In the 1970s, the percentage of women with a high school diploma who had children outside of marriage was 13 percent. That number has more than tripled and it now rests at 44 percent. Although a lot of focus in the news is on teen mothers, a study conducted and published by the National Marriage Project says that much of the rise in the number of unwed mothers is due to partners deciding to wait to get married or forgo it completely. Many of the couples are in their 20s and 30s, in stable, adult relationships.
So what is causing this change? According to the study, there has been a significant cultural shift in the viewpoint on marriage and what it means to be a family. Many couples interviewed in the study said that they view marriage as mostly a piece of paper, and the cost of undoing the decision can be high. The cost of a divorce is not the only reason, the cost of life is pertinent to the decision as well. Financial stability can be a huge factor in a couple’s decision to marry.
The author of the study said that financial stability can make a person more or less attractive at the beginning of a relationship as well as a factor in considering whether to stay with a partner. The study showed that while many couples are choosing to have a child outside of marriage, marriage is not out of the question at all, they are just more concerned with timing of a marriage.
While financial stability seems to be a large factor for couples, a child can be extremely expensive. A sociologist and author explained his belief that although couples know that having a child can be expensive, it is something they feel needs to be accomplished earlier in life while getting married is not.
Source: NPR “Unmarried With Kids: A Shift In The Working Class” Jennifer Ludden 12/6/10