Unwed Mothers Statistics
Once predominantly limited to underprivileged women and minorities, single motherhood has become the new “norm”. This prevalence has been a result of, in part, to an increasing trend of children born outside of marriage – a societal trend that has been declining since 2008. The birthrate for unwed mothers steadily increased from 1980-2008, Since then, unwed births have declined by 14%.
Births to unwed mothers over the last few decades have negatively impacted family structure and the economic security of children.4, 5 Children of unwed women are at higher risk of unfavorable birth outcomes than are children of married women–low birth-weight, infant mortality, etc. Children of unwed mothers are also more likely to live in poverty than are children of married mothers.5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Children born to single mothers are at greater risk for disadvantageous outcomes due to the lack of social, emotional, and financial resources available to the families.5 The proportion of births to unmarried women is useful for understanding the extent to which children born in a given year may be affected by any disadvantage—social, financial, or health—associated with being born outside of marriage. The change in the percentage of births to unmarried women reflects both changes in the birth rate for unmarried women relative to the birth rate for married women and changes in the percentage of women of childbearing age who are unmarried.10, 11 (source: http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/family2.asp)
Despite the negative impacts on society, a recent Gallup poll showed that 61% of Americans agree that having a baby outside of marriage is morally acceptable. This represents a 16% increase since 2002 and 7% since 2012, just three years ago. Some of the key findings are shown below:
- Six in 10 (61%) say having a baby outside of marriage is OK
- Up from 54% in 2012 and 45% in 2002
- Most subgroups more accepting than in past
The Gallup report states:
The increase in perceived morality of out-of-wedlock births reflects the changing social mores of the U.S., and also perhaps an acknowledgment of the reality that more children are being born to unmarried couples. But the greater number of out-of-wedlock births is not necessarily a positive development for the United States, because babies born to unmarried parents are much more likely to grow up in poverty than those born to married parents. This is largely because out-of-wedlock births are much more common among lower-income Americans than upper-income Americans, and it may speak as much to the greater likelihood that a married household has two incomes as to the benefits of marriage per se. However, a growing body of research indicates that — whatever the underlying causes — children in two-parent households tend to have better academic and emotional outcomes later in life than those born in single-parent households.
It is unclear to what extent Americans are aware of the effects of children being born into single-parent households, and whether greater awareness of those effects might influence how people perceive the morality of unmarried parents having children.
The statistics below are not the last word on the unwed mother issue but merely a starting point for reference. All sources for this report are listed at the bottom of this page. For inquiries, email tstevens [@] edsmart [dot] org.
Since the Beginning of the year there have been
Births Out of Wedlock
1 every 20 seconds
of all births in the U.S.
4 in 10
born to unwed mothers
Cost since the beginning of this year
Out of Wedlock Birth Rates
51% of women
Lowest rate in U.S.
Louisiana – 49%
Mississippi – 48%
New Mexico – 48%
Flagstaff, AZ – 74.6%
Greenville, N.C. – 69.4%
Myrtle Beach, S.C. – 67.4%
Danville, VA. – 67.3%
Brunswick, GA. – 66.2%
Unwed Mother Demographics
Income below Federal poverty level
Income below 1/2 the Federal poverty level
Median Income for Unwed Mothers
MEDIAN INCOME FOR MARRIED COUPLES
More Stats to Come in the Future