Thirty-eight percent of American children are born out of wedlock, writes Juan Williams in the Wall Street Journal. Most grow up without a father’s love and guidance. Some 28 percent of white children, 50 percent of Hispanics and 71 percent of blacks are born to a single mother.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly a quarter of America’s white children (22%) do not have any male in their homes; nearly a third (31%) of Hispanic children and over half of black children (56%) are fatherless.
This represents a dramatic shift in American life. In the early 1960s, only 2.3% of white children and 24% of black children were born to a single mom. Having a dad, in short, is now a privilege, a ticket to middle-class status on par with getting into a good college.
The odds increase for a child’s success with the psychological and financial stability rooted in having two parents. Having two parents means there is a greater likelihood that someone will read to a child as a preschooler, support him through school, and prevent him from dropping out, as well as teaching him how to compete, win and lose and get up to try again, in academics, athletics and the arts. Maybe most important of all is that having a dad at home is almost a certain ticket out of poverty; because about 40% of single-mother families are in poverty.
Even in kindergarten, children from single-parent families lag behind classmates from two-parent families in health, cognitive skills and maturity, Williams writes .”They are in the back of the bus before the bus â€“ their life â€“ even gets going.”
Update: Barack Obama spoke movingly about his childhood longing for his absent father in a speech at a black church in Chicago.
“What makes you a man is not the ability to have a child. Any fool can have a child. That doesnâ€™t make you a father. Itâ€™s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.â€
Mr. Obama spoke of the burden that single parenthood was on his mother, who raised him with the help of his maternal grandparents.
â€œI know the toll it took on me, not having a father in the house,â€ he continued. â€œThe hole in your heart when you donâ€™t have a male figure in the home who can guide you and lead you.”
In response to some of the comments: Children who grow up with two married parents do the best on measures of wellbeing; they also cope very well if a parent dies. Divorce hurts; acquiring a stepfather doesn’t help much. It’s better to be the child of divorce than the child of never-married parents: Divorced fathers are much more involved with their children than never-married fathers. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions, but this is what I heard from a researcher at a seminar on child poverty about 12 years ago.