Unwed Mothers On The Rise

It's worth reading the latest report from the National Center for Health Statistics on the rise in the number of births of unmarried women. Still, for our purposes let's skip to what everyone cares about:

Birth rates for unmarried women have varied fairly consistently by race and Hispanic origin. The rates for Hispanic women (106 births per 1,000 unmarried women in 2006) and black women (72 per 1,000) were highest. Birth rates for unmarried non-Hispanic white (32 per 1,000) and Asian or Pacific Islander (API) women (26 per 1,000) were much lower.

From 1995 to 2002, the nonmarital birth rate for black women declined 12%. Rates for non-Hispanic white and Hispanic women were essentially unchanged during these years.

In the recent period 2002-2006, birth rates for unmarried non-Hispanic white women rose by 14% and for black women by 9%, while the rates climbed 20% for Hispanic women and 24% for API women.

I'm never sure what to make of any of this. Obviously, you'd like for the rates in black and brown communities to not be double and triple what they are in white communities, respectively. Weighted for income, and better still wealth, I suspect the gap would close some--though not totally. Anyway, here's a bit of good news:

At one time, references to births to unmarried women and births to teenagers were considered one and the same only because births to unmarried women were disproportionately, although certainly not exclusively, among teenagers. In 1970, 50% of nonmarital births were to unmarried women under age 20.

In the years since the mid-1970s, this proportion has fallen steadily. In 2007, 23% of nonmarital births were to teenagers. The decline largely reflects the drop in birth rates for unmarried teenagers concurrent with the large increases in birth rates for adult unmarried women.

Sixty percent of nonmarital births in 2007 were to women in their twenties, significantly higher than the 42% level in 1970.

About one in six births to unmarried women in 2007 were to women aged 30 years and over, much higher than the proportion in 1970, 1 in 12.

And yet even looking at that, I'm not sure what to say. On the one hand, I'm glad teen pregnancy is declining. But on the other, when considering the rise in unmarried mothers, I wonder if the way we live is just changing. Forever.

Not a lot of answers here, folks. Sorry. I'm sure there will be nuff hand-wringing and finger-pointing to come.