More Than Half of Births to Women Under 30 Occur Outside Marriage

February 20, 2012  |  

Much in the way that married couples are expected to become the minority in America within the coming years, single parenthood has already become the official norm among women under 30, with more than half of these births occurring outside of marriage. The face of the single mother has also changed in some ways too. While stereotypes would have you think only minorities have babies out of wedlock, a New York Times report found that the fastest growth in the last two decades has occurred among white women in their 20s who have some college education but no four-year degree.

While overall, most women are married when they have babies—59 percent, according to 2009 data—the trend among women under 30 foreshadows a transformation that may come with future generations, and one that may not be beneficial. As The NYT points out, “researchers have consistently found that children born outside marriage face elevated risks of falling into poverty, failing in school, or suffering emotional and behavioral problems.”

An educational divide may explain this growing issue, as college graduates as a whole don’t fit the trend. About 92 percent of college-educated women are married when they give birth, compared with 62 percent of women with post-secondary schooling, and 43 percent of women with a high school diploma or less, according to Child Trends, a Washington research group that analyzed government data.  Despite the growth among young white women, minority women still constitute a large portion of these births with 73 percent of black children being born outside marriage, compared with 53 percent of Latinos and 29 percent of whites.

Depending on your perspective, this data is either cause for alarm or a testament to changing attitude’s toward marriage and women’s independence. Frank Furstenberg, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, said “Marriage has become a luxury good,” and Teresa Fragoso, 25, a single mother in Lorain, OH, backed up that thinking by saying “Women used to rely on men, but we don’t need to anymore. We support ourselves. We support our kids.”

As the stigma around singlehood and single parenthood continues to lift, it can only be expected that this trend will continue—and the consequences will only be revealed as time goes on.

What do you think about this trend? Is it fine for women to embrace single motherhood or is this more evidence of the breakdown of American families?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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  • As the stigma around singlehood and single parenthood continues to lift, it can only be expected that this trend will continue

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  • Peramia

    I noticed these numbers don’t differentiate between teen pregnancies, choice moms, or simply unmarried couples. I’m actively trying to become a single mom right now. I’m not doing it because I don’t want a spouse, but because I couldn’t find one and I refused to settle and make both myself, my spouse, and (most importantly) my kid miserable. 

    Let’s face it, most men these days don’t want the whole married with kids picture.

    • sweettea

      Thats not true there are a lot of men ready and willing to be husbands and fathers if they met the right woman. However theres nothing wrong with you wanting to be a single mom. Just raise your kids right. No special snowfake syndrome and don’t suddenly feel all guilty afterwards and buy them things they don’t deserve just because you have the money.

    • sweettea

      Thats not true there are a lot of men ready and willing to be husbands and fathers if they met the right woman. However theres nothing wrong with you wanting to be a single mom. Just raise your kids right. No special snowfake syndrome and don’t suddenly feel all guilty afterwards and buy them things they don’t deserve just because you have the money.

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  • Ms_Sunshine9898

    I’ll never understand the desire of women to justify having kids out of wedlock. . .

    • perplexed

      me too Ms Sunshine, me too!

    • CiCi

      It isnt ideal for everyone,but it works for myyself and my family. But besides tht ignorant comment, sigle parent means to parent without the support of the other parental unit for the child. I am a single lady, not a single mother…#fact

      • Ms_Sunshine9898

        ignorant? lady if it works for you fine. even still again, if you are not married and you are a mother, you are a SINGLE MOTHER. SMH at women making up titles for BS instead of calling it what it is #madness. . . btw you want ignorance? here you go: please, by all means please continue to justify that a man didn’t think you were good enough to put a ring on it and gave you a baby that you mostly likely do everything for yourself and best case scenario, he sticks around and actually helps from time to time. is that ignorant enough for you?

        • Lady4life

          Some woman are looking at this from one side. What about divorced woman who had a ring put on it but the man moved on and neglect their responsibility even if it was court ordered. Those woman are single mothers or single parents. I became a single parent after my ex and I divorced. He stayed away from our child for years. I have friends who divorced before the birth of a child. Some woman lose their husbands in the war while pregnant. My point is you can do they right things but life is very unpredictable. We as woman need to stop bashing each other or placing everyone in the same box and learn to uplift one another.  

          • Ms_Sunshine9898

            That is very what you say and in cases like yours I think it’s understandable compared to allowing some men to keep doing the things they do to assist with destroying our community . . .

