WASHINGTON -- With the debate over reducing the country's welfare rolls focusing renewed attention on the rising birthrate among unwed women, the Census Bureau reports that such births soared by more than 70 percent from 1983 to 1993.
According to figures released by the bureau yesterday, 6.3 million children, or 27 percent of all children under the age of 18, lived in 1993 with a single parent who had never married, up from 3.7 million in 1983.
The report showed that the annual increase in the number of children born out of wedlock slowed in the 1980s, but it also documented the sharp rise in these kinds of births over the past three decades. About 243,000 children lived with one parent who had never married in 1960, but by last year that number had climbed to 6.3 million.
"It's astonishing," said Kristin Moore, director of Child Trends, a Washington-based research organization that studies adolescent pregnancy. "It's really a substantial social change, and it's happened really fast."
The figures are compiled in an annual report by the Census Bureau titled "Marital Status and Living Arrangements."
The report demonstrated the extent to which blacks are affected by the changes that are eroding the traditional family structure. According to the report, 57 percent of black children are living with one parent who has never married, compared with 21 percent of white children and 32 percent of Hispanic children.
The phenomenon of out-of-wedlock births has been cited as a factor in a host of social problems, including increased crime, drug abuse, welfare dependency and poor educational attainment.
Indeed, the bureau's report presented stark evidence of the socio-economic disadvantages confronted by children living in one-parent households, as against those in two-parent families.
According to the Census Bureau, 10.6 percent of children living in two-parent families were living below the poverty line. But 38.4 percent of children living with divorced mothers and 66.3 percent of those living with mothers who had never married were living below the poverty line.