• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Fewer Teen Moms but More Babies Born to Single Moms Than Ever

    Yesterday, The Washington Post heralded the decline in teeth birth rates, stating:

    As the nation continued to struggle in the recession in 2009, the rate at which U.S. women are having babies continued to fall, pushing the teen birth rate to a record low, federal officials reported Tuesday.

    While a decrease in the teen birth rate is good and well, such news seems to portray the idea that single motherhood in the United States is on the downturn. However, just the opposite is true. In fact, the number of children born to single mothers is on the rise and has been since the 1960s. In 1964, fewer than 10 percent of babies were born to single mothers. Today that number is above 40 percent for the overall population and even higher among Hispanics and African Americans (50 and 70 percent, respectively).

    How can this be if teen moms are fewer in number? Because the large majority of single moms are well beyond their high school years. In reality, high-school-age girls are responsible for fewer than 10 percent of births occurring to single mothers, while women between 18 and 29 years of age are responsible for roughly 75 percent of out-of-wedlock births.

    Yet most of the talk heard from policymakers regarding this matter centers around the need to throw increasing amounts of money at teen pregnancy prevention programs, mostly those that get birth control into the hands of high school students.

    While teenage birth is a modest problem, the current out-of-wedlock birthrate among women in their 20s is a catastrophe for mothers, children, and society. Single parenthood and out-of-wedlock childbearing are the predominant cause of child poverty in the U.S. today. Data clearly show that children raised by single mothers are more than five times more likely to be poor than are children raised by married mothers with the same education level.

    And access to birth control is not to blame. Research shows that single low-income mothers do not report a lack of access to birth control as the reason for having a baby. They become pregnant because they want to have a baby.

    Unfortunately, marriage has become all but obsolete in low-income communities. Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas’s research on low-income communities clearly paints the picture: Women in low-income communities desire to have children and do so, yet fathers quickly drop out of the picture. To these women and men, marriage is regarded as a middle-class institution, something to enter into only when a couple has made it financially and proven that their relationship will last. Of course, having a baby as a low-educated, single woman is more likely to lead to a life of poverty and welfare dependency than to reaching any level of affluence and building a stable family.

    Unfortunately, recent research shows that this decline in marriage, as well as the increase in children born outside of marriage, is now moving into middle America.

    If the United States is really interested in decreasing the out-of-wedlock birthrate instead of continuing to pretend that teen pregnancy is responsible for this problem, we must take steps to support marriage in low-income communities. First, policymakers can start by eliminating policies that penalize marriage. Also, the U.S. should launch a campaign to promote the benefits of marriage in low-income communities. Furthermore, marriage education for low-income adults and high school students should be put into place to help couples learn the skills to sustaining a healthy marriage.

    Fortunately, there is still hope for American families, but if the United States fails to act soon, the ill consequences of declining marriage rates and increasing single-motherhood will only continue its upward climb, leading to increased financial burdens for the American taxpayer and, more tragically, to a host of negative outcomes for children, families, and society.

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    13 Responses to Fewer Teen Moms but More Babies Born to Single Moms Than Ever

    1. George Colgrove, VA says:

      "And access to birth control is not to blame. Research shows that single low-income mothers do not report a lack of access to birth control as the reason for having a baby. They become pregnant because they want to have a baby."

      This is very true for single upper income women as well. Marriage has taken a step back for various reasons. But the desire to procreate has not. Women of means in greater numbers are seeking artificial means to have a baby.

      I think moral and emotional support for these women is vital in our society. Raising a child as a couple is very hard. Image doing it as a single parent (father or mother). I beleive in mariage, but for reasons that are not political are driving people apart. All of us know of situations where a divorce was neccessary in our own lives or those of our friends. This is not the time to throw religion at people or morality. There are issues local to the couple and not society that are causing these divides.

      I suspect once the high cost of living (mostly caused by the heavy hand of goverment) goes back down to provide people with reasonable ease in living, mariage will become more popular once again. Legislating morality is not the answer, giving these single parents a helping hand, a shoulder or simply a supportive pat on the back will go much further and mean much more to them. The only solution from a governmental point of view is to get them out of our lives and our bank accounts. Let us live the lives we see fit.

