While the percentage of legitimacy in children has varied throughout the years, recent years have shown a steady increase in the number of unwed mothers in the United States.
While reasons vary for the illegitimacy of the children they are having, it is evident that despite the many birth control options available, women are more likely now to have a child without a husband. Some of these illegitimate pregnancies are planned and some are not, but unwed mothers gave birth to 40 percent of the babies delivered in the United States in 2007.
Statistics show that many couples are waiting longer to get married or skipping marriage all together. Women also have increased financial independence, making them more able to afford a child on their own than ever before in the past. Fewer women give any thought to the legitimacy of their child as they become older and decide they want children, whether the woman is married or not.
Illegitimacy numbers increased dramatically between 2002 and 2007. In 2002, roughly 1.4 million babies were born to unwed mothers. In 2007, that number jumped to 1.7 million. By 2012, that number is expected to exceed 2.4 million.
While all races have seen a jump in the number of women who have children outside of marriage, certain ethnic groups have seen a larger increase of births outside of wedlock than others. Hispanic and black women have had the most dramatic rise in numbers.
Legitimacy decreased the most among births by Hispanic women. Out of every one thousand Hispanic births, 100 were illegitimate. Black women accounted for about 70 illegitimate births out of every 1000 births. Roughly 30 out of every 1000 births by white women were illegitimate.
While many unwed mothers live with boyfriends or the child’s father instead of marrying him, there are many that are single mothers. Legitimacy factor aside, the 2000 Census reported that there are at least ten million single mothers in the United States.
Whether this is a result of divorce or from never marrying cannot be determined from the Census data. Although a stereotype, it is true that many unwed mothers’ pregnancies, nearly 80 percent, were unplanned.