From The New York Times:
Single parenthood was on a “mysterious and alarming rise,” becoming a “huge problem,” according to a 2013 article in the Atlantic. The lawyer defending same-sex marriage bans before the Supreme Court last month argued that out-of-wedlock births were growing rapidly.
But the birthrate for unmarried mothers, which had been steadily increasing since the early 1980s, peaked in 2008 and has declined 14 percent since, more than the decline for all women. The recent declines were sharpest among teenagers; black and Hispanic women; and those without a college degree — all of whom have typically had the highest rates of single motherhood — according to data from the Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics.
There was only one group of unmarried women for whom the birthrate increased in recent years: those 35 and older. In many cases, they are having babies outside of marriage by choice, with more resources and education than the typical single mother.
They are still a small minority. But if these trends continue, single motherhood could become less of a sign of family instability. It could increasingly become one of the new ways people are choosing to form families, in an era when both marriage and divorce are declining.
…Despite recent declines, single motherhood is still quite common: 40 percent of births in the United States are to unmarried women, and they are still more likely to be young, black or Latina and without a college degree. Some researchers who study the issue say that the recent slowdown might indicate that nonmarital births have reached their long-term level.
Some researchers and marriage advocates say the prevalence of single-parent families could have long-term negative effects. These families are more likely than two-parent ones to live in poverty. And children in low-income, single-parent households achieve lower levels of education and income over all, particularly boys….
…June Carbone, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, sees the overall dip partly as a continuation of the trend of a decline in marriage because of the diminishing economic prospects for men. At first, women decided they didn’t need to marry to have a child, and now they might be deciding not to have a child at all.
“In the ’90s, I think the anti-abortion sentiment coincided with giving up on men — you’re not going to meet a guy worth marrying, you don’t have to have a shotgun marriage,” said Ms. Carbone, who co-wrote “Marriage Markets: How Inequality is Remaking the American Family.” She said, “My hunch is that the other shoe has dropped and people are just not having the kids.”