Today’s new mothers are increasingly older, better educated and more likely to be unmarried than were mothers of newborn children in the past. In 2008, a record 41% of births in the U.S. were to unmarried women. This includes a majority of births to women younger than age 25 (59% to unmarried mothers). In total, 1.7 million babies were born to unmarried mothers in 2008. By comparison, 2.5 million babies were born to married mothers (59% of all births). Roughly 20 years ago, only 28% of births were to unmarried women; births to unmarried mothers rose by 48% between 1990 and 2008. While the highest share of unmarried mothers is among black women (72%), the sharpest increase in unmarried births occurred among white (29%) and Hispanic mothers (53%). Most Americans say they know at least one woman who had a baby while she was not married, and one man who fathered a child while he was not married, according to a Pew Research survey. But while Americans have softened slightly in their disapproval of unmarried parenthood, most continue to say it is bad for society. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.