    2. Bobbie says:

      If you put the cost on the accountable and hold them responsible there would be more self control with rational choices and no need for government in this area.

      Letting those in regard to their PERSONAL, PRIVATE MATTER think AND FIGURE IT OUT for themselves and deal with their own personal private consequences will influence marriage before baby.

      Because of tax funding accommodations paid for in all ways regarding this matter, the choices make no difference. Responsible choices and personal dignity does.

    3. DorkMan, Santa Clara says:

      You will generally see the same behavior patterns among the poor and the very wealthy.

      Moreover, there has been a progressively lower incentive for men to get married. The upside is limited but potential downside after divorce can be unlimited.

      This trend is just appropriate for the social conditions we have created for ourselves, over the past many decades. We keep getting what we deserve, at least at the level of the society. Unfortunately, little individuals get crushed by the larger social trends.

    4. G. Lewis, Michigan says:

      "In reality, high-school-age girls are responsible for fewer than 10 percent of births occurring to single mothers, while women between 18 and 29 years of age are responsible for roughly 75 percent of out-of-wedlock births."

      What percentage of the women between 18 and 29 had their FIRST child before they turned 18, and continued (and some likely STILL continue) to have out-of-wedlock children?

      Beyond that – what percentage of out-of-wedlock births are to women (or girls) who already have one or more illegitimate children?

    5. Alicia says:

      How about teaching deadbeat, loser, selfish men to grow up and take responsibility rather than laying all the blame at the feet of women? It takes two to screw and make a baby. Women are not going down to the local Walmart and picking up a baby. And they're not coercing men into having sex with them. Men don't need any coercing to have sex and not use a condom. It's far more common for men to coerce women into it. With the threat of violence and/or humiliation if she says no. First things first: teach MEN to be responsible and use condoms, or god forbid, not screw everything that moves in the first place, then maybe we'll have some sort of handle on this situation. Then we can start teaching women to respect themselves and not allow any un-covered man to touch her.

    6. john adair says:

      How much money and benefits are is unwed mother paid to have a baby.

      generally when you get income for becoming an unwed mother you will get more

      How much did the mother of 8 get for becoming pregnant?

    7. RennyG Maryland says:

      STOP THE WELFARE PROGRAMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT WILL SOLVE IT'S SELF!!!!!!

    8. Joker's Wild, C says:

      Well it's either abortion or single motherhood because many men logically see the modern women as a liability when it comes to marriage with divorce rates in the 40-50% range. The odds of not having to pay alimony are not good. Child support you have to pay whether or not you're married. But why sign yourself up for alimony payments?

      Is your ex-wife still making you dinners? Cleaning your house? Taking care of your sexual needs? Alimony is payment for past goods and services.

    9. James D. , Maine says:

      This problem has nothing to do with religious beliefs or moral issues. It is fact.

      The problem lies in that the lower income areas that this issue creates problems for not only the taxpayer, but the mother and child. The mother cannot get out of poverty, and the child flounders in poverty and will likely not make good decisions later on.

      We need to stop allowing these mothers (and fathers) to hold the taxpayer hostage. There should be penalities for having offspring when you cannot afford it, not rewards of money.

      I agree that Marriage is a penalty imposed by the government to these people, because it takes away part of their income (provided by the taxpayer).

    10. Patrick, Washington says:

      @ Alicia; Woman & Feminism are to blame for the rise of out of wedlock births and the social problems that accompany it. Society needs to cut of the financial incentives for Woman to have kids outside of wedlock; ( Child Support, Food Stamps, TANF, WIC and other programs). There needs to be a "Single Mom Tax" to pay for the social costs related to having kids outside of wedlock. Men should have the same reproductive rights as woman. It is time to stop blaming Men for Woman's Choices.

    11. Bobbie says:

      Patrick, I agree the welfare programs should be removed as stated in my previous comment, but what same reproductive rights as woman are you referring to? Women go through the process of reproduction to procreate, men go through the ecstasy. Where would the same reproductive rights come in? Mutual consent to have sex, but it's the woman that goes through the "consequence" if that is what it is.

    12. Jack Reacher says:

      Welfare pays single mothers, not married ones.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.