More Unmarried Couples Having Babies: CDC

THURSDAY April 12, 2012 -- More unmarried women who live with their partners are having babies than ever before, a new government report shows.

Twenty-seven percent of births between 2003 and 2010 were to such couples -- a threefold increase from 1985, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

"It's thought that in births outside of marriage, one parent isn't present. But our data is showing that a large proportion do have two parents, even though [they're] not formally married," said report author Gladys Martinez, a demographer in the CDC's Division of Vital Statistics.

In addition, not only are many older women giving birth, but many also are having more then one child, she said.

"We know that women have been delaying childbirth," Martinez said. "But there is also an increase in the number of older women who have more than one kid, and we would expect that to be even higher if we interviewed even older women."

Martinez noted that women who delay having children tend to be better educated. Nearly 60 percent of women who did not complete high school had their first child as a teenager, compared with only 4 percent of women with a college degree.

The data in the report was gathered from more than 22,000 interviews done between 2006 and 2010 with men and women aged 15 to 44. The data was compared with similar data from 2002, according to the CDC.

"It's surprising that so many unmarried couples are having children," said Dr. Christine Mullin, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist at the Center for Human Reproduction at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y.

Mullin also noted that, for older women, having one child is hard enough. Women who delay giving birth usually do so for education and career reasons, she added.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • Forty-three percent of women aged 15 to 44 had never had a baby.
  • Among men aged 15 to 44, 45 percent had fathered a child.
  • The average age at which women had their first child was 23; for men it was 25.
  • Almost 40 percent of women whose first birth occurred between the ages of 35 and 44 had at least two children; it was 26 percent in 1995.
  • Women between the ages of 40 and 44 had an average of 2.1 children.

More information

For more information on U.S. births, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Posted: April 2012


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