More cohabitating couples having children

Posted at 8:48 AM, Apr 12, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-12 10:48:30-04

By Jacque Wilson
(CNN) — After publishing a report Tuesday on the record low teen birth rate, the National Center for Health Statistics is releasing more numbers on babies in America.

Gladys Martinez and her colleagues at the NCHS have written a report on the fertility of men and women aged 15 to 44 in the U.S. based on numbers from the National Survey of Family Growth that was taken between 2006 and 2010. The survey collected data from more than 22,000 face-to-face interviews.

A few interesting tidbits emerged from the report. The NCHS survey found that a greater proportion of births to unmarried couples are happening in households with cohabitating partners than in years past.

We know that the number of children born to unmarried couples has increased dramatically over the last several decades. In 2009, 41% of all babies born were to unmarried women compared to 11% in 1970. Approximately one-fourth of women aged 15 to 44 between 2006 and 2010 had a baby before their first marriage; an additional 5.2% had a baby within 7 months of the wedding.

But between 2006 and 2010, cohabitating couples accounted for 22% of first births, up from 12% in 2002. Of all pre-marital births, nearly half were to cohabitating couples.

“The primary reason that we even look at that is because studies have shown that there’s differences in the resources available to children born in families with only one parent,” Martinez said. Children born to unmarried mothers statistically have less stability and therefore, more environmental stressors in their lives.

The survey was also, for the first time, able to distinguish between foreign-born Hispanics and U.S.-born Hispanics. For instance, 78% of foreign-born Hispanic women surveyed had a biological child compared with 51% of U.S.-born Hispanic women.

“In general, U.S.-born Hispanics look [more] like non-Hispanic whites than other groups,” Martinez said.

Most of the rest of the statistics remain similar to those reported in 2002, according to Martinez. The mean age of women having their first child is 23 years old; the mean age for men is 25. On average, women in America have 2.1 children. White women are less likely to have children and are less likely to expect to have children than other races.

Higher-education women and men waited longer in life to have children and on average had fewer. Women with household incomes lower than 150% of the poverty level were more likely to have four or more children.

Martinez also found an increase in the number of women who started having children after the age of 35 who went on to have two or more kids. Unfortunately her team couldn’t really see the full expanse of the increase because they only surveyed women under 44 years old.

The statistics in this report were weighted to reflect the 124 million men and women in the U.S. The data was self-reported so results may be subjected to some “recall error,” where the person being surveyed makes mistakes about their past experiences.