First come babies

Unwed motherhood is a choice for low-income girls and women, writes Kay Hymowitz in the Wall Street Journal, citing Promises I Can Keep by Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas.

That wisdom had it that unmarried poor women got pregnant either because they were unable to get hold of birth control or ignorant of its use or because they viewed a welfare check as a substitute for an in-house father. Not so, find Ms. Edin and Ms. Kefalas: Young women, even those pregnant as young as 14, simply want to have babies . . . It’s not a fabulous career or sexual and romantic adventure that endows life with purpose; it’s having a baby.
According to the authors, motherhood promises an enduring human connection in a world where trusting relationships are rare, and it gives women a social role whose value is only heightened by their difficult circumstances. In the minds of female ghetto dwellers, “the choice to have a child despite the obstacles that lie ahead is a compelling demonstration of a young woman’s maturity and high moral stature.” Many say that the birth of their child persuaded them to give up drugs or to stop “running the streets.”

In one Detroit hospital, 87 percent of births are to unwed mothers, reports a Detroit News story on “baby mamas.”

According to the U.S. Census, 62 percent of adult whites are married, compared with 47 percent of adult blacks. In the 1960s, blacks had the highest marriage rate of any group in the country.
Today, the percentage of black children living in single parent households is 69 percent, compared with 25 percent for whites and 42 percent for Hispanics.

The story features The News features 20-year-old Rasheda Lathon-Bey, the unwed mother of a 7-year-old and 3-year-old.

“I always wanted to grow up and be married and have goals,” says Lathon-Bey of Clinton Township, “but you can’t just marry anyone.”

Lathon-Bey says the lifestyle of one child’s father was such that she knew the relationship would not lead to marriage; the other father, she says, “just didn’t work out.”

She will be married May 28 to a man who also has children from a previous relationship.

She had her first child when she was 13 years old?

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Richard Brandshaft says:

    Some years back, another black woman with some credentials (someone with a better memory than mine please clarify that) made a minor fuss by saying early babies make economic sense for poor women.

    The theory, as best I can remember: younger grandparents are more helpful. Postponing children to get a career started doesn’t make sense; they know they have no careers.

  2. Carl Larson says:

    “She had her first child when she was 13 years old?”

    I’m a freshman teacher in a Chicago neighborhood highschool. This has been a typical year for my homeroom of 25 students:

    – One girl already had an almost one-year old child as the year began. She dropped out in February.
    – Another girl started the year 7 months pregnant. She was gone in a month.
    – One guy got his girl pregnant. He was forced to get a job a month ago. A good student, he now comes to school so tired he sleeps through the first half of the day.

    I teach another section where two girls got pregnant during the year and have since dropped out.

    I agree with the statement in the WSJ: “Young women, even those pregnant as young as 14, simply want to have babies.”

    The kids will bring in their sonogram pictures to show their friends and teachers.

  3. I’ve got a simpler explanation.

    Tell a fourteen-year girl old that her boy friend will really love her, that her baby will love just her, that she’ll have a place of her own where she doesn’t have to take a ration of shit from her mother, that she won’t have to go to school – which she hates anyway – that she’ll get the money she needs just by having the baby and the only suprise is that there are any children born within wedlock.

    The main reason my view recommends itself is that it doesn’t require thoughful consideration and long-term planning from a fourteen-year old both of which are qualities generally, if memory serves, notable by their absence.

  4. “I always wanted to grow up and be married and have goals,” says Lathon-Bey of Clinton Township, “but you can’t just marry anyone.”

    But you can obviously have sex with “just anyone”!!! Sad.

  5. Cardinal Fang says:

    The Detroit News story is confusing two issues. They say the problem is that 13-year-olds are having babies. But then, they say that the solution is marriage.

    No, the solution is to convince 13-year-old girls that it’s a bad, bad idea for them to have babies. It’s a bad idea for an unmarried 13-year-old to have a baby, and it’s an equally bad idea for a married 13-year-old to have a baby.

    Girls who believe that they have a future– school, work, a career– don’t generally have babies. It’s the girls who have nothing else to look forward to who choose to become mothers.

  6. John from OK says:

    Marriage is only a solution if there is someone to marry. I don’t remember where I read it, but the long terms odds of a young Black woman ever getting married are less than 50%. The numbers simply aren’t there anymore.

  7. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    While unwed teenage pregnancy is perhaps a cultural aspect of many third-world countries, it is a social pathology here in the United States, where we as a society have a consensus that children don’t have the wisdom or experience to raise other children. Teenage pregnancy is usually a vicious cycle of generational poverty–not just economic poverty, but poverty of values, poverty of education, poverty of parental guidance and wisdom.

