Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Record Number of Unmarried US Women Give Birth

I'm not sure what to make of this, but I think it is worth discussing. I am not an expert, have no background, and no formed opinion at this time, but it strikes me that this is an important issue for Liberals and Democrats to be addressing. This is being widely reported in papers, most but not all from one AP article, since the announcement yesterday that nearly 1.5 million babies were born to unwed mothers in the United States last year.

USA Today: Births to unmarried women hit record

Boston Globe: More unmarried women, but fewer teens, giving birth

Washington Post: Unwed Births Hit Record But Decline Among Teens

Seattle Post Intelligencer: Births to unmarried US women set record

Henry Herald: South leads nation in number of unwed mothers

Mobile Register: Alabama high in unwed mothers

From the USA Today article:
"This is not a teenage issue," says Stephanie Ventura,. a demographer with the National Center for Health Statistics. "Women in their 20s are accounting for a huge percentage of these births."

The data show that 35.7% of all births were to unmarried women. Births last year to both married and unwed mothers totalled more than 4 million.

By age group, almost 55% of the births for mothers ages 20-24 were to unmarried women. For those between 25-29, almost 28% of the births were to single women.

Teenagers, who accounted for 50% of unwed births in 1970, accounted for 24% of unwed births in 2004.

Sarah Brown, director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, says she's thrilled about the decline in teenage mothers, but she worries about the trend for those ages 20 and above.

"It's not going in the right direction," she says. "The right direction would be non-marital childbearing in all groups to be going down."

Instead, the numbers of unwed births has increased slightly each year since 1990. But Ventura says "a steep increase in a short period" — the last two years — "caught our attention."

There was a general trend of decline in the rate of abortions and teen pregnancies during the 90's while Clinton was President after a steady increase during the 80s and early 90s under President's Reagan and Bush I (see "US Teen Pregnancy Statistics (PDF)). It is my understanding that this trend has ceased for abortions over the last two to three years and that the teen pregnancy rates while still declining nationally have grown in Southern states.

An interesting ranking from the year 2000 of state-by-state teen pregnancy rates is the following top 10 states:

1. Nevada
2. Arizona
3. Mississippi
4. New Mexico
5. Texas
6. Florida
7. California
8. Georgia
9. North Carolina

Missouri is ranked 29th and that "liberal bastion" state of Massachusetts is ranked 40th.

As I stated in the beginning, I have no background on this issue, but it is apparent to me that this is an issue, which needs to be addressed.

[UPDATE] 2005-10-29 21:58

A problem with these articles is they tend to disparage children of cohabitting adults. Also from the USA Today article:
Solot says unmarried mothers present very different scenarios for their children, depending upon whether they are the single, professional parent-by-choice, a cohabiting couple, or a poor woman living alone.
"It's really unfair to children," says David Poponoe, a sociology professor at Rutgers University who has studied the effects of marriage and cohabitation on children. He co-directs the National Marriage Project at Rutgers.

"One thing you don't know from these data is whether the births are to lone women or to a cohabiting women," he says.

Studies have shown cohabitating relationships are less stable and about half break up within five years. But cohabiting couples are more likely to provide a healthier environment for children than a single woman alone, the experts say.

So the article only quotes "experts" with an agenda, see What's Wrong With The Work Of The National Marriage Project?

I think there is an underlying problem for the children when according to the U.S. Census Bureau half of new unwed mothers in poverty:
Half of unmarried women who gave birth in the United States in the past year lived below the poverty level, compared with 12 percent of married mothers, U.S. Census Bureau data show.

I believe there is are some long term problems that need resolution here particularly in regards to the increase of poverty and reduced access to information from sources like Planned Parenthood.

As I stated at the stated at the beginning, I'm no expert and have no background in this issue, but it would appear to present some long-term negative consequences if left unaddressed.


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