Table of Contents

Fertility Trends

In 2016 the U.S. fertility rate hit a record low,1) and remains below replacement level.2) Significant shifts in family formation have coincided with and contributed to changes in fertility trends in the United States. The rise in non-marital sexual intercourse, the contraceptive revolution, and decisions to postpone or altogether avoid marriage have resulted in fewer births per a woman and more childless women.3)

Fertility Trends

Marital Status

The share of never-married American adults remains at a historic high.4) Young adults are increasingly delaying or even foregoing marriage, frequently opting for cohabitation instead.5) Though births to unmarried women remains high–at 39.7 percent of all births in 20166)–marriage is the most stable and secure environment to have children.7)

Family Structure

Sexual Frequency

Americans had less frequent sexual intercourse in the 2010s than in the 1990s, according to data from the 1989-2014 General Social Survey.8) This overall decline in sexual frequency is largely a result of the decline in marriage, because married people tend to have sexual intercourse more frequently.9)

According to the National Health and Social Life Survey, those in always-intact marriages had the largest percentage of persons reporting that they “extremely” or “very” much enjoyed intercourse with their current sexual partner (88.4 percent). This enjoyment decreased in non-intact structures and among singles: 84.7 percent of those who were divorced and remarried; 72.4 percent of those who were divorced or separated; 64 percent of those who were always single report “extremely” or “very” much enjoying intercourse with their current sexual partner.10)

Enjoyment of Sexual Intercourse

Those in always-intact marriages were most likely to report feeling loved during intercourse (97.7 percent), according to the National Health and Social Life Survey. Feeling loved decreases among those in non-intact family structures and singles: 94.5 percent of those who were divorced and remarried reported feeling loved during intercourse; 75.1 percent of those who were divorced or separated reported feeling loved; and 64.8 percent of those who were always single reported feeling loved during intercourse.11)

Feels Loved During Sexual Intercourse

1) Hamilton, B. E., J. A. Martin, M. J. K. Osterman, A. K. Driscoll, and L. M. Roseen, “Births: Provisional Data for 2016,” Vital Statistics Rapid Release; No 2, In National Center for Health Statistics, 2017. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsrr/report002.pdf.
2) National Center for Health Statistics, Vital statistics of the United States, 2003, Volume I, Natality, Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/vsus/vsus_1980_2003.htm.
3) Keim, Sylvia, “Social Networks and Family Formation Processes” Social Networks and Family Formation Processes (2011).
4) Pew Research Center, “Record Share of Americans Have Never Married” (September 2014), available at http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/09/24/record-share-of-americans-have-never-married/.
5) Pew Research Center, “Number of U.S. Adults Cohabiting with a Partner Continues to Rise, Especially Among those 50 and Older” (April 2017), available at http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/06/number-of-u-s-adults-cohabiting-with-a-partner-continues-to-rise-especially-among-those-50-and-older/.
6) Martin JA, Hamilton BE, Osterman MJK, et al, “Births: Final Data for 2015”, National Vital Statistics Reports Vol 66 No 1, National Center for Health Statistics (2017), Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr66/nvsr66_01.pdf.
7) DeRose, Laurie, Mark Lyons-Amos, W. Bradford Wilcox, and Gloria Huarcaya, “The Cohabitation-Go-Round: Cohabitation and Family Instability Across the Globe,”Social Trends Institute (2017), available at http://worldfamilymap.ifstudies.org/2017/files/WFM-2017-FullReport.pdf.
8) Twenge, Jean M., Ryne A. Sherman, and Brooke E. Wells, “Declines in Sexual Frequency among American Adults, 1989–2014,” Archives of Sexual Behavior (2017): 1-13.
9) Michael, R. T., Gagnon, J. H., Laumann, E. O., & Kolata, G, Sex in America: A Definitive Survey, New York: Little, Brown (1994). Twenge, Jean M., Ryne A. Sherman, and Brooke E. Wells, “Declines in Sexual Frequency among American Adults, 1989–2014,” Archives of Sexual Behavior (2017): 1-13.
10) Patrick F. Fagan and Althea Nagai, “Enjoyment of Sexual Intercourse”, Marriage and Religion Research Institute, available at http://marri.us/wp-content/uploads/MA-124.pdf.
11) Patrick F. Fagan and Althea Nagai, “Feels Loved During Sexual Intercourse”, Marriage and Religion Research Institute, available at http://marri.us/wp-content/uploads/MA-125.pdf.