    Before the so-called sexual revolution of the 60’s, society stigmatized unwed teenage pregnancy. In some cases, perhaps it could serve as a deterrent to irresponsible behavior.
    Freedom isn’t free.

  8. BadaBing says:

    Note that in the 1960s “blacks had the highest marriage rate of any group in the country.” That was before Johnson’s monumentally expensive and counter-productive War on Poverty hit the streets, and before the baby-boom generation eradicated the nation’s values system. No taboos, no value judgments, and no values = a matastazing underclass that will continue to cost more while it continues to lower the quality of life for everyone. I don’t think the cat can be put back in the bag at this point.

  9. SuperSub says:

    D#$N HIPPIES… all their fault.

  10. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    Hey BadaBing~~~

    I agree ….the War on Poverty was one of the most egregious examples of social engineering that has accomplished quite the opposite of what it was supposed to do…more generational poverty, a permanent underclass, Big Brother playing Daddy, instead of a real daddy. It created a monster of entitlement mentality, instead of personal responsibility. Add to that the “If it feels good–do it” Decade, and that’s why most of our public schools stink–they’re a microcosm of society today.

  11. “Before the so-called sexual revolution of the 60’s, society stigmatized unwed teenage pregnancy. ”

    But the total teenage pregnancy rate was higher then than it is now, with the overwhelming majority of teen mothers married. Certainly seems like an improvement on the present situation.

    Teenage girls have wanted babies since prehistoric times, for obvious evolutionary reasons. It’s only in recent years that excessively slow preparation for adulthood left them and their available mates completely unsuited for the demands of adulthood and parenthood. This is the crux of the problem – trying to stall them and force them to continue their childhoods for several more years to make up for the slow educational process is a cruel imposition at best and a disastrous failure at worst.

  12. Tom West says:

    While we can blame the “War on Poverty”, I suspect that simple progress has been the engine that has transformed society. A significant section of society was probably happiest with marrying and bearing children early, when young unskilled labour could obtain a standard of living that was, while meager by today’s standards, socially meaningful to the individuals involved. (Homesteaders would not consider themselves looked down upon because their social contact was primarily with other homesteaders, etc.)

    However, that era is permanently ended. Thanks to media, we now compare ourselves with all walks of life, and find anything but at least middle-class success wanting. (Evolution at work for us to be unsatisfied with being in the lower 50th percentile.) The only real social ruler is wealth, and it’s no suprise that those who are unprepared for conventional success for a variety of reasons seek to obtain it by unconventional (and usually illegal means), leading to a breakdown of possible family units.

    Technological progress doesn’t guarantee we all be winners. In fact, it doesn’t guarantee that there will be *any* winners. It just is.

    I think our mission is not to bewail the circumstances that brought us to this situation, which doesn’t help any more than cursing the hurricane that brought the flood. Instead, we must see what can be done to ameliorate the difficulties while accepting the fact that those difficulties will exist (and have always existed – it’s just that previous eras tended to kill the unfavored (try being sickly in the early 1900’s)).

  13. But the total teenage pregnancy rate was higher then than it is now

    I think you mean birth rate. Factor in abortions and then compare. I’m willing to bet we’ve a much higher pregnancy rate now.

    with the overwhelming majority of teen mothers married. Certainly seems like an improvement on the present situation.

    If your only criteria for improvement is a declining rate of teenage motherhood, than yes. On the other hand, abortions are much more common, as is unwed motherhood. Looks like a serious decline to me…

  14. Cardinal Fang says:

    I’ll take the bet.

    In 1960, the teenage pregnancy rate for girls 15-19 was 89.1 births per 1000 girls per year. In 2004, it was 41.7 births per 1000 girls per year.

    Currently, about 40 percent of teen pregnancies end in abortion. Multiplying it out, we compute that the teenage birth plus abortion rate in 2004 would be about 70 per 1000. That is less than the birth rate in 1960. What do I win?

    In case you’re wondering about younger girls, in 2003 the birth rate for young girls aged 10-14 was 0.6 per thousand, the lowest since 1946. Their birth rate, fortunately tiny, isn’t contributing much to the statistics.

  15. Actually, I was saying that the 1960 situation, with more teen mothers but most of them married, is a damn sight better overall than today, with fewer teen mothers overall but an enormously higher rate of unwed motherhood.

  16. Cardinal Fang wrote:

    What do I win?

    The pride of knowing you were right. 🙂

    Ken wrote:

    Actually, I was saying that the 1960 situation, with more teen mothers but most of them married, is a damn sight better overall than today

    Damn. Two mistakes in one post. Just not my day, I guess. Sorry.

