News & Politics

Increase in “Out of Wedlock” Births

Every news outlet that I’ve encountered in the last 24 hours has mentioned the story, from the National Center on Health Statistics, that in 2005, the rate of “out of wedlock” births in the US hit an all-time high.

Most also mention that this doesn’t mean teenagers are having more babies; indeed, they are having fewer babies. Women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are having more babies without being married to the fathers of those babies.

A few of the news outlets have mentioned that women are marrying later in life, and are often living with the fathers of their babies when the babies are born.

Not one news outlet has even questioned whether any significant proportion of that increase can be attributed to “the gayby boom.”
And yet, most of us are caught up in those statistics! I’m a statistical “unwed mother” even though my partner and I are married in every sense except under the law.

The increase in “out of wedlock” births is only 1% overall (with not much variation by race, although probably a statistically significant larger increase among “hispanic” mothers), and with an uneven skew towards older mothers (PDF here).

It seems to me that a spike in the number of lesbians having babies could be a significant part of a 1% increase in the “technically unmarried” adult birth rate.

Follow-up story, anyone?

No Comments

  1. This story coupled with the story a month ago about married couples being in the minority leads me to wonder why no one is doing a story on why het-couples are opting out of marriage. I’m sure part of the reason is divorce, but there has to be more het-couples deciding that marriage isn’t all the hot.

    But yes, I would also LOVE to see the stats broken down by LGBT identity. I’m sure the govt would fear that study cause maybe, just maybe there would be data to state that same sex couples are actually married more and in more stable relationships. Hmmm…

    Happy Turkey Day everyone!

  2. MaverickMama says:

    I single lesbian mother by choice, so I can say that it’s not just coupled women that are having children. In fact several of my friends are also planning to have children without a partner. I think that more women are taking charge of family building. It is an interesting stat, but it does not tell the whole story. The interesting part to me is how this news story made a big deal over the fact that not all un-married mamas are teens and/or destitute. Some of us made a choice to become mamas.

  3. Good points, both of you! MM, I think in my quest for visibility, I ignored folks in your position. Sorry about that! And more evidence that this is a multifaceted and complex demographic trend, not just “hey look, fewer teenagers are having babies!”

  4. Let’s see. There were 4,140,419 total births in 2005, and 36.8% of them, 1,523,674, were to “unmarried” mothers. According to HRC’s analysis of the 2000 Census, there were 297,061 lesbian families in the U. S., but that could be undercounted by as much as 62%. That would give us 481,239 lesbian families in 2000. Let’s assume that number has gone up–for the sake of argument, let’s say to 600,000.

    The next question is how many of these families bore children in 2005? Let’s say one quarter–even if more wanted to, they might not have done so during that calendar year. (And some are too old, and some aren’t interested.) That gives us 150,000 births.

    150,000 is about 10% of 1,523,674, or 10% of the 1% increase.

    Those are loose assumptions, and I’ll be the first to admit they may not be accurate. Still, it’s an interesting question and worth some further investigation.

    I posted some stats related to “unmarried” births and single parenthood a few months ago, FWIW.

  5. Thank you, Liza, for writing about the “out of wedlock births” news coverage. No question, for the evolving American family to be properly understood — particularly the lesbian branch of it — we need to broaden the vision of those who collect and report on such statistics. Meanwhile, the self-publishing phenom of the blogosphere can keep us at least abreast. (No pun intended whatsoever, lesbian content and turkey day notwithstanding.)

  6. Pingback: Love rules at LesbianDad

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