Single moms, poor babies

More than half of births to women under 30 are out of wedlock, reports the New York Times, trumpeting the “new normal” in middle America. Including older mothers, 59 percent of babies are born to a married couple.

One group still largely resists the trend: college graduates, who overwhelmingly marry before having children. That is turning family structure into a new class divide, with the economic and social rewards of marriage increasingly reserved for people with the most education.

Marriage is becoming a “luxury good,” says a sociologist.

More Single Moms. So What, responds Katie Rophie in Slate, accusing the Times of condescending to “independent-minded, apparently hard-working women (who) are making decisions and forging families, after thinking clearly about their situation.”

Actually, the story portrays hard-working women who didn’t think clearly about how to avoid their situation.

Family breakdown has high costs for children, writes Heather Mac Donald. It is not merely “refresh[ing] our ideas of family.”

Roiphe concludes that there are no (annoyingly retrograde) studies on “what it will be like for . . . children to live in” the coming world without marriage. Actually, we know already. It’s called the ghetto.

Indeed.

Some 73 percent of black children, 53 percent of Latinos and 29 percent of whites are born out of wedlock. While    92 percent of college-educated women are married when they give birth, that drops to 62 percent of women with “some college” and 43 percent of women with a high school diploma or less, according to Child Trends.

Many unwed parents live together, but two-thirds will split up by the time their child turns 10, researchers estimate. And never-married fathers are much less likely to support their children — financially or emotionally — than divorced dads.

“Nobody gets married any more, Mister”

Gerry Garibaldi’s four favorite students are pregnant this year, he writes in “Nobody Gets Married Any More, Mister” in City Journal.

His urban school gets lots of federal money under Title I.

At my school, we pay five teachers to tutor kids after school and on Saturdays. They sit in classrooms waiting for kids who never show up. We don’t want for books—or for any of the cutting-edge gizmos that non–Title I schools can’t afford: computerized whiteboards, Elmo projectors, the works. Our facility is state-of-the-art, thanks to a recent $40 million face-lift, with gleaming new hallways and bathrooms and a fully computerized library.

It won’t help without “personal moral accountability,” he writes.

Within my lifetime, single parenthood has been transformed from shame to saintliness. In our society, perversely, we celebrate the unwed mother as a heroic figure, like a fireman or a police officer. During the last presidential election, much was made of Obama’s mother, who was a single parent. Movie stars and pop singers flaunt their daddy-less babies like fishing trophies.

None of this is lost on my students. In today’s urban high school, there is no shame or social ostracism when girls become pregnant. Other girls in school want to pat their stomachs. Their friends throw baby showers at which meager little gifts are given. After delivery, the girls return to school with baby pictures on their cell phones or slipped into their binders, which they eagerly share with me.

Connecticut, where he teaches, offers medical coverage, child care,housing subsidies, food and cash to out-of-wedlock mothers.

If you need to get to an appointment, state-sponsored dial-a-ride is available. If that appointment is college-related, no sweat: education grants for single mothers are available, too. Nicole didn’t have to worry about finishing the school year; the state sent a $35-an-hour tutor directly to her home halfway into her final trimester and for six weeks after the baby arrived.

In theory, this provision of services is humane and defensible, an essential safety net for the most vulnerable—children who have children. What it amounts to in practice is a monolithic public endorsement of single motherhood—one that has turned our urban high schools into puppy mills. The safety net has become a hammock.

Young fathers, who usually grew up without a father, see getting a girl pregnant as “a he-man thing,” but quickly lose interest in the baby.

Fatherless families are “the calamity in our midst,” writes Washington Post columnist Colbert King.

When Black History Month was celebrated in 1950, according to State University of New York research, 77.7 percent of black families had two parents. As of January 2010, according to the Census Bureau, the share of two-parent families among African Americans had fallen to 38 percent.

The social safety net keeps growing, making it ever easier for young parents to avoid their responsibilities, King laments.

Robert Pondiscio is trying to help a former South Bronx student, very bright, emotionally volatile, who just gave birth to her second child. She’s 17.

Experts cheer 'new motherhood'

In response to new the illegitimacy rate is soaring, experts interviewed for the New York Times blog say: No problem.  It’s a “trend.” The “new motherhood.” Extended families and government support and tolerance for differences will take care of it.

Given that unmarried couples are much more likely to split than married couples and that unmarried fathers are much more likely to walk away from their children than divorced dads, this is an endorsement of fatherless families. I’ve read the stats and, in my years as a journalist, I’ve talked to many young people who grew up without a father.  The “trend” is more pain and poverty. 

The New York Times couldn’t find a single “expert” to defend the traditional family as best for kids? This is not a weird, way-out point of view.

By the way, thanks to Diana Senechal for guestblogging. I’m on vacation –currently in scenic Bruges, city of reluctant hitmen — and trying to focus on sightseeing.