
9.3
9.8
10.2
10.6
11.1
 
    Ages 35-39
1.3
2.7
6.4
8.1
10.3
10.9
11.4
11.7
12.3
 
                         
Black
 
All Ages 
 
37.6
56.1
61.2
66.5
67.9
68.1
68.7
70.5
69.5
    Ages 15-19  
62.7
85.7
90.2
92
92.3
92.6
92.9
95.3
 
    Ages 20-24  
31.3
57
65.4
72.6
74.7
75.2
76.7
79.0
 
    Ages 25-29  
20.3
36.8
45.2
53.3
54.7
55
55.8
57.3
 
    Ages 30-34  
19.6
29.6
37
45.2
46.5
46.7
46.9
47.4
 
    Ages 35-39  
18.6
28.4
35.1
42.0
43.8
44.7
44.8
45.8
 
                         
Hispanic
  All Ages
 
 
23.6
29.5
36.7
38.5
39.1
40
43.1
40.8
    Ages 15-19
 
 
41.9
51.3
53.7
61.2
61.9
62.8
69.7
 
    Ages 20-24
 
 
23.8
30.9
35.1
41.5
42.3
43.4
47.0
 
    Ages 25-29
 
 
15.9
22.2
25.7
30.3
30.8
31.7
33.2
 
    Ages 30-34
 
 
15.2
19.6
23.0
26.6
27.2
27.5
28.6
 
    Ages 35-39
 
 
16.2
20.8
23.2
27.6
28.5
29.0
30.3
 
                         
Asian
  All Ages
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
16.2
 
    Ages 15-19
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
62.7
 
    Ages 20-24
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
30.0
 
    Ages 25-29
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
11.3
 
    Ages 30-34
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
8.0
 
    Ages 35-39
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
8.8
 
                         
American Indian
  All Ages
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
57.0
 
    Ages 15-19
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
82.9
 
    Ages 20-24
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
60.6
 
    Ages 25-29
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
45.5
 
    Ages 30-34
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
40.6
 
    Ages 35-39
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
38.5
 
                         

Notes: aBirths from 1980 onwards by race of mother. Tabulations prior to 1980 are by race of child, which assigns the child to the race of the nonwhite parent, if any, or to the race of the father, if both are nonwhite. 

Source: 1960 - 1992 data: Ventura, S.J., 1995. Births to Unmarried Mothers: United States, 1980-92. Vital and Health Statistics Series 21, No. 53, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, June 1995. 1992 Hispanic data from unpublished tables; Stephanie Ventura: National Center for Health Statistics. 1993 data: Ventura, S.J., Martin, J.A., Taffel, S.M., et. al. Advance Report of Final Natality Statistics, 1993. Monthly Vital Statistics Report; Vol. 44, No. 3, Supp. 1, Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics, 1995. 1994 data: Ventura, S.J., Martin, J.A., Matthew, T.J., Clarke, S.C. Advance Report of Final Natality Statistics, 1994. Monthly Vital Statistics Report; Vol. 44, No. 11, Supp., Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics, 1996. 1994 data for Asians and American Indians from unpublished tables; Stephanie Ventura: National Center for Health Statistics. 1995 data: Rosenberg, H.M., Ventura, S.J., Maurer, J.D., et. al. Births and Deaths: United States, 1995. Monthly Vital Statistics Report; Vol. 45, No. 3, Supp. 2, Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics, 1996. Hispanic data for 1980: Ventura, S.J., Births of Hispanic parentage, 1980. Monthly Vital Statistics Report, volume 32, no. 6, Supp., Hyattsville, MD: Public Health Service. 1983. Hispanic data for 1985: Ventura, S.J. Births of Hispanic parentage, 1985. Monthly Vital Statistics Report; vol. 36, no. 11 Supp., Hyattsville, MD: Public Health Service. Hispanic data for 1990 and 1991: National Center for Health Statistics, Vital Statistics of the United States Vol. I Natality (table 1-46). Issues for 1990-91.

 

4 See Ventura, S.J., 1995. Births to Unmarried Mothers: United States, 1980-1992. NCHS Series 21, No. 53. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and McLanahan, S., and Sandefur, G. 1994. Growing up with a single parent: What hurts, what helps. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

5 Ventura, S.J., Martin, J.A., Matthew, T.J., Clarke, S.C. Advance Report of Final Natality Statistics, 1994. Monthly Vital Statistics Report; Vol. 44, No. 11, Supp., Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics, 1996.

6 Data are available for whites from 1960, and for blacks from 1970, indicating that the percent of births which were nonmarital had also been increasing prior to 1980 for those races. Data for Hispanics are only available starting in 1980.
 

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