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Utah's rate of births to unwed moms lowest in U.S.

Published November 4, 2010 9:18 pm

Census report • Meanwhile, state's fertility numbers lead the nation.
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While a new census report says that nearly one in every three American women who now give birth isn't married, Utah is far different.

Only one of every eight Utah women having babies is unmarried — the lowest rate in the nation.



"The Mormon culture explains most of that," said University of Utah research economist Pam Perlich.

The data come from Fertility of American Women: 2008, issued Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The report, published every other year, uses data from two national surveys by the Census Bureau and looks at the period between June 2007 and June 2008.

For the first time, the Census Bureau asked unmarried mothers if they were cohabiting with a partner, and it found that 28 percent were. It didn't release information regarding cohabitation on a state-by-state basis, however.

"The report shows that many unmarried, new moms are not raising their child alone," said Jane Dye, author of the new report.

It said that, nationally, 29.7 of women who gave birth in 2008 weren't married. (That included women who were separated or married with an absent spouse.) In Utah, however, only 12.3 percent weren't married.

"We are the most married state in the nation," Perlich said. "We marry earlier, tend to stay married, have kids earlier and have more of them."

She said that is due to the influence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which preaches abstinence before marriage, teaches that children should be raised by married parents and puts a high value on married family life.

Asked for comment, a church spokesman referred The Salt Lake Tribune to its statement The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

That says, in part: "The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity."

"The Mormon culture puts a high value on children, and in having a lot of them," Perlich said. "Notwithstanding that a lot of non-Mormons are moving to the area, the Mormon culture still prevails."

A contributing factor besides Mormonism, Perlich said, is that Utah has fewer people from races and cultures that tend to have high rates of unwed mothers nationally.

Perlich said the Mormon culture, with its high value on children, also explains, as indicated by the report, why Utah had the highest reported fertility rate in the nation in 2007-08.

The birthrate per 1,000 women of childbearing age in Utah was 81.8 children — 40 percent higher than the national average of 58.4.

Among other data in the report, Utah had a lower-than-average number of new mothers who aren't U.S. citizens. Only 9.5 percent of Utah women giving birth in the study period weren't citizens, compared with a national average of 14.8 percent.

Utah also had the third-lowest rate of women who gave birth who were living in poverty: 15.2 percent, compared with a national average of 24.8 percent.

In another measure of financial stress, Utah also had the third-lowest rate of new mothers seeking jobs but who were unemployed: 3 percent, compared with a national average of 6.2 percent.

Utah was about average in how many women who gave birth had at least a bachelor's degree: 26.9 percent, compared with a national average of 27.3 percent. —

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