(HealthDay News) — Fewer unmarried American men are becoming first-time fathers, according to a June data brief published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

To gain insight into fatherhood trends over the last 30 years, Gladys Martinez, PhD, of the NCHS in Hyattsville, MD, examined information collected by the National Survey of Family Growth in three time frames: 1980–1989, 1990–1999 and 2000–2009. Surveys involved interviews with men and women between the ages of 15–44.

Thirty-six percent of first-time fathers younger than 44 had a child out of wedlock during the first decade of the 2000s. In the 1980s, Martinez told HealthDay, 42% of first-time fathers were unmarried, as were 40% in the 1990s. Besides the decline in unmarried first-time fathers over the three decades, the report noted more first births in cohabiting relationships: 24% in the 2000s, up from 19% in the 1980s.

While no notable drop was seen among unmarried white or Hispanic fathers, the percentage of unmarried black men having children for the first time dropped from 77% during the 1980s to 66% during the 2000s. First births for black fathers in cohabiting relationships also became more common over time, increasing from 23% to nearly one-third. In the 2000s, unmarried men with a first birth were less likely to be black (21%) than Hispanic (33%) or white (39%). The survey also showed that fathers in the 2000s who did have a first child outside of marriage tended to be older than their peers during the 1980s and 1990s.

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