Family Issues

Why Are Unwed Women in U.S. Are Having Fewer Babies?

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Brandy Zadrozny of The Daily Beast reports an interesting trend that most people will find a positive one. The rate of children born to single women has declined:

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the most recent upward trend, begun in 2002, seems to have reversed, in the steepest decline ever recorded, dropping 14 percent from its 2007 peak, to 44.8 per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15-44). The number of births to unwed mothers also dropped 7 percent, to approximately 1.6 million, from 2012 to 2013. Mostly women under 30 years old drove the declines. Hispanic and black women saw the biggest drops.

Zadrozny notes that the overall birth rate has fallen so it kinda/sorta makes sense that the rate for unwed women would also drop (though not necessarily, as different forces could be at work). Why are women having fewer kids, especially in the U.S. and the "developed world"? Scroll down for the basic answer. (Spoiler alert: Because they can.)

The whole article is worth reading and packed with some interesting charts, including this one, which shows that more kids born to unwed mothers are coming home to houses with two parents:

As Zadrozny writes, "Almost three in five births to unwed women are to women who are cohabitating with a partner. In 2002 and the years 2006-10, the percentage of children born to cohabiting parents rose from 41 percent to 58 percent."

Cohabitating households are not as stable as married ones, but they also have far more resources than true single-parent households. And Zadrozny links to a study showing that cohabitating fathers are as involved in child-rearing as married ones. She also quotes a researcher who argues:

"Four in 10 births are outside of marriage….That's not going to reverse in a big way. It hasn't gone down even as the nonmarital birth rates have. I think this is the family formation of the future and so there needs to be approaches to improving well-being in these types of families."

I think that's probably right: Family structures have always been subject to changes that can't be reeled back to whatever preferred golden-age you want. It's an interesting question to ask what are the best ways to adapt to new forms of social organization.

I reviewed Jonathan Last's interesting What to Expect When No One's Expecting, which charts a global decline in birth rates, for BookForum. The short answer for why women are having fewer babies: modernity. Read all about it.

And I talked about the unacknowledged constant change in family structure for Reason back in 1997. A snippet:

Anyone who even occasionally tunes into television and radio talk shows, skims a newspaper editorial page or an opinion magazine, or browses the nonfiction aisles at a bookstore is familiar with some variation on the following theme: "The family, in its old sense…is disappearing from our land, and not only our free institutions are threatened but the very existence of our society is endangered." This formulation of the problems facing "the family" is interesting for at least three reasons. First, as is often the case in such discussions, it invokes the family as a wholly self-evident, unitary phenomenon with no possible variation. Second, it captures the lure of traditional social arrangements and articulates the centrality of the family to society at large. Third, the statement is well over a century old, having originally appeared in an 1859 issue of the Boston Quarterly Review. That it sounds so current is worth pausing over.

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  1. Need to fix the title.

    1. It’s 2 separate statements. Like before and after on WOF.

  2. Are you implying that Gomez and Morticia Addams weren’t married?

    1. Don’t tease me like that.

  3. I blame Dodd-Frank.

  4. Why Are Unwed Women in U.S. Are Having Fewer Babies?

    I was out of the country for awhile. Sorry.

  5. The Patriarchy?

  6. “Family structures have always been subject to changes that can’t be reeled back to whatever preferred golden-age you want.”

    Wow, that’s totally not a straw man or anything!

    1. Except “everybody knows” that the only way the family has always and forever been is the way I remember it being when I was in grade school.

      Right?

      1. Gosh, I hope not.

  7. so there needs to be approaches to improving well-being in these types of families.

    No. There doesn’t need to be any such approaches to improve well-being for anyone. They made their cradle, they can lie in it.

    1. The baby didn’t make itself.

      (otherwise, agree)

    2. As long as such approaches don’t involve government (haha I know) there’s nothing to object to IMO

      1. I’m thinking something along the advice I gave my nephew when he got his girlfriend preggers – “Yeah, you’re going to need to get a second job there, champ.”

  8. Zadrozny notes that the overall birth rate has fallen so it kinda/sorta makes sense that the rate for unwed women would also drop (though not necessarily, as different forces could be at work).

    The Daily Beast article even claims that the out-of-wedlock birthrate is falling faster than the overall birthrate. But that graph at the top there seems to show something different (unless I’m reading it wrong). Looks like the dark blue line (overall birthrate) had a steep drop beginning in 2008 while the green line (% out of wedlock) remained relatively flat over that period.

    1. All of those lines are regarding births among unmarried women.

    2. a steep drop beginning in 2008

      Correlation is not causation, but this matches the housing crash.

      So I still blame Dodd-Frank.

      1. Man Market? Employed men harder to find after 2008, even tougher market for the single mother…

    3. You’ve got it right. Green is percent unmarried, at least if the guy who made the graph got it right.

      Innumeracy strikes again.

