Women having babies single.

According to this study, teenage pregnancy has gone done by 50% in the the last 25 years, but women in their 20′s seem to be giving birth out of wedlock more frequently. Perhaps the oppressive nature of being in wedlock for many women is losing its appeal.
A record number of babies — nearly 1.5 million — were born to unmarried women in the U.S. last year. And those moms were more likely to be 20-somethings than teenagers, according to new federal data released Friday.
The data show that 35.7% of all births were to unmarried women. Births last year to both married and unwed mothers totalled more than 4 million.
By age group, almost 55% of the births for mothers ages 20-24 were to unmarried women. For those between 25-29, almost 28% of the births were to single women.
Teenagers, who accounted for 50% of unwed births in 1970, accounted for 24% of unwed births in 2004.

One researcher found this to be a troubling trend because many of these women have low income status. This is a really complicated issue, because financial obstacles to single parenting are real. But, I also think many women are realizing that the dream of happy white picket fence does not exist except for a select few groups of people, so it is not worth waiting for it.
This last year three of my closest friends had babies and none of them were married, all in their mid-20′s and none of them rich, and they are totally happy raising the child on its own.

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23 Comments

  1. Josh Jasper
    Posted October 30, 2005 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I can’t see this as a good thing. While I was raised by a single mother, and I think she did a damn good job, I know both of our lives would have been easier and better if there had been more than one adult in my life. I’m not saying it’s horrible, or that the women getting pregnant and becoming single mothers are bad people, but I still think it’s better for a kid to have two parents or caretakers.
    It would be interesting to know how many of these single mothers are living with an extended family. If they are, that’s a better sitiation for the children.

  2. Posted October 30, 2005 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    This time I agree with Josh – I too don’t see this as a good thing. However, the article also states:

    “One thing you don’t know from these data is whether the births are to lone women or to a cohabiting women,” he says.
    Studies have shown cohabitating relationships are less stable and about half break up within five years. But cohabiting couples are more likely to provide a healthier environment for children than a single woman alone, the experts say.

    I’m sure that there must be a sizable fraction of these women who are co-habiting and thus mitigating the damage they are doing to their children.
    There are no psychometric or economic variables for children which improve when they are raised by single parents rather than in a two-parent family.
    In this respect the conservatives are on the right side of the issue. Social programs which undermine the strength of the family have disasterous effects on children. The weakening of marriage as an institution does have real world consequences. When feminists see single mothers struggling they often call for social programs to be instituted to help ameliorate the hardships and by doing so they further weaken the strengths of marriage and feed into the negative feedback cycle.
    To expect marriage to be blissful and personaly enriching is to hold out for a lot, and to not delay childbirth while waiting for the right romantic situation to develop means that the mothers are placing their own fantasies above the welfare of their children.
    If feminists want to reform our culture they should start with reforming marriage and not by doing away with it, for the alternative is producing sub-optimal outcomes for the children.

  3. Josh Jasper
    Posted October 30, 2005 at 4:56 pm | Permalink
  4. Posted October 30, 2005 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Josh,
    Instead of proclaiming your ignorance far and wide, if you take issue with my comment, why don’t you address the specifics of what I wrote?

  5. Josh Jasper
    Posted October 30, 2005 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I’ve already heard what you have to say from others just like you. You’ll parrot some right wing Rush Limbaughesque screedI’ve heard it all already. I’ve heard all of the arguments against public assistance I care to hear. I have no interest in hearing them again.

  6. Posted October 30, 2005 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Wouldn’t it just be more parsimonious to admit that you don’t have anything substantive to say on this issue and that you need to rely on platitudes and ideologically derived talking points that don’t tax your mental facilities.
    Besides, I’ve never once in my life listened to Rush Limbaugh and I’m not a Republican (having voted for Kerry) so your deflections have little effect.

