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Health & Pregnancy

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Unmarried Births Rise in U.S, Europe

Iceland Tops List of 14 Countries in Births to Unmarried Women; U.S. Ranks 7th
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 13, 2009 -- Having a baby outside of marriage has become a lot more common in the U.S. in recent years, but it's even more common in other countries, according to the CDC.

A new CDC report, released today, tracks out-of-wedlock births in the U.S., 12 European countries, and Japan.

Here's how those countries ranked, along with their percentage of births to unmarried women in 2007 compared to 1980:

  1. Iceland: 66% in 2007, up from 40% in 1980
  2. Sweden: 55% in 2007, up from 40% in 1980
  3. Norway: 54% in 2007, up from 15% in 1980
  4. France: 50% in 2007, up from 11% in 1980
  5. Denmark: 46% in 2007, up from 33%
  6. U.K.: 44% in 2007, up from 12% in 1980
  7. U.S.: 40% in 2007, up from 18% in 1980
  8. Netherlands: 40% in 2007, up from 4% in 1980
  9. Ireland: 33% in 2007, up from 5% in 1980
  10. Germany: 30% in 2007, up from 12% in 1980
  11. Canada: 30% in 2007, up from 13% in 1980
  12. Spain: 28% in 2007, up from 4% in 1980
  13. Italy: 21% in 2007, up from 4% in 1980
  14. Japan: 2% in 2007, up from 1% in 1980

In the U.S., teen births used to account for most births to unmarried women. But that's changed. The CDC reports that 60% of unmarried U.S. women who had babies in 2007 were in their early 20s.

Many women who have babies outside of marriage do so as part of a couple; a 2002 CDC survey shows that about 40% of recent nonmarital U.S. births were to women living with their partner.

The CDC's report appears in the May 2009 edition of NCHS Data Brief, a publication of the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

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