According to a new study by Child Trends, more than half of the births to American women under the age of 30 occur to non-married women. While out-of-wedlock births used to pertain to mostly to minority and/or poor women, the study found that white women in their 20s are leading the trend.

While the overall amount of births of women of all ages occur to married women (59 percent), the growing numbers of children born to unmarried women could soon hint at a large cultural shift: marriage is no longer seen as that important.

The New York Times reports:

Among mothers of all ages, a majority — 59 percent in 2009 — are married when they have children. But the surge of births outside marriage among younger women — nearly two-thirds of children in the United States are born to mothers under 30 — is both a symbol of the transforming family and a hint of coming generational change.

One group still largely resists the trend: college graduates, who overwhelmingly marry before having children. That is turning family structure into a new class divide, with the economic and social rewards of marriage increasingly reserved for people with the most education.

“Marriage has become a luxury good,” said Frank Furstenberg, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Racial disparities in the out-of-wedlock birthrate still remain (73 percent of black children, 53 percent of Latinos and 29 percent of white children are born to unwed mothers), but the growing trend of non-marital births occur to couples who are living together. However, unlike in other countries where unmarried couples stay together for longer periods of time, here in the U.S. most couples who have children without being married break up before the child turns 10.

Researchers across the board agree that a two parent household is best for children, but increasingly people seem to be waiting longer and longer to get married, and some say this shift suggests that “marriage is not as fundamental to society” as it once was.

While it remains to be seen how the devaluation of marriage will affect our culture as a whole, it’s hard to ignore the fact that a growing number of people are creating the life they want outside of what’s seen as “traditional” and “acceptable.”

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