Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Percentage of single mothers who have never married 11 times higher than in 1960

The Heritage Foundation reports.

Excerpt:

Forty-four percent of single mothers have never been married. This is 11 times the percent of never-married single mothers in 1960.

The Pew Research Center reports:

In 1960, of all single mothers, more than eight-in-ten (82%) were divorced, separated or widowed. An additional 14% were married, but their spouses were not living in the household. Only 4% of all single mothers had never been married.

The percent of unwed births also grew dramatically over the same period. Today, over 40 percent of all children are born to single women, compared with less than 10 percent in 1960.

Children raised in single-parent homes are much more likely to live in poverty or struggle with other problems that take a toll on their ability to thrive.

Of course, other trends such as a high divorce rate—although the divorce rate has declined since its peak in the 1980s—have implications for children’s and society’s well-being.

Today, less than half (46 percent) of American children who reach age 17 have been raised by their continuously married, biological parents. This is taking a toll. Children do best when raised by their married mother and father. They are at lower risk of engaging in substance abuse, delinquent behavior, and early sexual activity, and they are less likely to drop out of high school or suffer abuse.

Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute explains how welfare provides an incentive to women to have babies without getting married.

Cato Institute economist Dr. Michael Tanner explains:

At the same time, the evidence of a link between the availability of welfare and out-of-wedlock births is overwhelming. There have been 13 major studies of the relationship between the availability of welfare benefits and out-of-wedlock birth. Of these, 11 found a statistically significant correlation. Among the best of these studies is the work done by June O’Neill for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Holding constant a wide range of variables, including income, education, and urban vs. suburban setting, the study found that a 50 percent increase in the value of AFDC and foodstamp payments led to a 43 percent increase in the number of out-of-wedlock births.(7) Likewise, research by Shelley Lundberg and Robert Plotnick of the University of Washington showed that an increase in welfare benefits of $200 per month per family increased the rate of out-of-wedlock births among teenagers by 150 percent.(8)

The same results can be seen from welfare systems in other countries. For example, a recent study of the impact of Canada’s social-welfare system on family structure concluded that “providing additional benefits to single parents encourages births of children to unwed women.”(9)

Of course women do not get pregnant just to get welfare benefits. It is also true that a wide array of other social factors has contributed to the growth in out-of-wedlock births. But, by removing the economic consequences of a out-of-wedlock birth, welfare has removed a major incentive to avoid such pregnancies. A teenager looking around at her friends and neighbors is liable to see several who have given birth out of wedlock. When she sees that they have suffered few visible immediate consequences (the very real consequences of such behavior are often not immediately apparent), she is less inclined to modify her own behavior to prevent pregnancy.

Proof of this can be found in a study by Professor Ellen Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania, who surveyed black, never-pregnant females age 17 or younger. Only 40% of those surveyed said that they thought becoming pregnant in the next year “would make their situation worse.”(10) Likewise, a study by Professor Laurie Schwab Zabin for the Journal of Research on Adolescence found that: “in a sample of inner-city black teens presenting for pregnancy tests, we reported that more than 31 percent of those who elected to carry their pregnancy to term told us, before their pregnancy was diagnosed, that they believed a baby would present a problem…”(11) In other words, 69 percent either did not believe having a baby out-of-wedlock would present a problem or were unsure.

Until teenage girls, particularly those living in relative poverty, can be made to see real consequences from pregnancy, it will be impossible to gain control over the problem of out-of- wedlock births. By disguising those consequences, welfare makes it easier for these girls to make the decisions that will lead to unwed motherhood.

Current welfare policies seem to be designed with an appallingly lack of concern for their impact on out-of-wedlock births. Indeed, Medicaid programs in 11 states actually provide infertility treatments to single women on welfare.(12)

I should also point out that, once the child is born, welfare also appears to discourage the mother from marrying in the future. Research by Robert Hutchins of Cornell University shows that a 10 percent increase in AFDC benefits leads to an eight percent decrease in the marriage rate of single mothers.(13)

What is this story about welfare and single mothers doing in the 6 PM “Christian apologetics” time slot?

