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Out-of-Wedlock Births: Everyone Pays a High Price

Out-of-Wedlock Births: Everyone Pays a High Price

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A Michigan Family Forum Publication
Out-of-Wedlock Births in Michigan: Everyone Pays a High Price
by Dan Jarvis

A Michigan Family Forum Publication
Out-of-Wedlock Births in Michigan: Everyone Pays a High Price
by Dan Jarvis

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Published by: Michigan Family Forum on Oct 17, 2012
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P
OLICY
B
RIEF
 A
ICHIGA
 AMIL
ORUM 
ESOURCE 
POBox15216,Lansing,MI4890www.michiganfamily.or
Out-of-Wedlock Births in Michigan:Everyone Pays a High Price
Is It A Problem?
Out-of-wedlock births have skyrock-eted over the past 65 years. In 1940, only3.8 percent of U.S. births were out-of-wedlock.
1
By 2003, a staggering 34.6percent of all births in the United Statesoccurred out-of-wedlock.
2
Michigans trends are similar. In 1963,Michigan reported that out-of-wedlockbirths accounted for only 4.9 percent of all births.
3
Today, our states out-of-wed-lock rate mirrors the national level at 34.6percent.
4
For Michigan, that means 45,321babies born to single mothers in 2003alone.
5
Among first births, 42.2 percentof all births are out-of-wedlock.
6
 
Onlyfour states (Louisiana, Mississippi,New Mexico, South Carolina) have ahigher four-year average out-of-wed-lock birthrate than Michigan, accord-ing to the U.S. Census Bureau.
7
Putting this into perspective, morethan half of the counties in Michigan forty-fivehave a population less than the
Summary:
A womans marital status at the time of her pregnancy is a significant factor in puttingher child at risk. Nearly two-thirds of out-of-wedlock births and many of the subsequent healthproblems are paid for with public funds. Furthermore, unmarried mothers are more likely to dependon public assistance years after the child is born. While most out-of-wedlock pregnancies areunintended and to young women, a surprising number are intentionally conceived.number of babies born out-of-wedlockeach year.
8
The vast majority of thesepregnancies are unplanned, uninsuredand at higher risk than pregnancies amongmarried women. Not surprisingly, thepublic is increasingly carrying the loadof these costly births.According to the 2002 PregnancyRisk Assessment Monitoring System(PRAMS), unmarried women were morethan twice as likely as married womento report that a pregnancy was unin-tended (68.5% vs. 29.4%). Fully 70 per-cent of married women reported thattheir pregnancy was intended. Further-more, among married women reportingan unintended pregnancy, most said itwas not an "unwanted" pregnancy butrather a "mistimed" one, as they wantedto become pregnant at a later date.
9
PRAMS estimates that 13,500 pregnan-cies that are carried to term are truly "un-wanted," the bulk being among unmar-ried women. However, most unwantedpregnancies result in an abortion. In 2004,Michigan residents reported 25,512 in-duced abortions, 21,789 of which wereobtained by unmarried women.
10
Dan Jarvis is research and policy director at Michigan Family Forum.by Dan Jarvis
Ten counties with the high-est percentage of out-of-wedlock births, 2003Lake.......................55.0Wayne....................47.6Roscommon...........47.4Crawford................46.8Genessee................46.1Saginaw.................45.8Calhoun..................44.9Mackinac...............44.2Muskegon..............44.1Jackson..................43.9
Source: Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and Health Data Development Section, 2003
 