  17. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    If there were indeed more teenagers pregnant and MARRIED in previous generations…good! Obviously, the life expectancy rate was lower, and women married and had children earlier in ALL social classes. In the present, UNWED teenage pregnancy is a badge of honor of the UNDERCLASSES…and it keeps them a PERMANENT underclass. This is true across the racial/ethnic board.

  18. Cardinal Fang says:

    In the present, UNWED teenage pregnancy is a badge of honor of the UNDERCLASSES…and it keeps them a PERMANENT underclass.

    Is unwed teen motherhood a cause of a permanent underclass, or an effect?

    Suppose those young women didn’t get pregnant at 15… would they then move out of the underclass? Class mobility being what it is, probably not. It’s an ugly vicious cycle.

    Take an individual 15-year-old in the underclass. She goes to a bad school. She probably lives with her mother (who is between 30 and 40). Looking ahead, what is her life going to be like? She won’t get a good job, because she won’t be qualified. She won’t marry, because there will be no one for her to marry. Basically, there won’t be a lot good in her life. So she chooses to go for one good thing: a baby. Yes, it’s a bad choice from a social point of view, but from her point of view, there are no good choices to be made.

    I say that unwed teen motherhood is both a cause and an effect of a permanent underclass. Girls who can look forward to better choices overwhelmingly don’t get pregnant at 15. It’s a difficult problem, but better schools and better education would help.

  19. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    The chicken-and-egg question is besides the point. Obviously, generational poverty/unwed teenage pregnancy is part of a ‘vicious cycle’. The question is: how do individuals break the cycle? Many girls want a baby as a badge of honor or as a special possession…the teenage years can be quite narcissistic. Since the 60’s-70’s Decade of Narcissism, the genie is already out of the bottle. Individual families will have to overcome their economic, spiritual, and educational poverty, one at at time. Ending the welfare state is another, more painful, but effective way to take away any rewards for unwed pregnancy. It may take several generations, if ever. Sigh.

  20. Cardinal Fang says:

    Many girls want a baby as a badge of honor or as a special possession…the teenage years can be quite narcissistic. Since the 60’s-70’s Decade of Narcissism…

    All teenagers are narcissistic, and always have been. The teenagers in Palo Alto are just as narcissistic as the ones in Oakland, but the Palo Alto girls don’t have babies at age 13. Narcissism is not a good explanation for the phenomenon.

    The problem is that not having a baby at age 13 isn’t going to break the cycle of generation poverty for an individual underclass girl. She’ll still be poor, and her children will still be poor. Nails, I take it that you advocate the negative incentive of taking away her government aid for the baby– but this might well not work, because she’ll still have a strong biological incentive to have a baby, even if the economic one isn’t there.

    I’d rather see positive incentives. If we give that girl a chance at a future, she’ll be just like all the other narcissistic teenage girls; she won’t have babies because they’ll get in the way of her plans.

  21. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    Negative incentives work. They may not ‘feel good’, but they work. Pre-1965 (the year the ‘Great Society’ welfare “reform” legislation passed, AFDC, ad nauseum) the illegitimacy rates of black mothers was around 30%; after 1965 to the present, the rate hovers around 70%. (From U.S. Census data). I don’t know the stats for other ethnic groups, but it’s a good bet their illegitimacy rates have skyrocketed, as well. When the stigma of illegitimacy was removed and people got a check from Big Brother, more teens and preteens became sexually active and–surprise–got pregnant. The consequence was “no big deal”.
    You didn’t mention any specific ‘positive’ incentives. Could you come up with ONE concrete idea or program that’s a ‘positive incentive’? To me, the only lasting positive incentives are a caring, loving, moral family, whoever that is, to provide guidance, a moral structure, and some wisdom–and that inculcates a sense of hope and planning for the future. The poorest immigrants to America (including my grandparents, fleeing the pogroms in Russia) still gave their children the values they needed to further their own lives. “It’s the values, stupid”

    Almost two generations of tax dollars thrown at irresponsible people perpetuates the underclass. Singing “Kumbaya”, and moral relativism have resulted in a generation of lost children. Socialism isn’t the answer to personal irresponsibility.

  22. Cardinal Fang says:

    The positive incentives that I had in mind were decent schools and decent jobs, so these girls have a chance for something better than being a mother at 15. Right now these underclass kids go to bad schools that don’t teach them anything, and even if they do end up graduating from high school there are not very many jobs for them.

    Kids in affluent neighborhoods are sexually active too. But the girls don’t end up having babies, because they are looking forward to something better than teenage motherhood.

