Out of Wedlock Births are the New Normal Among Millennials

The traditional sequence of getting married and then having children is no longer the norm for most Millennials, the generation that came of age at the dawn of the 21st century. This generation is more apt to cohabit before marriage. In many cases, they will have children and marry later, or not marry at all. But there are stark differences among the Millennials themselves, suggesting that a cultural chasm may be opening up between the well educated and everyone else.

A new study by Andrew J. Cherlin and other scholars at John Hopkins University takes a look at marital and non-marital births among the Millennials. The study analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, 1997 cohort. Those tracked reached ages 12-16 in 1997 when they were first interviewed and they have been interviewed every year since then. They reached the ages of 26-31 by 2011.

According to Cherlin and his colleagues, most births to non-college educated women occurred outside of marriage. Even women with some college education had only 45% of their births within a marriage.  In stark contrast, among women who had completed a four-year college degree 71% of their births occurred within marriage.

The marital births by college graduates, however, did not alter the general picture. Births by women completing college represented only 19% of the births in this age group. The college grads are the exception to the general rule. They are postponing marriage and childbearing, with first births occurring, on average, at age 28, compared to age 22 for those women with only a high school degree.

Data on non-marital births can be misleading if one assumes children are being born only to single moms. Cohabitation is increasingly common. But Cherlin and colleagues find that cohabitation is much more common among those without a college degree. Below find several charts that show the contrast between women who have a college degree and other women.

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Posted: June 27, 2014

 

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