For the first time in nine years, in 2016 the percentage of babies born to unmarried mothers went below 40 percent. According to a final birth-data report for that year published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number reached 39.8 percent. During that year, however, there were 1,569,796 babies born to unwed women in the United States, according to the report. Therefore, 2016 became the 29th year (1988-2016) that more than a million children were born in the United States to unmarried women.
According to the CDC, over the past 30 years on record (1987-2016), there were 120,777,366 babies born in the United States. Of these, 42,015,749 —or 34.78 percent—were born to unwed women. The CDC showed that 1987 was the last year fewer than 1 million babies were born to unwed women. That year, 933,013 babies were born to unmarried mothers, according to the CDC.
In 1988, the number of babies born to unmarried mothers climbed beyond the 1-million mark to 1,005,299. Since then, it has never dropped below one million. In 2008, the number of children born to unwed mothers hit an all-time high of 1,726,566 in 2008. By comparison, the percentage of babies born to unmarried mothers in 1940 was 3.8 percent, according to the CDC. In 1940, there were only 89,500 babies born to unwed women.
Since 1940, the percentage of children born to unwed women reached 5 percent for the first time in 1958. By 1969, the number reached 10 percent for the first time. It surpassed 20 percent for the first time in 1983. Then in 1992, it topped 30 percent. By 2008, it was over 40 percent for the first time. From 2009 to 2015, the percentage stayed above stayed above 40 percent, but dropped to 39.8 percent in 2016. That year, 3,945,875 babies were born in the United States, and 1,569,796 (39.8 percent) were born to unmarried mothers.
The winning states
According to the CDC, Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico, were the three states where a majority of the children born in 2016 were born to unwed women. In 19 other states, more than 40 percent of the babies born in 2016 were born to unmarried women. The CDC study showed that in only three states there were fewer than 30 percent of the children born in 2016 had unwed mothers.
Mississippi won the prize for the greatest percentage of babies born to unwed mothers in 2016. In the Magnolia State, 37,928 babies born in the state during the year, according to the CDC. Of these, 20,173—or 53.2 percent—of them had unwed mothers.
Louisiana got the silver medal for illegitimacy. In 2016, 63,178 babies born in 2016 in that state. Of these, 32,883—or 52 percent—were born to unmarried women.
In the bronze category, New Mexico saw the birth of 24,692 babies 2016, of which 12,621—51.1 percent—were born to unmarried mothers.
The runner-up was Nevada. That state had 36,260 births in 2016 and 17,323—or 47.8 percent—were born to unwed mothers.
The country’s most populous state, California, had the greatest number of babies born to unwed women in 2016: 186,851. The Golden State also had the greatest overall number of births, according to the CDC: 488,837 in 2016. The percentage of unwed mothers in California, therefore, wass 38.2 percent—making the state the 29th in the Union for unmarried births.
In 2016, Texas had the second largest number of babies born to unwed mothers (164,551) in 2016, but it had 398,047 births overall. Therefore, the percentage of babies born to unwed women in the Lone Star State was 41.3 percent—ranking the state 19th in the U.S.
For 2016, Florida had the third largest number of unmarried births -- 105,537. During that year, Florida had 225,022 total births, thus achieving a 46.9 percent of births to unmarried mothers—ranking the state 5th.
Overall, in the U.S. there were 3,945,875 babies born in 2016. Of these, 1,569,796—or 39.8 percent—were born to unmarried mothers.
The three states that had less than 30 percent of its babies in 2016 born to unwed mothers were: Utah (18.6 percent), Colorado (22.5 percent) and Idaho (27.6 percent).