  7. Posted October 30, 2005 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    Here is another recent study:

    Women who have children outside of marriage are less likely than other single women to marry, and when they do marry, their husbands tend to be less well-matched, according to a new study.
    The results show that the odds that unwed mothers marry rather than cohabit are about 30 percent lower than those of childless single women.
    When they do marry, mothers are more likely to have husbands who are significantly older and less educated than those of childless women.
    “It’s more difficult for unwed mothers to get married, and if they do, they tend to not marry well,” said Zhenchao Qian, co-author of the study and associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University.
    The results suggest that efforts by the federal government and states to promote marriage among young, poor Americans need to do more to prevent out-of-wedlock childbearing, Qian said. . . .
    “Unwed mothers have significant disadvantages when trying to attract suitable mates,” Mellott said. “As a result, single mothers are less likely than childless women to be well matched demographically with their husbands or partners.”
    For example, the study showed that single mothers were less likely than childless women to marry a man with at least some college education. That suggests unwed mothers are unlikely to improve their economic prospects through marriage, she said, because potential husbands are less likely to have opportunities for good-paying jobs.
    In addition, a white woman who had children outside of marriage was more likely to marry a man who was significantly older – at least six years older – than she. That wasn’t the case for Black and Hispanic women, but only because they were less likely than whites to be married at all, Qian said.
    “Our analysis suggests that Blacks and Hispanics may be less likely to marry or cohabit because they face shortages of potential spouses,” he said. “If they had been married or living with someone, they would likely have husbands or partners much older than themselves.”
    Overall, the results show that “women who bear children out of wedlock do not fare well in the marriage market,” Lichter said.

  8. bonniew
    Posted October 30, 2005 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    You tell ‘em, Tango. When you disagree, don’t respond to the arguments made and reason. Just curse and look like an idiot.

  9. Posted October 30, 2005 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    How sad that this article has been hijacked by a couple of rock throwing males. Don’t you boys have anything better to do?

  10. Posted October 30, 2005 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    How sad that this article has been hijacked by a couple of rock throwing males.
    Please, by all means, bring this thread back on track. I’ll be happy to follow your lead. I’d love to debate the substance of the article.
    Your move.

  11. Posted October 30, 2005 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Tango, why should people bother getting married if it’s not going to be “blissful” or “personally enriching?” If it sucks, there’s no reason we have to do it. Having two parents in a household can have a lot of positive effects, but a lot of those effects could be substituted by effective social programs. For example, if childcare is an issue for a single parent, giving them access to childcare would fix that problem right there. Maybe there would be less incentive for a person to marry, but economic concerns seem like a pretty bad thing to base a marriage on.
    Further, it seems to me that feminism has altered the institution of marriage radically. People don’t need marriage to fit in or for economic survival. Now people choose to keep a commitment, not just fall into an intractable situation.
    It’s not like people have quit the institution of marriage. I’m married myself, and quite happy with it (blissful might be a strong word to describe my marriage, but personally enriching wouldn’t be a stretch). We as a society have lightened up on the societal forces that trapped people into marriage, and good for us. Whenever I read something where someone is very upset with the number of children being born out of wedlock, the author always conveniently forgets that the married couple model of 50 years ago didn’t work either, being that it was based upon coercion and subjugation of women.
    Raising kids is important work, and it’s obviously hard to do it well. Creating a society in which a woman does not need a man to survive is an important step for improving the lives of all of us, even our children (who will grow up and have to raise their own children one day). If people are really interested in making the two-parent household work, they need to make it work in this better society, rather than to try and bring back the bad old days of unhappy, forced nuclear families. If marriage can’t be made to work in a freer society, then screw it – I’ll take freedom over a wedding dress any day.

  12. Posted October 31, 2005 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    Having two parents in a household can have a lot of positive effects, but a lot of those effects could be substituted by effective social programs.
    The life outcomes of children raised by single parents have substantial differences from those raised by two-parent families. Social programs really aren’t a substitute for a second parent. A child care provider is not a substitute for a parent, or put another way, a parent’s role isn’t simply to be a minder of otherwise unsupervised children.
    Creating a society in which a woman does not need a man to survive is an important step for improving the lives of all of us
    Absolutely agree. Women shouldn’t have to rely on a man. Children however should rely on families, not just a single parent and taxpayer supported programs.
    Further, it seems to me that feminism has altered the institution of marriage radically.
    I’d agree. Programs should be established to foster the appeal of marriage. There are important economic, psychological and sociological benefits to marriage. Studies done of people who’ve divorced show strong majorities, even those who’ve since remarried, regret their decision to end the marriage. Let me pre-empt you here because I’m sure that a rebuttel on the grounds of battered wives, etc is forthcoming, so obviously those women who left abusive marriages would be the respondents in the survey who were comfortable with their decisions to leave their marriages.
    The flip-side of making marriage more attractive is to make single parenthood, especially when it’s chosen with forthought, more unattractive. If a single woman wants to have a child by herself, then I think she should have the personal freedom to do so, even though she will likely disadvantage her child. However, with her freedom comes a responsibility to not turn to the taxpayer to be her husband substitute – she should not have any access to family support policies, for the choice to have that child was hers alone.
    rather than to try and bring back the bad old days of unhappy, forced nuclear families.
    Society as a whole benefits from stable family life rather than less stable single parenthood. I don’t think that we should force people to stay in unhappy marriages or families. However, it really boils down to this: your happiness in your marriage or family shouldn’t come at my taxpaying expense.

