More than 60 percent of new mothers in their early 20s aren’t married, the U.S. government said today in a report that underscores concern about the well-being of the nation’s young children.
The total number of births to unwed mothers increased to 36 percent in 2011 from 31 percent in 2005, the earliest year for which data are available, the U.S. Census Bureau said in the report. The bureau said 4.1 million women reported that they had given birth in the year covered by the survey.
The high rate of children born to young, unwed mothers is significant because the parents are more likely to have less education and have lower incomes than married families. Their children are likely to be poor and have developmental delays.
“The poorer developmental and behavioral outcomes experienced by children living in cohabitating households may be due in part to family instability,” the study’s authors wrote. Forty percent of children will probably live in a broken family before reaching the age of 15, they said.
The percentage of young unmarried new mothers contrasts with the 17 percent of new mothers in their late 30s who aren’t married. About 32 percent of new moms between the ages of 25 and 29 were single, the Census Bureau said.
The report showed wide variations in the number of births to unwed mothers by income, race, state of residence and place of birth. The share of unmarried mothers ranged from 69 percent in households where income was less than $10,000 to 9 percent for those earning more than $200,000.
Almost 68 percent of new black mothers were unmarried. Only 11 percent of new Asian mothers were unwed, as were 26 percent of non-Hispanic white mothers.
The percentage of native-born mothers who weren’t married was 39 percent. About 24 percent of foreign-born new mothers said they weren’t married.
More than half of new mothers in the District of Columbia weren’t married. About 49 percent of new Louisiana mothers and 48 percent of new moms in Mississippi and New Mexico weren’t married.
A handful of metropolitan areas had a significantly higher- than-average number of unmarried recent mothers, including Flagstaff, Arizona, 75 percent; Greenville, North Carolina, 69 percent; and Lima, Ohio, 68 percent. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Danville, Virginia, both ranked high, with 67 percent of unmarried recent mothers.
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