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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