One-in-four parents living with a child in the United States today are unmarried. Driven by declines in marriage overall, as well as increases in births outside of marriage, this marks a dramatic change from a half-century ago, when fewer than one-in-ten parents living with their children were unmarried (7%).
At the same time, the profile of unmarried parents has shifted markedly, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data.1 Solo mothers – those who are raising at least one child with no spouse or partner in the home – no longer dominate the ranks of unmarried parents as they once did. In 1968, 88% of unmarried parents fell into this category. By 1997 that share had dropped to 68%, and in 2017 the share of unmarried parents who were solo mothers declined to 53%. These declines in solo mothers have been entirely offset by increases in cohabitating parents: Now 35% of all unmarried parents are living with a partner.2 Meanwhile, the share of unmarried parents who are solo fathers has held steady at 12%.