Out-of-Wedlock Births Tripled in Alabama Since 1960

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A new study shows that the percentage of children born to unmarried women in Alabama has tripled since 1960.

The report by Auburn Montgomery's Center for Demographic Research showed an estimated 36.8 percent of Alabama children were born to unmarried women in 2006, compared to 11.6 percent in 1960.

The report, called the 2008 Alabama Health Data Sheet, said the highest rate of out-of-wedlock births was in Wilcox County, with nearly 72.9 percent born to unwed mothers. Dallas County was second at nearly 70.9 percent.

Shelby County had the lowest rate at 11.9 percent, with Blount County second at 17.2 percent. The state is below the national rate of 38.5 percent. AUM's Center for Demographic Research cites the decline in marriage rates in Alabama over the last decade as a major contributing factor.

Despite the increase in out-of-wedlock births, Alabamians have fewer children today than they did a decade ago, the report released Friday said. In 1996, there were 14.6 births per 1,000 people in the state; the figure is now 13.7 per 1,000, which is below the national estimate of 14.2 per 1,000.

The report also shows that many Alabama children are born with low weight and that the situation hasn't improved much in the last decade. About 11 out of 100 babies born in Alabama in 2006 were classified as low-weight births, compared to 9 out of 100 in 1996. "Many women in Alabama do not receive adequate prenatal care," research center director Yanyi Djamba said. "The lack of adequate prenatal care can have serious health consequences for the mother and the child."

The data sheet also shows some good news and improvement. Mortality has declined and there are some indications that the divorce rate will continue to fall.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)