This study involves 775 cases of New Jersey residents who had planned out-of-hospital births during the years 1978-1980. Birth certificate data were analyzed and compared to New Jersey statewide birth data for the same time period. The women who chose a planned out-of-hospital birth were more likely than the total resident population to be older, married, better-educated and having their second baby. Reasons for selecting alternatives to physician in-hospital delivery were the desire to be attended by a midwife, to have the family present, to be part of the decision-making process, and faith in the birth process as being in line with nature. The out-of-hospital birth phenomenon was diffuse throughout the state, with more births attended by midwives than physicians and more births at home rather than at birthing centers. This study provides a basis for comparison of specific choices, providers and clientelle involved in the birth alternative movement, and lays the groundwork for investigating long term changes in the demand for birthing services in New Jersey.