Newswise — BOWLING GREEN, O.—More women are waiting to get married, but choosing not to wait to have children. That’s the conclusion in a new profile from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) at Bowling Green State University. Researchers looked at data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics to investigate the trends in a woman’s average age at first marriage and first birth since 1980.

Between 1980 and 2011, the average age of a woman when she got married rose 21 percent, from 22 to 26.5 years old. In 2011, women over 26 years old accounted for half of all first marriages.

When it comes to having children, between 1980 and 2009 the average age at first birth went up from 22.6 to 25 years old, an 11 percent increase. One-half of women who became mothers in 2009 gave birth by age 25.

In the 1980s, more women on average were getting married before having children. In the years that followed, the gap narrowed as the median age at first marriage climbed rapidly, while the median age at first birth started to plateau. “Young adults are delaying marriage, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t having children,” says Dr. Susan L. Brown, co-director of the NCFMR.

Since 1991, more women have had their first child before they’ve gotten married. “This is clear evidence that marriage and childbearing are decoupled. Women don’t need to get married to have a child,” Brown notes. In fact, in 2010, more than 40 percent of births were to unmarried women.

Click here to access the profile.