What has been the recent trend in illegitimacy in the United States? The answer depends on what is being measured. If the focus is on illegitimacy rates, then the trend is mixed. Illegitimacy ratios, however, have been skyrocketing. We show that this is primarily the result of declining nuptiaIity (and rising marital dissolution) and secondarily the result of decreases in marital fertility. We argue that the illegitimacy ratio is the better index of the social consequences of out-of-wedlock childbearing and that the high ratios of recent decades are unlikely to abate in the foreseeable future.

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