New normal: Out of wedlock births have stabilised


While having a baby without being married was uncommon and stigmatized several decades ago, it’s becoming the norm in many European countries — and even the U.S., according to a report released today by the United Nations Population Fund.
Why it matters

If having babies without being married becomes increasingly common, it could help stabilize falling fertility rates and avoid an aging, childless future, Michael Herrmann, a senior adviser for economics and demography at UNFPA, told Axios.

But it’s also likely to lead to more cultural friction, as social conservatives are unlikely to accept more births outside marriage.

How we got here

Demographers point to three key trends that have led to the rise in births outside of marriage:

The decline in importance of traditional marriage.

While non-traditional forms of cohabitation have become more acceptable in many Western cultures, the social revolution has been much slower in many Asian cultures.

That’s why births outside of marriage are still rare in places such as Japan and Korea, Herrmann said.

Increased opportunity for women to obtain an education and launch successful careers has enabled them to provide for themselves without a husband.

Many women, even if living with men, are opting to “keep their legal options open,” said Richard Cincotta, director of the Global Political Demography Program at the Stimson Center.

More American men are facing unemployment or underemployment, drug use, and jail “due to the loss of secure, well-paid blue collar jobs,” Jack Goldstone, a professor of public policy at George Mason University and global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, told Axios.

One notable exception

Russia also saw an increase in births outside of marriage in the 1980s and 1990s, when alcoholism and male mortality rose during the chaos following the collapse of communism, according to Goldstone.

But beginning in the early 2000s — as Vladimir Putin came to power. Continue reading


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