The proportion of births that occur outside of marriage in the United States has climbed over the past 30 years, reaching 37 percent in 2005. This pattern is a cause for concern because children born to unmarried mothers fare worse, on average, than do their peers who are born to married parents. The context of this pattern also is changing, with some experts reporting that the increases in childbearing outside of marriage result almost completely from increases in births to couples who live together (or cohabit). Given evidence of high rates of break-up among parents who cohabit, and the potentially negative consequences for children born into cohabiting unions, it is important to examine trends in these births. This Research Brief examines the rise in nonmarital childbearing and the number of births to cohabiting couples, as well as the characteristics of women who have births within cohabiting relationships, compared with women who have births within marriage or births outside of any union. We find that older women, white women, and women with greater educational attainment are the least likely to have a birth outside of marriage, but if they do,they are most likely to do so within--rather than outside--a cohabiting union.
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The Relationship Context of Births Outside of Marriage : the Rise of Cohabitation.