      Can’t complain much, as the Editor in Chief of the site can’t write a proper title either.

      1. Actually, Calidissident is correct, albeit the table is a bit confusingly crafted. I did a little google fu and noted that the number of births in the U.S. is close to 4 million, so the raw numbers and birthrate depicted in the chart are appplying only to single mothers.

        But the point remains that the percentage of unwed mothers hasn’t decreased but rather mirrored the national trend as the overall birthrate and number of births has decreased broadly since 2007.

        Of course the Daily Beast writer’s agenda shows pretty clear in the lede: “Hear that, family values warriors? The upward trend in the birth rate for unmarried mothers has reversed?dropping 14 percent, according to a new CDC report.” She fails to note that the upward trend in birth rate for married women fell in near perfect synchrony. She states later in the article:

        “But the birth rates for married women haven’t fallen as quickly as those of their unwed counterparts, and have actually increased slightly.”

        But the graph presented shows that to be untrue in any meaningful numbers. The percentage is roughly flat, with only the slightest decline in a barely mentionable fraction of a percent.

        1. And to further that she is flat out lying in an effort to preen her progressive bona fides and advance an anti-SNOCONZ agenda, here’s the exact percentages of unwed births since 2008, courtesy of link:

          In 2008, the first year when 40 percent or more of the babies born in the United States were illegitimate, 40.6 percent of babies were born to unmarried women.

          In 2009, 41.0 percent of American babies were born to unmarried women. In 2010, it was 40.8 percent. In 2011, it was 40.7 percent. And, in 2012, it was 40.7 percent.

  9. “the statement is well over a century old, having originally appeared in an 1859 issue of the Boston Quarterly Review.”

    OK, where to start?

    It was an article in *Brownson’s Quarterly Review,* whose editor had, over a decade earlier, run a magazine called the Boston Quarterly Review. So it’s not a good sign when you have difficulty naming the magazine in which an article appeared.

    More particularly, the article in question is in the October 1859 issue, on pp. 473-492. You may find the article through Google Books – just use the keywords “Brownson’s Quarterly Review” and “Divorce and Divorce Laws,” and go to p. 473.

    After discussing the Scriptural considerations, the author goes on to say that even considered independently of religious considerations, divorce is a bad idea. There was a movement at the time for divorce based on “incompatibility of temper.” The author predicted that if this became part of the law, it would among other things “weaken [parental] sense of duty towards their offspring,” single parenthood would increase – and as for single mothers, “few women are capable, by themselves, of governing unruly boyhood,” that the children of divorce would themselves become divorced, that the advocates of extramarital cohabitation were becoming bolder, that abortion was becoming practiced even among married couples.

    Ha ha ha, that’s sure paranoid!

  10. Children raised by single moms are far more likely to be imprisoned and have incomes below the poverty line then children raised by two parents.

    This drop in single moms of course proves that single women hate poor people and are probably racist for not having babies.

    1. That or white men are hording their semen.

      1. We do not avoid women, but we do deny them our essence.

      2. Increased Child support enforcement may have something to do with that.

        1. Losing half your shit during divorce does not help either.

          1. I just feel bad for the poor schmucks that are having kids with unwed mothers and then cohabitating. They think they’re playing it smart, but the courts will fuck them over all the same.

            1. really?

              I would think the mom would only get child support not half your shit as well.

              1. Palimony

                It’s much harder to get palimony than alimony, and some states hold the ground better than others, but it is a real legal possibility. And frankly, with greater rates of such cohabitation and child-rearing outside of marriage, expect the Jizzabellians to agitate for this shit soon enough.

  11. there needs to be approaches to improving well-being in these types of families

    No, there doesn’t. Every time we’ve implemented “approaches to improving well-being” in any families things have gotten worse. Let the “new” families the heck alone.

  12. “…so there needs to be approaches to improving well-being in these types of families.”

    Sounds like community-based solutions are in order.

    1. What we need is a Final Solution.

  13. One thing that is odd about these kinds of discussions is the complete lack of reference to natural selection.

    This is about reproduction right? If changes in reproduction do not have selective forces at play then what the fuck would?

    If it was any other animal and you changed their reproductive habits there would be a discussion about selective forces and where they were headed and it would be expected that results of those selective forces to become evident fairly quickly.

    My theory on the selective forces front and where it is heading is that though technological achievement (abortion, the pill etc) people who do not want children are not having them while people who do want them are the only ones having them. With such a strong selective force removing genes of people who don’t want people from the gene pool we should expect the ratio of people who are not having babies to drop…and fairly soon.

    1. another thing to consider:

      Often conservatives decry government programs that reward single motherhood because it creates incentives to make a bunch of single mom babies.

      of course statistically speaking those babies really kind of suck ass.

