A new government report shows that the percentage of children born to unmarried or cohabitating couples is rising.
About 27 percent of all first births from 2003 to 2010 were to unmarried couples compared to about a third less at 9.4 percent before 1985.
The latest statistics from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 22 percent of women gave birth to their first child were cohabiting with their partner, compared to 12 percent in 2002.
The government study, based on interviews with more than 22,000 men and women in the U.S. from 2006 to 2010, found that half of all babies were born out of wedlock to cohabitating couples.
Births out of marriage have also steadily increased from 2002. Currently 46 percent of first births to mothers aged 15 to 44 occur out of wedlock compared to 38 percent in 2002.
Parental living arrangement strongly associated with the likelihood of having a premarital first birth for both men and women.
The study reported that women who lived with both parents when they were 14 were 20 percent less likely to have a premarital first birth and 34 percent those with other living arrangements had a first birth out of wedlock. Thirty-five percent of men who had lived with both parents at age 14 had a premarital first birth compared to 55 percent of men who had other living arrangements.
The report also associated race to premarital births and cohabitation.
About 49 percent of premarital first births were from black women, 34 percent from Hispanic women compared to 17 percent from white women and 6.4 percent from Asian women.
However, Hispanics were most likely to have first births within cohabitating unions, compared to any other race. About 39 percent of all first births to Hispanic men and about 30 percent of births to Hispanic women occurred within couples living together.
While 80 percent of first births to black women and 73 percent of first births were likely to be premarital, a significantly lower proportion of black women had a recent birth occurring in a cohabitating relationship, with about 24 percent occurring in couples cohabitating relationships and 46 percent in non-cohabitating relationships.
Men and women with lower income were also significantly more likely than those with higher incomes to have had a premarital first birth. About 64 percent of women currently living 150 percent below the poverty level had a premarital first birth compared with only about 21 percent of those currently living with a household income of 300 percent above the poverty level.
Women who were better educated and whose first sexual intercourse occurred when they were older were less likely to have a premarital birth.
The CDC said that the increase in premarital birth is a public health concern because a large percentage of births outside of wedlock are not planned and "children born outside of a marital union experience more family transitions, less stability, and may have fewer resources," the report said.
Between 1999 and 2002, 77 percent of marital births were planned, compared to only 35 percent of premarital births, according to the report, and unplanned births negatively affects mothers and their children.