(Pew Research) – For the first time in decades, the non-marital birth rate in the U.S. has been declining, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics. The rate peaked in 2008 at about 52 babies per 1000 unmarried women of childbearing age, before dropping to 45 births in 2013. Like declines in overall fertility that have occurred since 2007, it’s quite likely that this recent decline in the non-marital birth rate also occurred as a result of the economic recession of 2007-2009.

Will the non-marital birth rate continue to drop as the economy slowly recovers? It’s difficult to know, but many experts believe that overall fertility will bounce back as the economy improves, as has been the case with past recessions — and indeed, the sharp fertility declines that occurred during the recession have already begun leveling off, and it appears as though non-marital birth rates may be following the same course. 

How does the U.S. compare with its European neighbors in terms of the share of births that occur outside of marriage? Overall, the profiles are quite similar. In 2011, 39% of births in the European Union were non-marital births, and in the U.S. that share is 41%.

While the averages are similar in the U.S. and Europe, the prevalence of non-marital childbearing varies dramatically across the 28 EU member states.


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