Teen pregnancy doesn't shock most people. The Michigan League for Human Services recently released findings about unwed mothers that may be more startling, however. In Michigan, two-thirds of mothers in their early 20s are not married. Unwed mothers in their early 20s represent the largest percentage of out-of-wedlock births. 40 percent of births occur out of marriage.
The Detroit Free Press reported some other interesting statistics regarding Michigan pregnancy and birth rates recently too:
* The MLHS Kids Count study showed a 20 percent increase overall in out-of-wedlock births. In 2000, 34 percent of babies were born to unwed mothers. Now the figure is 40 to 41 percent. There are increasingly more single-parent fathers also.
* In 2009, unmarried women under age 25 accounted for 75 percent of all births.
* From 2000-2010, 80 percent of teen girls who got pregnant did not expect to do so, but the number of teens who had a second baby out-of-wedlock dropped to 13 percent.
* The greatest increase in unwed pregnancies was among white women, but only one out three white mothers are unwed compared to four out of five African-American women.
* Michigan is the only state to drop in population; the loss was entirely among the population of children.
* About half of all mothers in Michigan were eligible for Medicaid.
These trends mirror a larger nationwide trend to single-parenting. Divorce rates account for a portion of unwed parents, but these statistics point toward a growing trend to parenthood among never-been-married women.
What do the increasing number of births out of marriage represent? It means, essentially, that an increasingly larger population of women lack a support network. This is not to say that women, even young women, can't raise children alone. Many unmarried women can and do support their children very well. Some have parents and grandparents to help.
However, that is not the trend. MLHS director Jane Zehnder-Merrell said unmarried mothers are less likely to receive child support and more likely to struggle financially, reports Michigan Radio. It's difficult enough to raise a family with the mother and father both working. Even if one parent stays home to care for the children there are benefits to raising children as a couple rather than alone.
With only one income (or no income), it may be easier for an unwed mother to get public assistance than a married woman. Couples may choose not to marry in order to remain eligible for Medicaid, food stamps and FIA benefits. That's a sad commentary on marriage and an expensive burden on taxpayers.
Michigan is improving on its education of teenagers about sex and parenting. However, if twentysomething mothers are having children out of wedlock, Michigan needs to rethink how it addresses the needs of that population.
A life-long resident of Pure Michigan, Marilisa Kinney Sachteleben writes about people, places, issues and events in the Great Lakes State.