The Changing Demography of Nonmarital Fertility in the United States

Sarah R. Hayford, Arizona State University
Karen B. Guzzo, Bowling Green State University

Accounts in the popular press suggest that the changing composition of unmarried mothers is due to an increase in well-educated women in their thirties and forties choosing single motherhood. The research literature has had less to say about this phenomenon: the primarily bivariate statistics in most reports cannot provide evidence for a joint increase in maternal age, maternal education, and wantedness of nonmarital births. We use four waves of the National Survey of Family Growth (1988, 1995, 2002, and 2006-08) to assess the changing demography of nonmarital fertility in the U.S. In particular, this paper answers three questions: Is the proportion of unmarried mothers who are age 30 and over increasing? Are unmarried mothers age 30 and over becoming more advantaged? And are births to unmarried mothers age 30 and over increasingly likely to be wanted births? Results show that most of these increases are attributable to compositional changes.

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Presented in Session 148: Family Change and Continuity