    I don’t see how removing Aid to Families with Dependent Children re-installs the stigma of illegitimacy, nor do I think removing the stigma is a worthy goal. That genie is out of the bottle.

  23. Cardinal Fang
    I don’t see how removing Aid to Families with Dependent Children re-installs the stigma of illegitimacy

    It doesn’t, but it does make the proposition much less attractive by putting the responsibility back where it belongs.

    nor do I think removing the stigma is a worthy goal.

    I assume you meant “restoring”. I don’t see it making much difference either way. After all, there’s a stigma associated with being poor and we’re still stuck with a permanent underclass. Why? Because there aren’t enough incentives to remove oneself from that class. Most people don’t care about any stigma that comes with being poor, so offering to take that stigma away isn’t really an incentive, positive or otherwise. Why would it be when you know the government is just waiting to give you money?

    even if they do end up graduating from high school there are not very many jobs for them.

    There would be plenty of jobs if the illegal aliens weren’t stealing them all. That’s another subject, though.

    Even if all those jobs were open to America’s poor, what incentive would they have to take them? Who would choose to work sixty hours a week for a small amount of money when the government offers to match it for no work at all? I know what I’d choose if I didn’t have a sense of personal responsibility. And, thanks to the welfare state, such responsibility has been largely eradicated. We need to bring back survival as the incentive.

  24. Tom West says:

    We need to bring back survival as the incentive.

    Wow. I understand your sentiments, but does this mean you accept the fact that if survival is the incentive, there *will* be losers, and they’ll be concentrated among the weakest of society: women and children?

    I’m not sure there are many who want to live in a society where we decide we must let children die because helping them live is too much of incentive for others to be irresponsible.

  25. Tom West wrote:
    does this mean you accept the fact that if survival is the incentive, there *will* be losers

    At the start, perhaps. Eventually a balance would be restored, and I don’t think it would take long. Just think about all the charities that are out there; all the churches. People aren’t going to sit idly by while their neighbors starve to death. The reason they do so now is only because they know the government will (attempt to) deal with it for them. Once you remove government from the picture, people will begin to rely on each other, and there are no negative consequences to that.

    I’m not saying it wouldn’t hurt; a lot of innocent people would suffer, but there’s a lot of innocent people suffering now, and there’s no improvement in sight. You, me, the poor, everybody; we’re all paying for mistakes made decades ago. That’s the problem with liberalism: it’s a cancer. It gets into the system and grows to the point that there’s no way to remove it without damaging healthy tissue(in this case, the poor and weak). The choice is either to let it grow(in which case things continue to get worse) or cut it out. There is no gradual cure, and the longer we wait the more people are going to suffer.

    I don’t claim to be the most compassionate person, but I wouldn’t wish poverty on anyone(and that’s from someone who’s narrowly avoiding it thanks to help from his family). Still, we as a society need to take care of the problem. The only things standing in our way are the people who refuse to see the long-term solution because, for a brief moment in time, it would definitely make things worse. It’s not an easy sell, what with the people who are (rightly) afraid and the status quo crowd who falsely scare the rest of the population.

  26. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    Cardinal Fang…

    You mention ‘decent schools’ and ‘decent jobs’ as positive incentives for inner-city underclass kids….we already have that, in most cases. BILLIONS of Title I, SB65, Title VII $$$$ have been poured into “low-performing” public schools (at the federal level), not to mention all the corporate grants. So-called ‘underclass’ teens can apply for any number of taxpayer and privately-funded job-training.programs, where funding is based on need. There has been more government spending under the Bush Administration, liberal state assemblies and liberal city mayors for cradle-to-grave services than ever before! Per-pupil spending in California, for example, has gone UP, with the same lousy results (increased high school dropout rates, for example). At the local high school near where I teach elementary school, there is a state-funded program for unwed pregnant teens–a parenting class on the school campus. About 65 girls were enrolled last year, and it’s increasing each year. (A teacher told me the program started with 9 girls enrolled.) There have never been more opportunities for the ‘underclass’ to get a ‘leg up’. So, me must look inward and examine ones values and sense of personal responsibility.

    The values and culture of those who would have children in their preteens/teens needs to change; perhaps getting a good education and having intellectual curiousity and personal ambition to better oneself shouldn’t be seen as ‘acting white’ or subverting the culture of the family; it should be seen as valuable in and of itself. This is the essence of the problem. “It’s the values, stupid”.

    I highly recommend the book “Who Prospers” by Lawrence Harrison, for more insight on cultural poverty, or anything written by Thomas Sowell. Also check out anything written by Ruby Payne, for insight into generational poverty.

Trackbacks

  1. buy fioricet says:

    buy fioricet

    buy fioricet