By Janice Shaw Crouse
The issue of "who's minding the kids" is now taking back seat to "who is having the kids." The just-released Census Bureau Report, "Social and Economic Characteristics of Currently Unmarried Women With a Recent Birth, 2011," (SECCUM) describes for the first time the demographic details of non-marital childbearing -- and it is not a pretty picture. The report reveals dramatic increases in non-marital births and is the first Census Bureau report showing the relationship of non-marital births to geographic variations and educational attainment. It is depressing yet unsurprising that with median age of women at first marriage approaching 27 years of age, 62 percent of women ages 20-24 who gave birth in 2011 were unmarried. Among new moms ages 25-29, 32 percent are unmarried, with 17 percent of those in their late 30s not married. The steady increase in non-marital births, as well as the marked increases in recent years, have been noted by social scientists, but largely ignored by the general public.
Likewise, social scientists have noted the significant demographic divides related to fatherless families -- huge education, economic, racial, and geographical divides -- and a mountain of data has accumulated over the past decade documenting these facts; I have reported extensively on these problems in my columns and in my book, Children at Risk: The Precarious State of Children's Well-Being in America (Transaction Publishers, 2010). The prevalence of the problem and the demographic divides are there for anyone to see who ventures out in public or talks to public school teachers, or sadly, to law enforcement officers or social workers.
We can no longer ignore the costly effects to both the children involved and societies at large of the increases in non-marital households simply because the political correctness police make it uncomfortable to address these facts; too much is at stake for the nation's children. The single biggest factor related to a child's well-being is having a married couple mom-and-dad family. It is long past time to stop ignoring the clear implications of the growing body of empirical research showing the critical importance of married moms and dads to children's development and well-being; nor can we continue to give a polite nod to the ludicrous claim that all family structures are the same. As the SECCUM report shows more than half of unmarried mothers lack a high school diploma (57 percent) as compared with only 9 percent of college graduates who are unmarried mothers. Further, the report reveals nearly 70 percent of unmarried mothers earn less than $10,000 (which put them well below the poverty level and dependent upon welfare to survive). In short, the cold, hard fact is that unmarried mothers are less educated, have lower incomes, are predominantly black and Hispanic, and are located in poorer states or inner cities.
The public costs of single motherhood -- over $112 billion annually -- were exposed earlier this year by the Institute for American Values in their report, "The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing." In addition to the harm to individual children's well-being, there are the staggering social costs of their dysfunctional propensities that weigh down the effectiveness of public education and fill up correctional and penal institutions. In the end, it is the taxpayers who are paying through the nose for divorce and non-marital births. The rate of poverty for unmarried mothers is 5 times higher than for married couple families; poverty and fatherless families are inextricably linked. Social scientists across the political and ideological spectrum have documented with reams of data and evidence that kids need a married mom and dad. For decades, liberals, progressives, feminists and welfare advocates have tried to get to the bottom of the problems associated by the triad of out-of-wedlock childbearing, single motherhood, and child poverty. Heretofore, the solutions have been abortion and increased welfare dependency. I don't need to ask, "How is that working for us?" The answer is obvious to anyone who will face the realities that are evident should one take a risky drive into certain neighborhoods of our cities or choose the safer route of reading about the dramatic increases in non-marital births documented in the SECCUM report.
The nation's founding fathers first instituted a national census so that the nation could "mark the progress of society." They would roll over in their graves to see that the nation they founded with great hope and based on principles of personal and civic responsibility, instead of progressing, has instead become mired in reckless self-indulgence and thus regressed in terms of people's well being. We have spent hundreds of billions of dollars over the past four decades trying to alleviate the consequences of poor and irresponsible choices only to reap a harvest of greater dependency than ever before and several generations of children at risk for all the negative outcomes that parents hope to avoid (truancy, delinquency, substance abuse, etc). It is not merely the demographics of non-marital child bearing that need to be publicized but an honest, extensive reporting of the damages as well.
When the sum total of our morality, both personal and public, consists of not being judgmental, we should not be surprised to find that there is little will to be concerned with more than the pursuit of whatever brings a moment of pleasure today with no regard for the effects this will have for anyone's well-being