Illegitimacy/ Caste - 12/05/06
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Tue Dec 5 13:06:15 EST 2006
- THREATS TO MARRIAGE: THE RISING TIDE OF ILLEGITIMACY
- MARRIAGE AND CASTE IN AMERICA
- THREATS TO MARRIAGE: THE RISING TIDE OF ILLEGITIMACY
Threats to marriage
The rising tide of illegitimacy is taking a toll
The Daily Press
Hampton Roads, Virginia
December 4, 2006
The real assault on marriage isn't coming from homosexuals trying to get
married. It comes from other quarters, including heterosexuals refusing to
get married - but having children anyway.
A new study released last week reveals the consequences of their disdain for
marriage: In 2005, 37 percent of births in the United States were to
unmarried mothers. That's an all time high. Or an all-time low, depending on
how you look at it.
This isn't just about teenagers. While more than four out of five babies
born to teens are out of wedlock, so are half - think of that: half - of
those whose mothers are in their early twenties, and nearly three in 10
those born to women in their later twenties.
The phenomenon cuts across all quarters of society, to different extents.
Seven in ten births to black women were illegitimate, half of those to
Hispanic women, and one in four of those to white mothers.
The consequences are enormous. For marriage, for society, for taxpayers.
Marriage plays an important role in something vital to any society's
survival and strength: the production and socialization of children. While
there are many effective single parents and many ineffectual two-parent
families, the evidence is both sensible and incontrovertible: generally,
children are better off raised by two parents. That structure increases the
family's ability to cover all its duties: securing the means to support it,
caring for its members' physical needs, providing the structure and
affection children need to flourish.
But when lots of people thumb their nose at marriage, by intention or
default, it undermines the social institution. It weakens the strictures
against childbearing outside marriage and can diminish individuals'
willingness to put in the effort necessary to sustain a successful marriage.
It's certainly not inevitable, but a woman who has children outside of
marriage is more likely to end her education and consign herself and her
offspring to poverty - and to dependence on taxpayers for housing, food,
income, health care, day care and other necessities. The higher incidence of
poverty fed by illegitimacy takes a toll on the social and economic fabric
It's certainly not true for every child, but those who grow up without
involved, effective fathers are more likely to do poorly in school, drop
out, get into trouble. That adds to crime, and the bill for police and
prosecutors, courts and jails.
Illegitimacy helps explain why nearly half the students in Hampton schools
are economically disadvantaged - and that helps explain why achievement
levels aren't where the community wants them. It helps explain why the
Newport News jail is overcrowded. It helps explain why Medicaid is taking a
multi-billion dollar bite out of Virginia's budget. It helps explain the
pressure on localities like James City County to make sure there's housing
for families who can't pay much. It helps explain why the population of
Virginia's prisons is expected to rise 26 percent in the next decade. It
helps explain why Virginia taxpayers are spending $88,000 per year per child
for the 1,000 in its juvenile correctional facilities, without much success
-half are rearrested within a year.
If only the amount of concern and angst that went into passage of the
Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage had gone into efforts to
promote and strengthen marriage. It will take sound public policies - for
example, financial incentives to stay in school might dissuade some young
people from getting pregnant. And an unofficial, but ultimately more
persuasive, effort by families and everyone who works with their children to
convince young people that childbearing out of marriage is not the way to go
- MARRIAGE AND CASTE IN AMERICA
By Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | December 5, 2006
Frontpage Interview¹s guest today is Kay Hymowitz, a Senior Fellow at the
Manhattan Institute, Contributing Editor at City Journal and author of two
books on childhood in America. She is the author of the new book Marriage
and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age.
FP: Kay Hymowitz, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Hymowitz: My pleasure.
FP: What inspired you to write this book?
