Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Generations Differ on the Rise of Unmarried Parents

Over the past 50 years, the link between marriage and parenthood has become much more tenuous. The share of babies born to unmarried mothers increased eight-fold from 1960 to 2008. By 2008, four-in-ten babies born in the U.S. were born to an unwed mother.

The public generally views this trend negatively. Across the age spectrum, most adults do not view this as a change for the better. Despite this consensus, sharp generational differences do exist.

Fewer Millennials (ages 18 to 30) view this change negatively than do members of older generations, according to a survey conducted in 2011. Just over half (52%) of millennials see it as a change for the worse, in comparison to 62% of Gen Xers (ages 31 to 46), 67% of Boomers (ages 47-65) and 76% of the Silent generation (over 65).

Previous surveys by the Pew Social & Demographic Trends project show similar generational splits on other trends relating to family and living arrangements. In a 2010 survey, a majority of Silents (62%) said that the trend toward more unmarried couples living together was a bad thing for society; only 27% of Millennials agreed. Similarly, there was a 30 percentage point gap between Silents and Millennials (58% vs. 28%) on the question of whether the trend toward more gay and lesbian couples raising children was bad for society. Read More