OUR OPINION: Births to single women keep state No. 1

By NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi claimed a disturbing statistical top place with a handful of other states Wednesday when the U.S. Census Bureau released its latest measures of births to unmarried mothers, a virtually certain path to an at–risk childhood.
Nationwide, the Census found that about 60 percent of women ages 20–24 who have children are not married, and the poorer and less educated the woman the more likely she is to become a single mother.
Overall, 36 percent of all births in the United States were to unmarried mothers in 2011, the year that the census analyzed from answers provided in the American Community Survey.
The Census reported that the highest percentages of women with a birth in the last year who were unmarried are in statistically deadlocked District of Columbia (51 percent), Louisiana (49 percent), Mississippi (48 percent) and New Mexico (48 percent).
Mississippi’s poverty rate was among the highest (21.2 percent), while it had the lowest median income ($36,919) and one of the lowest percentages of women aged 15 to 50 with a bachelor’s degree or more (17.9 percent).
The information comes from a scholarly article, “Social and Economic Characteristics of Currently Unmarried Women with a Recent Birth: 2011,” an American Community Survey report.
The report shows that in Mississippi in 2011, 29.2 percent of white babies were born to single mothers and 68.2 percent of black children were born to single mothers.
In the details of the Census data statistics show why higher educational attainment is critical in maintaining family structure and quality of life: More than half (57 percent) of women with less than a high school diploma in 2011, who had given birth in the past year, were unmarried. In contrast, only 9 percent of recent mothers with a bachelor’s degree or higher were unmarried.
Income levels also showed similar differences: The share of unmarried women who gave birth ranged from 69 percent in households with incomes less than $10,000 per year, to 9 percent in households with annual income of $200,000 or more.
Census statisticians said that single motherhood, while on a steady uptick since the 1940s, has accelerated in recent years.
Mississippi claims it’s officially trying to lower the level of single–woman births, but its methods aren’t working.