  13. Posted October 31, 2005 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    This last year three of my closest friends had babies and none of them were married, all in their mid-20′s and none of them rich, and they are totally happy raising the child on its own.
    So, then what’s all this women’s rights stuff all about then? All of your friends are perfectly happy, so let’s stop all the bitchin’.
    Besides, who’s got time to worry about what’s good for the children when I’m so busy having fun! Yay, me!
    oh – and I hate when people refer to humans as ‘its’ – and that particular sentence doesn’t make much sense – you probably meant ‘their’, referring to the your Sex and the City set of friends who are oh so wonderously happy. <hurl!>
    everything about your commentary is wrong, wrong, wrong. if women would just get back in the kitchen, the world would be a lot less complicated. boy power! the evil penis rears ‘its’ ugly head once again. oh, no – not the evil p-p-p-peeeeenisss?! ;)

  14. Dim Undercellar
    Posted October 31, 2005 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    “The life outcomes of children raised by single parents have substantial differences from those raised by two-parent families.”
    Prove it. What’s yout source? I want to see some evidence.
    [And I'm shocked nobody's asked you for evidence to back up any of your claims before now.]

  15. bear
    Posted October 31, 2005 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Sorry, another guy weighing in. I’ll try to not throw rocks.
    It seems like a lot of this thread had centered on how feminists have hurt marriage by acts like supporting social programs for single mothers. If that we true, wouldn’t it be because men had made marriage a miserable experience for many women by treating them as property than as an equal.
    I agree that a home with two parents happily married is a better situation for kids than a single parent one, but we shouldn’t be pushing marriage on people just so that their kids can live in a two parent household. That doesn’t solve anything. Two miserable parents can have and adverse affect on their kids. I am proof of that.
    In my humble opinion, I think we should make it harder to get married. Make people think about the commitment they are making. The end result might be more people “living in sin” in the short term, but I think it would make the “institution of marriage” stronger. I think the divorce rate would go down also.
    I also think I saw a comment about how feminists could make marriage stronger. Shouldn’t women AND men be working on that together. It is a bond between TWO people.

  16. Josh Jasper
    Posted October 31, 2005 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Bear: In terms of decreasing single parent households that start with children being born to single mothers (differnt than ‘out of wedlock births, which can include a child born into a same sex household) we ought to be makign birth control free, anonymous, safe, and easily availible to women.
    It’s not even a theory, but something that’s been borne out by actual data (AGI International http://www.agi-usa.org/). The more options about and ease of access to birth control women have, the fewer of them have children.
    Also, one of the absolute best ways to reduce young single motherhood is to make college education affordable (if not free). College educated women are less likley to have a child young, single, and in economicaly damaging circumstances.

  17. moon_custafer
    Posted October 31, 2005 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    On another note, I’m curious about this:
    When they do marry, mothers are more likely to have husbands who are significantly older and less educated than those of childless women.
    Without knowing who these individual older guys are, should I assume their age and status is of necessity a bad thing? (Ok, I admit this is because I’m married to a guy 12 years my senior with a community college degree in childcare rather than a BA, and I’m piqued that this could be considered a fate worse than death…)

  18. Posted October 31, 2005 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Dim,
    Prove it. What’s yout source? I want to see some evidence.
    [And I'm shocked nobody's asked you for evidence to back up any of your claims before now.]
    Perhaps no one requested evidence of my claims because they were all aware of their accuracy. On the off-chance that you really are unaware of these issues, please note the following papers, the first published by the National Bureau of Economic Research

