- Oregonians flee in face of fast-moving wildfire as homes go up in blaze
- Eric Holder: ‘Racial animus’ fuels opposition to Obama and me
- Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to return to active duty at Fort Sam Houston
- Israel says it’s downed drone along southern coast
- Despite offensive, Gaza rockets still hit Israel
- Extra-time goal gives Germany World Cup title over Argentina
- Strong quake hits Japan, triggering tsunami
- Sniper heaven: Pentagon’s self-guided bullets leave enemies nowhere to hide
- Violent gang taking advantage of immigration crisis, using border as recruiting hub
- Medicaid enrollment continues to soar under Obamacare, administration says
WETZSTEIN: Are unwed birthrates a ‘tipping point’?
Question of the Day
“You’re fine” are two of the best words a doctor can say at the end of a visit. The words don’t necessarily mean he has fixed what ails us, but they reassure us that at least whatever we have isn’t getting worse. The American family gets its temperature taken too, and while it doesn’t have a clean bill of health, it recently was pronounced “stable.” An obvious question is how long will the stability last?
What if the answer is “12 more years”?
The national assessment I am referring to is in the Census Bureau’s “Living Arrangements of Children: 2004” report, released in February.
Family trends are “for the most part … pretty level,” bureau analyst Rose M. Kreider told me. The report shows that most of America’s 73 million children live in married dad-and-mom families, just as they always have.
In other words, the American family upheavals of the 1970s and 1980s have genuinely ended. The nation’s families sorted themselves out in the 1990s and have been maintaining those patterns ever since.
One truly ominous change was seen last year, when, for the third year in a row, the number of out of wedlock births jumped more than a percentage point, to 38.5 percent.
At this rate, it will take just 12 years - when our 2006 babies are entering middle school - for fully half of all U.S. babies to be born to single mothers.
If there is such a thing as a cultural tipping point, this ought to be one.
Certainly this is old news for some of our population segments: 70 percent of black children and 64 percent of American Indian children, for instance, already are born to unmarried couples. What will happen when larger portions of white (now 25 percent unwed) and Hispanic (48 percent unwed) babies are added to the living-with-mother-only category?
In 1993, American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray antagonized untold numbers of intellectuals and activists when he called unwed childbearing a “social catastrophe.”
“Throughout human history, a single woman with a small child has not been a viable economic unit,” Mr. Murray said in the Wall Street Journal.
In small numbers, single-mother families are “a net drain on the community’s resources” he wrote. “In large numbers, they must destroy the community’s capacity to sustain itself.”
Mr. Murray, whom I once saw publicly booed for saying these things, blamed the welfare system. Uncle Sam’s benefits, he said, were only available to single, unemployed mothers, so it was rational for some women to forgo a husband and a job, if they became pregnant.
In 1996, Congress reformed the welfare system in three key ways: Mothers had to work for benefits, federal welfare checks stopped after five years, and men had to reconnect to their children, preferably through “responsible fatherhood” work-training programs, but if necessary through child-support enforcement.
Abstinence education, aimed at encouraging all youth, rich and poor, to delay baby-making activities until marriage, also was part of welfare reform, while “healthy” marriage and relationship education emerged as a late-blooming policy. Not uncoincidentally, the unwed birthrate locked in at about 33 percent for several years.
About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.
Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...
- Denver lawsuit accuses abortion clinic of not reporting rape of 13-year-old
- Fewer abortion clinics in minority communities: study
- Census: More first-time mothers give birth out of wedlock
- Activists sue to block New Hampshire abortion 'buffer zone' law
- Pace of state laws against abortion slows in 2014
Latest Blog Entries
- Gay therapy ban author seeks Calif. House seat
- Transgender 'bathroom law' gets 5,000 more signatures
- Pro-life, stem-cell bill signed into law by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback
- N. Dakota lawmakers approve tough abortion bill
- Pope Benedict XVI's successor should allow priests to get a new title: Husband, poll finds
By Robert N. Tracci
Congress must use its appropriations power to secure the border
- DOJ investigates Nebraska parade float critical of Obama
- Agency scrubs Malia Obama photos at White House's request: report
- A 'new Cold War': China's top paper warns of 'slippery slope' towards conflict with U.S.
- Violent gang MS-13 taking advantage of immigration crisis, using border as recruiting hub
- Emeryville, Calif., police chief: Guns aren't for defense
- Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi formerly a U.S. captive
- KUHNER: Will Russia-Ukraine be Europe's next war?
- Germany wins World Cup title on Mario Goetze goal in extra time
- Obama's 'blank check' rejected as border solution
- New York City creates ID card so 500K illegal immigrants can get services
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq
World Cup's sexiest WAGs