NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 4, 2006

The latest data on unwed motherhood -- from a tabulation of official birth records throughout the United States by the National Center for Health Statistics -- are mostly grim, says the Wall Street Journal.


  • In 2005, births to teenage girls continued a decline underway since the early 1990s (although half of all first babies born out of wedlock still are borne by teens).
  • Yet after a few years of leveling off, the birthrate among unmarried mothers 20 and older has begun climbing again, especially among Hispanics.

Experts who have looked closely at the phenomenon have hardly anything positive to say.  Past research indicates that the bulk of unwed births are to young women, typically in their 20s, who are not college-educated and are not prospering.  There's also a mountain of evidence to suggest that children raised by such single mothers are at an increased risk for virtually every social problem -- poverty, crime, drug-use, etc. -- including single parenthood.

In her new book, "Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age," the Manhattan's Institute's Kay Hymowitz documents how, by refusing to emphasize the link between marriage and successful child raising, "we have created a new demographic, which is the poor, working, single mother."

Hymowitz doesn't advocate trying to revive stigma.  There's a better, more positive way. "We haven't appealed to people's rational self-interest," she says.  "They don't know that they're . . . limiting the prosperity of their children's future."  To withhold information from young women and men about the benefits of raising children in a marriage, she says, amounts to writing the young adults off: "To me, what you are doing is saying to those people that they cannot reach their potential.  It's cynical."

Source: Editorial, "Single Mothers, Many Problems," Wall Street Journal, December 1, 2006

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