Fertility of Women in the United States: 2012

July 08, 2014
Report Number: P20-575
Lindsay M. Monte and Renee R. Ellis


This report describes the fertility patterns of women in the United States, patterns which have changed significantly over time. The average number of children ever born has dropped from more than three children per woman in 1976 to about two children per woman in 2012 (see Figure 1). Recent years have also seen drops in adolescent childbearing and increases in non-marital births.

These changes in fertility are important because recent research suggests that women’s childbearing is related to their rates of employment, their educational attainment, and their economic well-being. Furthermore, other research connects the circumstances into which a child is born to that child’s later outcomes, including their likelihood of living in a single-parent household and their academic achievement. This report utilizes fertility data collected in the June 2012 Supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS), as well as the 2012 American Community Survey (ACS), to discuss these and other trends.

This report has three sections: cumulative fertility, births in the last year, and relationship status at first birth. Fertility patterns are shown by women’s race, ethnicity, age, citizenship, and employment status, as well as their state of residence. This report also examines new topics, such as women’s marital status at the time of their first births, the completed fertility of women up to age 50, and the fertility patterns of young women.


Some highlights of the report are:

• Births to adolescents continued to decline.

• More than one in five women with a birth in the past 12 months reported at the time of the survey that they were living in someone else’s home.

• The majority of first births occur in marriage, as they have for decades, but the most recent cohort of young mothers is much more likely to have had their first birth in a cohabiting relationship than in marriage.

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