Births Study Finds 20% Occur Outside Marriage

Associated Press

Births to unmarried women account for one of every five babies born in the United States, government statisticians reported Friday.

In 1983, 737,893 babies were born to unmarried women, the National Center for Health Statistics said. That was more than 20% of the 3,638,933 live births in the nation in that year.

Births to single women were up 3% from 1982 figures, continuing an increase that has been under way for several years, according to the center’s report.

This occurred during a period when single people constituted a growing segment of the nation’s population. Census Bureau studies have found that large numbers of people among the post-World War II baby boom generation have postponed marriage to pursue educations and careers.

The new study found that greatest increases in the rate of births outside of marriage occurred in two groups--teen-agers and women ages 35 to 39.


The combination of a higher unwed birthrate and a greater number of women in the 35-to-39 age group resulted in an 11% rise in births to single women in this age group, the report noted.

Unmarried women accounted for 30.4 live births for each 1,000 women in 1983, up from 30.0 in 1982, the report said. This rate “was the highest ever observed since this measure was first computed for the United States in 1940,” the report said.

Unmarried women ages 20 to 24 had the highest rate of births, at 42 per 1,000 women, followed by those ages 18 and 19, with a rate of 41. But, the center added, birthrates among all unmarried women increased in 1983, except among single women ages 40 to 44, who had a 7% decline in births.

Although the rate of births to unwed mothers continued to be much higher among black women than whites, the difference was somewhat smaller than in the past, the study found.

“This results from the steady increase in the rate for unmarried white women simultaneous with a general decline in the rate for unmarried black women,” the report said.

Between 1982 and 1983, the rate of births to unmarried white women increased from 18.8 per 1,000 women to 19.3 per 1,000 women. Among blacks, it fell from 79.6 to 77.7 per thousand women.