WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Unmarried couples who live together are increasingly likely to have children, with the rate nearly doubling since 2002, according to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Twenty-two percent of first births from 2006 to 2010 were to women in a cohabiting couple, up from 12 percent in 2002, the study by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics said.
The increase came even as the picture for U.S. births and parenthood remained largely unchanged from the 2002 data, the report said.
Gladys Martinez, the study's lead author, said a reason for the greater number of children born to unmarried couples was the rising number of men and women living together.
"More people are cohabiting. It's more likely that they are going to have children when in cohabiting unions," she told Reuters.
The increase is important because children born out of wedlock generally suffer more instability and grow up with fewer resources.
Martinez said that research has also shown that children born to a woman living with a partner tended to have more resources and stability than those born to a single woman.
The percentage of mothers who gave birth while living with a male partner rose to 30 percent in 2006 to 2010 from 17 percent in 2002.
Hispanics have the highest rate of births within a cohabiting union, at 35 percent, followed by blacks at 24 percent, the study showed. Whites were at 19 percent and Asians at 8 percent.
The 2006-2010 survey was based on interviews with 10,403 men and 12,279 women aged 15 to 44.
Reporting By Ian Simpson; Editing by Philip Barbara