    First, it adds to the growing literature describing correlations between children’s educational outcomes and family structure. Although popular discussions focus on the distinction between two-parent families and single-parent families, McLanahan and Sandefur [1994] show that outcomes for stepchildren are similar to outcomes for children in single-parent families. McLanahan and Sandefur describe their results as showing that the crucial distinction is between children who were reared by both biological parents and children who were not. This description is misleading. This paper shows that educational outcomes for both types of children in blended families — stepchildren and their half-siblings who are the joint biological children of both parents — are similar to each other and substantially worse than outcomes for children reared in traditional nuclear families. We conclude that, as a description of the data, the crucial distinction is between children reared in traditional nuclear families (i.e., families in which all children are the joint biological children of both parents) and children reared in other family structures (e.g., single-parent families or blended families). The paper’s second contribution is to clarify the question, What is the effect of family structure on outcomes for children?’

    Another report, this time from an advocacy association for Step-Families (just in case you thought the the NBER above was pushing some religious pro-family bias – here is a group that you would expect would be putting the rosiest shine on step-family studies)

    From this body of literature, findings show that children’s behavior and development is affected by the type of family in which they reside. Overwhelmingly, the results suggest that children who live in a single-parent or stepparent family are at greater risk for a range of negative outcomes, including higher rates of juvenile delinquency.

    How about I throw in a good old cross cultural study. Here’s one done by Daly & Wilson:

    The Daly-Wilson cross-cultural research, drawing on child abuse statistics from Canada, the United States, Britain and Australia, and correcting for independent variables such as poverty and maternal youth, shows that step-parents are hugely over-represented as perpetrators of child battering and sexual molestation. They are even more conspicuous in the figures for child murderers.
    A child living with a step-parent, according to their research, is 100 times more likely to suffer “lethal battering” than one living with two natural parents. The preponderance of tiny tots in these statistics contradicts the common assumption that the major trigger for step-parental explosion is the obstreperous adolescent.
    Natural parents also murder their children but, when they do, the records show, they use “less assaultive means” – the pillow rather than the hammer. They not uncommonly kill a child as part of a successful suicide attempt. The murderous step-parent, on the other hand, is not so inclined to self-slaughter.
    The emphasis on murder in this small but important book is not for dramatic effect but because the statistics for murder, a detectable crime, are very clear. In cases of physical and sexual abuse step-parents’ involvement is harder to detect because their status is not always recorded. But Daly and Wilson say (and Colin Tudge, an author in the same Darwinist series, supports the validity of their statistics) that in culture after culture, step-parents are greatly over-represented in reported cases of maltreatment of children. There is no contrary evidence.

    Look, there is a wealth of information on single-parent and step-parent outcomes on children’s lives. Google it.

  19. tfreridge
    Posted October 31, 2005 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    ” Perhaps the oppressive nature of being in wedlock for many women is losing its appeal.”
    And they say that feminists have no sense of humor.
    If marriage is such an oppresive institution why are so many gay couples fighting to have the right to do it? Or is it just the patriarchy holding the sista’s down?
    This is just plain sexism and bigotry by man haters. The facts are indisputable that marriage is better for people economicaly and physically(healthwise). It is also better for the children. Your freinds who are perfectly happy are not in agreement with the statistics. I’m not saying that they are insincere about their happiness at all. Why make life tougher than it has to be? Out of wedlock births should be discouraged and the institution of marriage needs to be revamped to include gay civil unions. Couples and long term commitment should be encouraged, not discouraged.

  20. puckalish
    Posted October 31, 2005 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    wow, this is a really though-provoking thread.
    i mean, tango’s got some interesting points, bear and josh brought up some great stuff. but what i really dig is how moon brought the whole thing down to earth?
    i mean, facts and studies aside, what is the living experience of all of this? how does it affect us and those we know? unfortunately, my assumption is that the posters on here are somewhat of a monoculture (well-educated, comfortable if not relatively wealthy, etc. etc.), but still…
    what i love about samhita is that she doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk… on the real. she makes her life working to help other people live better and that’s just dope… big ups…
    now…

