SD has high rate of births outside wedlock
SIOUX FALLS (AP) -- Declines in abortion and marriage rates in South Dakota may have contributed to high rate of babies being born to unwed women in the state, officials say.
New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that 37.4 percent of South Dakota births in 2011 were outside wedlock -- the 19th-highest rate in the nation.
The rate of U.S. births to unmarried women has been climbing since the 1940s and accelerating in recent years, reflecting changing norms regarding sexual behavior and the formation of families, said the report's authors, Rachel Shattuck and Rose Kreider.
"The increase in non-marital fertility may be due to both an increase in pregnancies conceived outside of marriage and to a decrease in marriage rates overall," they wrote.
South Dakota's marriage rate dropped from 9.1 per 1,000 residents to 7.5 per 1,000 between 2000 and 2011, according to the state Department of Health.
"I can't say I feel good about it," said Anne Hajek, a state legislator from Sioux Falls and a former Minnehaha County commissioner.
During her work with the county, Hajek became well acquainted with the process of single parents seeking public assistance, the Argus Leader newspaper reported.
"Who pays the bill?" she said. "We will care for those who can't care for themselves. They need it and have to have it."
Another factor contributing to South Dakota's high rate of births outside of marriage could be the state's abortion rate, which is less than half what it was in the 1980s, said Linda Schauer, state director for the group Concerned Women of America.
"It appears that perhaps a woman in South Dakota in an unplanned pregnancy is more likely to give birth and raise her own child," Schauer said.
Schauer said her group believes that it is best for a baby to be born into a family with a married mother and father. But Julie Garreau, executive director of the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte, but that fewer people are getting married. She said unwed couples can still be committed to one another.
"When you look at divorce rates, maybe this works better for people," she said.
"The world has changed a lot in the last 30 to 40 years," Hajek said. "Some people just don't believe in the contractual element of marriage. Who am I to say? But make sure they take care of the kids."