Young First-Time Mothers Less Likely to be Married, Census Bureau Reports

WASHINGTON, July 8, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The percentage of young first-time mothers who are married is dropping, according to Fertility of Women in the United States: 2012, a report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In the early 1990s, at least half of all first births to mothers younger than age 23 occurred in marriage. Since 2005, more young mothers were cohabiting (38 percent) than were married (24 percent) at the time of their first birth. However, the majority of all women continue to have their first child within marriage.

Fertility of Women in the United States: 2012 uses data from the 2012 American Community Survey and the 2012 Current Population Survey. The report examines women's marital status at the time of their first births, the completed fertility of women up to age 50 and the fertility patterns of young women. Fertility patterns are shown by race, ethnicity, age, citizenship and employment status, as well as state of residence.

"In this report, we explore changes in women's relationship status at first birth over time, as well as fertility patterns of women up to age 50," said demographer Lindsay Monte of the Census Bureau's Fertility and Family Statistics Branch, and one of the report's authors. "It's important to track these changes in fertility because recent research suggests that childbearing is related to women's rates of employment, their educational attainment and their economic well-being."

The following are some highlights from the report on women and fertility:

  • In June 2012, 75.4 million women in the United States were age 15 to 50, of which roughly 44 million, or 59 percent, were mothers.
  • Of the 75.4 million women, 17 percent had one child, 23 percent had two children, 19 percent had three or more children, and 41 percent had not given birth to any children.
  • Roughly 5 percent of all women age 15 to 50, 4.1 million women, reported giving birth in the 12 months prior to the survey. The highest share of births were to women age 25 to 34 (52.3 percent). Only 2.3 percent of births were to women age 45 to 50. 

Other highlights:

  • The average number of children ever born has dropped from more than three children per woman in 1976 to about two children per woman in 2012.
  • More than one in five women who gave birth in the year prior to the survey reported living in someone else's home at the time of the survey. Seventy percent of these women lived in their parents' home.
  • The nation's official poverty rate was 15 percent in 2012, but 48 percent of young women (younger than age 23) who gave birth in the year before the survey lived in households that were below the federal poverty line, and 28 percent were in extreme poverty (below 50 percent of the federal poverty line).

Note: Statistics from sample surveys are subject to sampling and nonsampling error. All comparisons made in this report have been tested and found to be statistically significant at the 90 percent confidence level, unless otherwise noted. Please consult the tables for specific margins of error. For more information, go to

See for more information on changes affecting the 2010-2012 statistics. See for guidance on comparing 2010-2012 American Community Survey statistics with previous years.

For additional 2012 CPS tables about women's fertility go to


Detailed tables

Merarys Ríos
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SOURCE U.S. Census Bureau


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