Well, it turns out that without a father in the home, children are far more likely to lose their faith.

Here is some statistical evidence that should have Christians everywhere concerned.

Excerpt:

In 1994 the Swiss carried out an extra survey that the researchers for our masters in Europe (I write from England) were happy to record. The question was asked to determine whether a person’s religion carried through to the next generation, and if so, why, or if not, why not. The result is dynamite. There is one critical factor. It is overwhelming, and it is this: It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.

If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church.

Let us look at the figures the other way round. What happens if the father is regular but the mother irregular or non-practicing? Extraordinarily, the percentage of children becoming regular goesupfrom 33 percent to 38 percent with the irregular mother and to 44 percent with the non-practicing, as if loyalty to father’s commitment grows in proportion to mother’s laxity, indifference, or hostility.

[…]In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.

A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up at church. In contrast, a non-practicing father with a regular mother will see two-thirds of his children never darken the church door. If his wife is similarly negligent that figure rises to 80 percent!

The results are shocking, but they should not be surprising. They are about as politically incorrect as it is possible to be; but they simply confirm what psychologists, criminologists, educationalists, and traditional Christians know. You cannot buck the biology of the created order. Father’s influence, from the determination of a child’s sex by the implantation of his seed to the funerary rites surrounding his passing, is out of all proportion to his allotted, and severely diminished role, in Western liberal society.

Here’s an interesting post about a new book by Mary Eberstadt which makes the same point with even more data.

Excerpt:

The French Revolution gave the West the first self-consciously secular government at the end of the 1700s, and one of its first revolutionary acts was to liberalize its marriage laws. But what people may not realize, was that France was the first country in Europe to experience a decline in fertility rates within marriage, and an increase in cohabitation and illegitimacy, decades before the French Revolution. In the early 1700s, over a half century before the Revolution, illegitimacy was only at 1%, but by the storming of the Bastille, which ushered in the Revolution, France’s illegitimacy rate had climbed to 20% overall, with a 30% rate in the boiling pot of Paris. The French Revolution’s successful attack on Christianity, and the consequent secularization of France, was, in part, the result of the prior erosion of the family.

We see the same pattern in the UK, argues Eberstadt. “In Britain…the decline in births started a century later [than in France] at the very height of Victorian England,…Bit by bit…the same family trends already established in France—fewer births, more divorces, more out-of-wedlock births—also began reshaping the world of Britain. By our own time, over half of all children in Britain are born to unmarried people, and the fertility rate stands at 1.91 children per woman.” Not surprisingly, Britain’s churches are, like those of France, largely empty.

In the Scandinavian countries, like Sweden, where marriage rates are lowest, and divorce, cohabitation, and single-family households, and out-of-wedlock births are the highest, we find the greatest degree of secularization.

The obvious lesson we must draw, says Eberstadt, is “Vibrant families and vibrant religion go hand in hand.”

I get annoyed when I hear people talk about how they are socially conservative, but not fiscally conservative. If you are socially conservative, and you believe in faith, marriage and family, then you need to think about what policies do to encourage people to either get married or not get married. Single mother welfare is nothing more than paying people to have children before they are married. Not only is it bad for them to be dependent on government, but that money has to come from somewhere else – probably from some hard-working man who is now taxed so much that his wife has to go to work to make ends meet, weakening the family and potentially exposing the child to more unfiltered influence from secular schools and secular culture. Think about fiscal policy, because it matters.

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2 Responses

  1. Doug says:

    Good post WK. The Bible does not agree with leftist social policy. It is interesting that getting free money is associated with troublemaking in the Bible. It is not just about wasting money but giving out free money creates trouble makers.

    “No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.”

  2. […] The decline continues. Related: % of never-married single mothers is 11x higher than in 1960. […]

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