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A new study shows a rise in the portion of births to cohabiting couples in relation to all births to unmarried women. / Banana Stock

Nearly three in five births to unmarried women across the USA were to women living with their partner - marking the first time a majority of these births were to women in cohabiting relationships, according to a new analysis of federal data released Wednesday.

The increase was sharp; the percentage of non-marital births within cohabiting relationships rose to 58% from 41% in just a few years, says the report, based on various data sources from the National Center for Health Statistics, collected between 2002 and 2013, the most recent available.

"What's happened is the percent of non-marital births within cohabiting unions has been increasing, but now it's increased to the point where the majority of non-marital births are to women that are cohabiting," says Sally Curtin, the report's co-author.

While the births in cohabiting relationships increased, the number, rate and percentage of births to unmarried women overall declined during the same period.

In 2013, the 1,605,643 births to unmarried women was the lowest since 2005. The birth rate for unmarried women has steadily declined. The peak was 2007??08 with 51.8 births per 1,000 women compared with 44.8 per 1,000 last year. That 14% decline was the steepest ever, the report says. And, the percentage of births to unmarried women declined slightly, to 40.6% in 2013 from 40.7% the two previous year.

The new report reflects what demographer Sam Sturgeon, of Taylorsville, Utah, has seen in his data analysis as president of Demographic Intelligence, a for-profit company that provides fertility forecasts for consumer products.

Sturgeon predicts the rate of non-marital childbearing has stabilized to the point it will remain flat through 2016, marking an about-face from the increases seen for decades. His latest projections, provided exclusively to USA TODAY, suggest that the year-over-year increases in the percentage of children born to unmarried parents has slowed. He estimates that by 2016 births overall will increase for all groups of women, except teens.

"The post-recession birth decline is over," he says. "We are predicting that births will trend up among every group except teenagers in the next few years."

The birth data for unmarried women is the latest in a series of new data reflecting a leveling of once-rapidly-increasing changes in how families are created, Sturgeon says.

"A lot of family-related statistics have started to level out," he says. "The marriage rate was declining for years pretty consistently and now it seems to have leveled out. The divorce rate was going up and seems to have leveled out. The number of children growing up with two married parents declined for many years but also seems to have flattened out. We've seen kind of a stabilization of family in America."



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Baby makes three: More unmarried new moms cohabiting

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