OLIC
RIEF 
Sound Public Policy for Stronger Michigan Families
Contrary to popular belief, teen preg-nancy is not the primary source of out-of-wedlock births. The single biggest agegroup of unwed mothers is young womenaged 20-24, with fully 60 percent of allout-of-wedlock births occurring amongwomen in their 20s. While it is true that88 percent of teen births are out-of wed-lock (most of which are by 18 and 19 yearolds), they represent only 23 percent of the total births to single mothers.
11
Single Mothers By Choice?
There is a growing phenomenonaround the country of women becomingsingle mothers by choice (SMCs). WhileCandice Bergens television character,Murphy Brown, ignited the public discus-sion back in 1992, the trend today issteadily on the rise, and one can find booksand Web sites to assist women in theirdeliberate efforts to raise a child withouta father. Clearly, more and more womenare asking the question Is a father reallynecessary for a healthy family? Womenwho self-identify as a SMC believe theyare making a responsible and ethicalchoice.
12
Michigan is no exception in thegrowth of women choosing to becomesingle mothers. While over 30,000 out-of-wedlock births in 2002 were uninten-tional, nearly one-third of all births by un-married women that year were intention-ally conceived, according to the 2002PRAMS report. That translates to nearly14,000 babies intentionally conceived byunmarried women.Some attribute this growth in out-of-wedlock births to technology shock,the advent of widespread contraceptionand abortion in the late 60s and early70s.
13
Prior to easy access to contra-ception and abortion, all women (andmost men who were expected to do the"honorable" thing and enter a shotgunwedding) had a tremendous incentive toavoid sexual activity. Even women whohad no moral or social apprehension toengaging in sexual activity did not wantto face the social or financial hardshipthat came with single motherhood.Easy access to abortion and contra-ception provided women who were will-ing to engage in premarital sexual activ-ity with an easy out to unwanted mother-hood. Similarly, it provided males with theperfect opportunity to avoid an unwantedmarriage if pregnancy resulted fromsexual activity. In the event a woman didget pregnant, males could avoid shotgunweddings and assuage their conscienceby telling themselves that if the womanchose to keep the baby, it was exactlythat, her choice.Within a few short years, women whohad qualms about engaging in pre-mari-tal sexual activity found themselves in aninferior position to women who were will-ing to engage in sexual activity. Not onlydid they no longer have the excuse of wanting to avoid an unwed pregnancy(contraception and abortion could solvethat), they also had to worry about losinga relationship with their partner to awoman interested in sexual activity.With more women willingly engag-ing in sexual activity, more women beingpressured into sexual activity which theyhad previously resisted due to social ormoral qualms, more menrefusing to engage in shot-gun weddings, and a na-tion increasingly willing toprovide support to single-parent families, the nationwas ripe for an explosionof out-of-wedlock births.
Low Outcomes, High Costs
Babies born to unmarried mothersface significant health challenges that ba-bies born to married mothers do not face.According to the Michigan Departmentof Community Health, over 11 percent of babies born to unmarried mothers receiveinadequate prenatal care while less thanhalf that rate, just over 5 percent, of ba-bies born to married mothers suffer fromsuch shortfalls.
14
Inadequate prenatalcare may contribute to the significantlyhigher number of low birthweight babies
"...more than half of the countiesin Michiganforty-fivehave apopulation less than the number of babies born out-of-wedlock each year."
Percentage of Out-Of-Wedlock Births in Michigan, 1963-2003
4.914.316.23534.6
05101520253035401963 1973 1980* 1993 2003
Source: Vital Records & Health Data Development Section, Michigan Department of Community Health*Source for 1980 data: Vital and Health Statistics, Center for Disease Contol and Prevention/National Centerfor Health Statistics (Data for out-of-wedlcok births was not tracked by the Michigan Department of Community Health between 1978 and 1992.)
 
OLIC
RIEF 
Sound Public Policy for Stronger Michigan Families
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*Infant death rate is the number of deaths among infants under 1 year per 1,000 births.Source: Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and HealthData Development Section, 2003
among unmarried women (10.6%)compared to married women (6.9%).
15
More tragically, the infant death rateamong unmarried women is over twiceas high as that of babies born within theconfines of marriage.According to the CDCs NationalCenter for Health Statistics, Medicaidfunds pay for all or part of pregnancy re-lated medical costs for 68 percent of un-married women.
16
Among marriedwomen, public expenditures were used inonly 20 percent of the pregnancies.
17
Con- versely, 80 percent of married women re-ported using a combination of their ownmoney or insurance to pay for a preg-nancy, while 29 percent of unmarriedwomen reported doingso.
18
Governmentsources other than Med-icaid made up the bulk of the remaining expendi-tures. In 2003, Michiganpaid for 46,016 birthsthrough Medicaid.
19
Roughly 31,000 of thosebirths were to unmarriedmothers.Disadvantages for the mothers andbabies continue into the later years.Women who have children outside of marriage are almost four times as likelyto be in poverty. Based on U.S. Censusdata, 49.2 percent of unmarried womenwho give birth in Michigan are below thepoverty level, while only 12.9 percentwho give birth while married are belowthe poverty level.
20
This disparity is notbecause unmarried mothers are unableto get jobs. In fact, new mothers whoare unmarried are more likely to workoutside the home than are new motherswho are married. Households with mar-ried parents are more able to choosewhether both spouses work or whetherone works and the other (usually the wife)manages the home. Single mothers do nothave that option. Consequently, while69.5 percent of unmarried Michiganmothers work outside the home, only 57.6percent of married mothers choose to doso.
21
The evidence is overwhelming, andthe debate is largely settled regarding thewell-being of children in single-parentfamilies. Children are better off in everyfacet of lifesocially, economically, psy-chologically, academically, emotionallyand physicallywhen they are raised byboth biological parents. Children raised byboth biological parents are less likely tolive in poverty or experience health prob-lems.
22
Studies show that across everyrace and ethnic group, children living inmarried couple households have the low-est poverty rates.
23
Michigan must workto reduce out-of-wedlock pregnancies forthe sake of the taxpayers, the benefit of the birthmothers, and, most importantly,for the sake of children who are alwaysbetter off when they have the benefit of living with their married, biological par-ents.
Recommendations
There are several actions Michigan cantake to begin to reduce out-of-wedlockpregnancies.
Michigan must begin to track thecosts associated with pre-maritalsexual activity, beginning with an ac-counting of public expenditures as-sociated with out-of-wedlock preg-nancies. Taxpayers have a right toknow how much "private choices" arecosting them. Similarly, the stateshould investigate how many unmar-ried women are receiving fertilitytreatments. Whether these treat-ments are paid for with tax dollars orby private insurers who are mandatedto pay for them, subsidizing the cre-ation of fatherless families seemsunwise, if not outright unethical.
"...nearly one-third of all births byunmarried women that year were in-tentionally conceived, according to the2002 PRAMS report. That translatesto nearly 14,000 babies intentionallyconceived by unmarried women."

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