Think of it as a new "normal" in American family life.
After creeping slowly and steadily upward most of the last 50 years, the number of babies born to young unmarried women quietly crossed a troubling threshold in 2006.
For the first time in a half-century of record-keeping, a majority of babies born to women younger than 30 were out of wedlock.
That year, women such as Sara Bell of Lexington, Mo., delivered 50.4 percent of the children born to those under 30, according to Andrew Sum, an economist at Northeastern University in Boston.
Last week, the nation got a reminder that unwed pregnancies can happen anywhere when Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin announced that her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, was five months pregnant. The family said Bristol will keep the baby and marry the baby’s father.
Bell, now 24 and newly married, bore her first child when she was 19 and single. That baby died a day later, and Bell went on to give birth to two more children, with different fathers.
As a college student, she was burdened with homework as well as the draining work of caring for two children. She remembers the thought that danced through her mind during moments of exhaustion.
"There were times when I was like, 'This is why people marry when they have a kid!' "
Bell had a great deal of help from her mother and relatives. In June, she tied the knot, shifting her single-mother status to married with children, solidly middle class with two paychecks.
Read the complete story at kansascity.com