      Bastards (this is the technical term for it) do not do well. they rape, they get raped, they end up in prison, they end up dead, they are poor, they are terrible at their education.

      More importantly because of all these things bastards do not flourish and therefore do not spread their genes as successfully (in hard survival terms) as children raised by two parents.

      That said in selective terms the fear that conservatives have is unfounded. Bastards are a genetic dead end.

      1. I don’t believe that is true. I think perhaps we are well on are way to Idiocracy.

      2. Bastards are a genetic dead end.

        Have we had a bastard POTUS yet? I hadn’t kept up on such things.

        1. Only the one…

          1. Oh wait it is two. I forgot about Clinton’s piece of shit dad.

            Hell maybe most of them are.

    2. That’s only true if “not wanting to have children” is primarily a result of genetics.

      Being severely disfigured in an accident probably greatly reduces your liklihood of reproducing as well. That doesn’t mean the decrease in car accidents are dropping due to selective pressure.

      1. That’s only true if “not wanting to have children” is primarily a result of genetics.

        No. It does not have to be primary. It could be a pretty small tendency and still have a strong selective effect.

        That doesn’t mean the decrease in car accidents are dropping due to selective pressure.

        We are not talking about accidents. We are talking about friggin reproduction. As in the very act of passing on ones genes. Also accidents do not seem to have any genetic link. I am pretty sure you will agree that a person’s sexual drive is not something culture or your shear force of will bestowed upon you. Wanting to fuck is obviously genetic.

        1. Wanting to fuck != wanting to have children. Wanting to have children appears to be more related to economics than genetics.

          1. Wanting to have children appears to be more related to economics than genetics.

            That is just it. This is a new phenomenon. Less then 100 years ago wanting to fuck and then going through with it did equal having children.

            Also I am pretty sure you would not just fuck anyone Stormy…you really think who you choose to fuck and not to fuck has no genetic roots? You really think that when your senses tell your brain that another person is attractive to you are not selecting a mate to reproduce with?

            Do you really think that humans which are mostly long term monogamous have not been selectively developed to choose mates of a certain character in order to have children with?

            Do you think selective forces were at play with wolves (who are also long term monogamous and raise offspring together) or Eagles (ditto monogamous offspring) yet for some magical reason are not at play with humans?

            1. lets take the wolf example.

              say at the beginning of time there were 4 wolves. two male and two female.

              The males and females paired up and did what all mammal males and females do and fucked…then had pups.

              One male ate all the pups. The other did not.

              Would you say selective forces favored genes that inhibited pup eating?

              Now replace pup eating with the pill and abortion and see what happens.

    3. You can bet our government will fuck up natural selection. They tried before.

      1. The welfare state has already fucked up natural selection. Theres a lot of broke ass never worked a day in their life losers that would not be getting laid if food and rent wasn’t free.

  14. Zadrozny notes that the overall birth rate has fallen so it kinda/sorta makes sense that the rate for unwed women would also drop (though not necessarily, as different forces could be at work).

    Kinda/sorta makes sense? Nick, if you find yourself writing this, stop and reword.

    If the rate for people eating thin crust goes down, it absolutely does not imply that the rate of people who eat thin pepperoni goes down. You are confusing rate and number here.

    Clearly, there is something else going on that has nothing to do with the overall birth rate.

    1. Of course the graph depicted shows that the overall rate of unwed pregnancy has remained virtually identical amidst the drop in overall birthrates too. And I provided handy reference in comments above charting the exact percentage of bastard births since 2008 showing that any change has been statistically insignificant.

      1. I think you (and possibly Marshall) are confusing the percentage of births that are to unmarried mothers and the rate of births among unmarried women. The former has remained essentially unchanged the last few years, the latter has fallen. Nick was referring to the rate of births among unmarried women. If the overall birth rate falls significantly, it makes sense (though it’s not necessarily the case) that the rate for unmarried women would fall as well, as those account for 40% of all births.

        1. No, we know what we’re talking about. We would expect the birthrate for every group that comprises a population to fall in roughly equivalent percentages as the population as a whole, ceteris parabis. That’s what happened here. Nick states that this “kinda/sorta” makes sense. It absolutely makes sense. When a group that comprises 40% of the larger population demonstrates a trend, the larger population will generally demonstrate that trend.

          What I take issue with it the implication that single motherhood is becoming less common. It’s frankly not. Nick never states it outright, but the piece he linked to does. “But the birth rates for married women haven’t fallen as quickly as those of their unwed counterparts, and have actually increased slightly.” The reality is that the percentage of births to unwed mothers has remained constant at around 40% since 2008. While the raw numbers are decreasing, the raw birthrate as a whole is decreasing.

  15. Just think how the unwed birth rate would really plummet if we “stopped denying birth control to women.”

  16. Maury! Maury!

    Who my baby daddy???

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