Pointing to the recent recession as probable cause, researchers claim the non-marital birth rate in the U.S. has been declining since the end of 2008.
The report, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, showed the rate peaked in 2008 at about 52 babies per 1,000 unmarried women of childbearing age before beginning to decline, going down to 45 births per 1,000 in 2012.
Researchers point to a decline in overall fertility that has occurred since 2007 claiming that dip has been tied to the economic recession of 2007-2009, thus the connection to the non-marital birth rate over the same period.
The report also claims the sharp fertility declines that occurred during the recession have already begun to level off as further proof the recession played a role in the numbers.
The report also shows that there were sharp increases in non-marital childbearing from 2002 to 2007, following the steady increases that began in the 1980s.
"The nature of non-marital childbearing may be changing as cohabiting unions have increased over the last few decades in the United States along with pregnancies within those unions," the report states. "Births to unmarried women are at greater risk for adverse outcomes, including low birth weight, preterm birth, and infant mortality. Social and financial supports for unmarried mothers may also be limited."
Looking at the specific numbers of non-marital births, the report shows that there were 1,605,643 births to unmarried women in 2013, a seven percent drop since the all-time peak in 2008 of 1,726,566 births. Again, these numbers mirror the overall decline in U.S. births over the same period.
The report does show that the non-marital birth rate for older women is actually increasing as for women ages 35 to 39, there has been a seven percent increase since 2007. The rate of non-marital births in 2012 was 31 births per 1,000, compared to 2007's 29 births per 1,000. The non-marital birth rate for women ages 40 to 44 increased to nine births per 1,000 in 2012, a 29 percent jump compared to 2007's seven per 1,000 births. A baby boom of sorts that runs counter to the numbers for younger non-married women.
"When people think of non-marital births, they tend to think of single women, but it's really much more likely to be a two-parent cohabitating family. If a woman gets pregnant some couples may be more likely to move in together," said Jennifer Manlove, co-director for Reproductive Health and Family Formation at the nonprofit research group Child Trends, regarding the report's findings.