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  • @letsbehonest As I mentioned before, life happens. Messed-up people get together all the time and make children. It’s not ideal, but it happens. One person may change throughout the course of a relationship, and the other person realizes it after the child is born. I’m just saying that one can’t automatically say that the child(ren) are going to have problems.

  • SheBeTN

    I see both sides of the issue as well. Im married and my husband and I are the product of single parent households. But what about the good men and how they feel? I feel like all too often this single parent household issue being seen as okay will hurt more in the long run. Our women are continuously raising boys to become bigger boys. The flip side is that little girls are being raised where message of independence leaves out how it can play a vital role in a partnership. Im not denouncing raising our girls to be independent AT ALL! However, within that message its forgotten to show how that element makes you a leader in the family unit as well.

  • I’ve said that least 4840595 times. SCK was here

  • letsbehonest

    But AJ if 2 people aren’t meant to be together why have a kid together?

  • Feminazi

    I don’t think it has to do with attitudes toward marriage or independence. I think a lot more women are just getting caught slipping.

  • I can see both sides of this issue. On the one hand, people want their children to grow up in a stable environment, and two-parent homes are an example of that. However, a single-parent home is not an automatic indicator of behavioral/emotional/relationship problems, either. I don’t think that most girls start out by saying “I want to grow up to be a single parent” (although a number of women now are choosing to be in that position), but one never knows how life turns out. At the end of the day, people have to think about what’s best for the child. Sometimes, two people are not meant to be together.

  • letsbehonest

    Yes Stephanie white serial killers predominantly come from brocken homes most of which are single parent homes.
    And yes single parents sometimes raise financially successful kidS , but lets not forget these children tend to be horrible at relationships. Just sayin

  • TF

    So what they are saying is women get into relationships or not, have unprotected sex & say to themselves “if I get pregnant I dont need him”. Wth if that aint ignorant irresponsible & careless idk what it is. It sounds like women just use the men for a baby…no damn it most women would prefer marriage or a stable relationship over being a single parent. Thats crazy.

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  • Stephanie

    This is pure nonsense. My parents are married and they should have NEVER been. Miserable is not the world! I would be much more sane if they weren’t married. All this hype about single parents and kids born out of wedlock doesn’t mean a thing. You can be a single parent and raise a very successful child.

    All this comparison of whites to blacks. You think all these white serial killers weren’t raised in a perfect 2 parent home? Really.

  • Bren82

    It’s not a choice I would encourage. Only as a last resort.

  • Natasha

    Why is this news? This would be news if it was 1950!

  • L-Boogie

    I refuse to have a child out of wedlock. The pain and trauma is not worth it!

  • Rah Truth

    Stop settling and CLOSE your legs. Problem solved.

  • CICI

    I dont agree with this article at all! I am 25 and I am single, but not a single parent because my daughters’ father is very involved, we are able to raise a stable-well mannered child. Our relationship ended early when my daughter was just a year old and we didn’t do the back and fourth make it work thing, because I thought it would be unhealthy way to raise my daughter. We get along pretty well for the most part, and we both have new partners. We celebrate together and make decisions together, and there isnt much drama in our situation. I have married friends who have divorced or seperated and due to ill feelings, the kids are stuck in the middle of a bad bitter breakup, and they act out. I think it has more to do with HOW you raise your child as opposed to being married or single.

    • Ms_Sunshine9898

      I mean if you weren’t married to your significant other, and you had a child then you are a single parent. Single as in not married. Not as in  in a relationship, but not married. . .

      • B.

        its stupid women like you who make all women look bad.

        • Ms_Sunshine9898

          it’s stupid when women like you continue justify not making a man be a man, raising kids without fathers, then talk about how no good men are and yet continue to bring kids into one parent homes. silly broad trixs aren’t just for kids. . .

  • Helado31

    Listen, this whole debate is funny to me. You can’t tell people what to do based on principles that you don’t even have an idea of where they came from. My parents are married with 3 kids and I wish that they NEVER got married. It’s HORRIBLE! I would’ve been more sane with my parents not living in the same household as if someone forced them to be married.

  • Cutily

    Are they talking about single mothers or not married couple?

    Was the study unbiased meaning have they studied the situations of kids brought up by 2 parents who decided to never get married?

    I give absolutely no credit to the type of studies as where I live marriage is not necessarily the norm and a lot of people just live together for years and raise perfectly sane kids.