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Contact:  Robert Bernstein
Public Information Office
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Census Bureau Reports Nearly 1 in 3 Unmarried Women Who Give Birth Cohabit

     The U.S. Census Bureau reported today that among the 1.5 million unmarried women who gave birth during the period between June 2007 and June 2008, about 425,000, or 28 percent, were living with a cohabitating partner. These unmarried mothers included those who were separated and those married with an absent spouse.

     These findings are contained in Fertility of American Women: 2008, which reports that 4 million women age 15 to 44 gave birth during that time.

    “The report shows that many unmarried new moms are not raising their child alone,” said demographer Jane Dye, who authored the report. “This is actually the first time the Census Bureau has reported on births to women in cohabitational relationships. One of the report's data sources, the Current Population Survey, recently added a direct question on cohabitation in order to measure this population.”

    According to the report, by the time women reached the 40 to 44 age range in 2008, they had averaged 1.9 births in their lifetime, down from 3.1 births in 1976, when the Census Bureau first collected data on fertility. This reflects the decline in the likelihood of women having three or more children, as well as the increase in the proportion not having any at all.

    Among race and ethnic groups, Hispanic and black women had the highest levels of fertility (2.1 children ever born, on average), followed by non-Hispanic whites and Asians (1.8 births each). (Hispanic and black fertility levels were not statistically significantly different from each other, as were non-Hispanic white and Asian fertility levels.)

     The report, published every other year, utilizes data from two sources: the June 2008 Supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS) and the 2008 American Community Survey (ACS). The CPS data, which are national-level only, provide a historical perspective showing the lifetime fertility experience of women. The ACS data, which are provided at the state level, focus on the current fertility experiences of women with a birth in the last year. The data are shown by various demographic characteristics, such as race, Hispanic origin, educational attainment and nativity.

     In addition to cohabitation, new topics examined in this year's report include the delayed fertility patterns for women with higher education and unemployment levels of new mothers.

     The ACS data provide a glimpse into the effects of the recession on mothers with newborns who are looking for a job. Nationwide, 6 percent of mothers with newborns were unemployed in 2008. Among states with above average levels of new mothers who were unemployed, the highest proportions were in Alabama (10 percent) and Michigan (9 percent), along with several states in the southeast United States. States with proportions lower than the national average included Hawaii (1 percent) and Vermont, Utah and Idaho (3 percent).

     Other highlights:

  • The proportion of mothers with a recent birth who were in the labor force increased from 57 percent in 2006 to 61 percent in 2008.
  • Among all women 15 to 50 nationwide with a birth in the last year, about 895,000 (20 percent) were foreign-born. Most (654,000) of these foreign-born mothers were not U.S. citizens. California was home to one quarter of these noncitizens (164,000).
  • Among all Hispanic women, those who were foreign-born and who were not citizens had the highest levels of current fertility.
  • Nationally, one in four mothers with a recent birth were in poverty in 2008. Montana, West Virginia and the southern tier of states from Arizona to South Carolina all had higher-than-average poverty rates for such mothers.
  • New Hampshire (48 percent), Massachusetts and Connecticut (42 percent), and New Jersey and Maryland (39 percent) had higher proportions of mothers with a birth in the last year who had a bachelor's degree than the national average (27 percent).
  • Women who continued their education into their 20s experienced lower current fertility levels at younger ages but higher fertility at older ages once they completed their education.
  • For all women 40 to 44, 18 percent were childless in 2008, down from 20 percent in 2006, but still higher than the level in 1976 (10 percent).
  • In 2008, the peak childbearing age for women was 25 to 29 years old, with a rate of 122 births per 1,000 women.
These data were collected from the 2008 American Community Survey and Fertility Supplement to the June 2008 Current Population Survey. As in all surveys, these data are subject to sampling and nonsampling error. For further information on the source of the CPS data and accuracy of the estimates, including standard errors and confidence intervals, go to Attachment 16 of <> [PDF]. For the source and accuracy of the American Community Survey go to <> [PDF].
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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Public Information Office | | Last Revised: September 09, 2014