WASHINGTON — Oklahoma's birthrate for unmarried women was well above the national average in 2011, according to a new report by the U.S. Census Bureau that links single motherhood to low incomes and a lack of education.
The census report — based on a survey rather than an actual head count — showed that nearly 40 percent of the births in Oklahoma in 2011 were to unmarried women; that was nearly four percentage points above the national average.
According to the census estimates, 21,333 children were born in Oklahoma in 2011 to unmarried women, out of a total of 53,718 births.
The rates in Oklahoma's metropolitan areas were not significantly different from the national average.
Ten states had rates topping 40 percent. In Louisiana and Mississippi, more than 48 percent of the births were to single women. The rate in the District of Columbia was 51 percent.
However, despite big increases in the past decade in the rate of births to unmarried women, the trend has apparently reversed in recent years, according to the National Vital Statistics System.
That federal office reports that the nonmarital birthrate declined 3 percent in 2011 from 2010, the third straight year of decline; the rate was down 11 percent over those three years.
Nationally, 57 percent of the women without a high school diploma who gave birth in 2011 were unmarried, the census report shows. The rate was 9 percent for women with a bachelor's degree.
Unmarried women in low-income groups were much more likely to have babies, the survey showed.
The census report linked poverty rates in states to the birthrates of single mothers. Oklahoma's poverty rate of 16 percent was a full point above the national average.
Age also was a factor, as 86 percent of the women between 15 and 19 who gave birth were unmarried. Just 17 percent of the women between 35 and 39 who gave birth were unmarried. The rate is much higher than the national average among blacks, American Indians and Hispanics, while Asians have by far the lowest rate.
“The percentage of U.S. births to unmarried women has been increasing steadily since the 1940s and has increased even more markedly in recent years,” the report states.
According to National Center for Health Statistics, the birthrate for unmarried women in 2007 was 80 percent higher than it was in 1980 and increased 20 percent between 2002 and 2007.
“Trends in nonmarital fertility reflect changing norms regarding sexual behavior and family formation. The increase in nonmarital fertility may be due to both an increase in pregnancies conceived outside of marriage and to a decrease in marriage rates overall.”