  21. puckalish
    Posted November 1, 2005 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    tfreridge,
    you’re way out of line…
    first off, to come out and say that an opposition to the concept that everyone must get married is “sexism and bigotry by man haters” throws out a few misguided antics…
    the first is that there’s any explicit sexism and bigotry in there… to a large degree, the argument against marriage is one of the interplay of certain social institutions (for instance, the way in which the wage exploitation of the working male is predicated on the wageless exploitation of his wife) which unfairly take advantage of both men and women.
    the second is that there’s any man hating going on, which is the most baseless argument against feminism (though i see it all the time.) i’m a man and i love sami and she loves me… that girl’s like my sister… no hateration. so chill the uhn out.
    the last bit, i think is a bit on point… long-term commitment should definitely be encouraged, but the institution of marriage, in the way it has been preserved (and is being “defended”) through the ages is unnecessarily divisive… nuclear families have been promoted to the exclusion of extended families in contemporary american society.
    one last thought, too, is that, just because a widely-practiced positive alternative has not arisen to the classic nuclear family does not mean that one does not exist.
    most single parents are not single parents because it was their aspiration. this definitely has an impact on the results one’s going to get from studying the average quality of life of single parents. generally speaking, people who end up in situations they didn’t plan for (with excess liabilities, cherished as they may be, without the support they expected to have, etc.) certainly don’t flourish as well as those in situations they did plan for. so what?
    that’s not something intrinsic to the condition of being a single parent, though it is very common among single parents… i think this speaks more to how one can manipulate data to support an argument than it does to real life choices.
    more than anything, considering that traditional nuclear families are not ideal, perhaps, it’s about time we start to understand what viable alternatives are out there (community childrearing, etc. [do not read - "government childrearing"]) and start trying ‘em out…
    maybe i’m just overtired, though…

  22. Ahlana
    Posted November 2, 2005 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Hello class and welcome to Logic 101:
    First lesson:
    Correlation DOES NOT EQUAL Causation. Repeat that with me now…
    Not one of the studies used by TangoMan show anything other than correlation. This means that X and Y go together, but not that X causes Y. Maybe Y causes X. Maybe Z causes X and Y. You don’t know because those studies don’t tell you.
    That being said (based on that flawed logic) parents who ought to get a divorce are just as bad, if not worse for their children’s mental health than couples who get divorced. Having to listening to screaming matches 24/7 doesn’t do much for a child’s development. And, even though Tango would like to pooh-pooh it, abuse (mental and physical) is a large factor in the rise in divorce rates.
    And why blame divorce rates on feminists? Did you know that men can actually initiate a divorce too?! It’s scandelous I know, but google that. Seriuosly.
    And sometimes women don’t get married because they realize that marrying the father (or someone else) would actually be worse for the child than going it alone. My older sister made this move because the father of her baby kept getting arrested. She cut her losses and is now happily married to someone who doesn’t suck (so women with kids can get married! wow!).
    “Social programs which undermine the strength of the family have disasterous effects on children”
    How so? Talk about platitudes… Social programs that do things like feed children, or give them medicine when their parent(s) are poor aren’t exactly causing children to be worse off.
    And since when are social programs a motivation for divorce or “undermining the strength of the family” as you put it? I’ve never met a woman who thought to herself “hmmm. I could stay married, but if i get a divorce I could get on welfare and food stamps! Bitchin!” This decline in “strength of the family” BS is so ridiculous is hurts. You want to protect the family, promote women’s empowerment, universal health care, and cheap/free education.
    And since when is the only important factor of a woman’s life “how well she fairs in the marriage market”? Are we cattle or something?

  23. Saam Miller
    Posted April 27, 2006 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    I am divorced and 39 years old, financially independent and running out of time to have a child. I got pregnant by an ex-boyfriend 1 1/2 years ago (later miscarried) and was shocked by the response from my “friends” when I decided I wanted to keep it. The person who impregnated we was the worst of all and was insistent that I get an abortion. Most of the others told me that I was selfish to have a child on my own without a father..I dont speak to most of those people anymore but most of all I was suprised by my parents reaction..they were more extremely concerned that it would be too difficult to handle on my own and were not extremely supportive. I have a friend with 2 babies who tragically lost her husband..am I any different from her? Even with all of the out of wedlock births there is still societal resistance to this and a stigma associated with it. I am a strong person an chose to go it alone if I am able to conceive and I strongly belive that it is my right as a woman..

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