Hymowitz: Over the past few years, I had been following the discussion,
mostly taking place in liberal and Democratic circles, about increasing
inequality in the United States. I still have enough of the liberal left in
me to believe that inequality is a serious social problem, especially when
you add indications of declining mobility. It's one thing to have a big gap
between rich and poor if the poor have plenty of opportunity to move up;
it's another if the poor are stuck in their own 'hoods generation after
Yet the Democratic discussion struck me as predictably inclined to describe
the issue as a failure of economic redistribution and to assume unfairness
in the system. I was more optimistic that we had a meritocracy that could
work and I suspected that there were other reasons low income individuals
were not able to take advantage of it.
FP: What is the marriage gap? Tell us about it.
Hymowitz: It turns out that the dramatic rise in illegitimacy and divorce
during the last forty years - what I call the unmarriage revolution - has
been largely limited to less educated men and women. College educated women
have never gone in for having babies outside of marriage; Murphy Brown was
largely a Hollywood fantasy. Moreover, divorce rates among higher educated
women have been going down since 1980. The bottom line is that the large
majority of well educated women are raising their children with their
This is not the case with less educated women. They are much more likely to
have a child without getting married first - over half of births to women
without a high school diploma are non marital. And when they do marry, they
are far more likely to divorce than college educated women.
Given that children who grow up with their married parents do better on a
wide variety of measures, that means family structure is playing an
important role in the rise of inequality and the decline of immobility.
Worse, because the children of single mothers are more likely to become
single parents themselves, the marriage gap is self-perpetuating. The
children of college educated women will go on to become college educated, to
marry, only then have children, as well as to be affluent. The children of
less educated women are more likely to graduate high school, or if they do,
to drop out of college and to go on to have children when they are not
married who will go on to repeat the cycle. Hence, my title: Marriage and
Caste in America.
FP: So why does marriage matter so much to children?"
Hymowitz: A lot of people assume it's simply that there is strength in
numbers. Married couples have two sets of hands, two brains to problem
solve, two people to take turns watching the kids, not to mention, two
incomes to buy all the things that kids need to get ahead, including a house
in a good school district. The problem with this theory is that children
who grow up with a step-parent have the economic and practical advantages of
two parents, but show less favorable outcomes than those who grow up with
their married parents. Same thing for kids who live with cohabiting
I argue that the reason children do better growing up with their married
parents is that marriage is greater than the sum of its parts, that it is
far more than two people who publicly announce their love and commitment, as
so many Americans seem to define it. It is a social institution that has
evolved over time to satisfy economic and cultural requirements.
American marriage contains all sorts of messages about how to live, messages
with a long history that help you succeed in this society. It provides the
young with a life script, an orientation towards the future, and it promotes
wealth creation. From its beginnings Anglo-American marriage was tied up
with private property; in old England a couple was expected to wait to marry
(and to have children, of course) until they had a plot of land that would
allow them to be self-sufficient.
The American founders were also very intent on the idea of the
self-governing couple raising children to be self-governing citizens. To
this day, marriage and wealth are interconnected. Married men make more
money than unmarried men, controlling for race, education, and just about
every widely measured variable. Seventy percent of American households own
their own home; most of them are married couples.
According to a study comparing married couples and divorced and single
individuals, the average net wealth of married couples increases 16% a year;
after 15 years, their net worth is 93% higher than divorced and singles.
That's why I say that marriage - the social institution, rather than the
personal relationship - helps us understand disturbing trends in inequality
FP: Who were the people behind the ³family revolution²? What were their
goals and visions?
Hymowitz: There's no question that there were a number of impersonal forces
at work in upending the family - the pill, which gave women control over
reproduction, affluence, which made marriage less essential for mere
survival, and of course, the mass movement of women into the labor market,
which allowed women greater independence.
But there is also no doubt that the unmarriage revolution was in large
measure a product of dubious ideas. Idealists of the 1960's imagined that
if you could free individuals from traditional modes of being and
traditional institutions, they could experience life more directly, more
"ecstatically" as Hillary Clinton put it in her famous Wellesley graduation
speech. Adding to the anti-marriage movement was the belief among feminists
that marriage was the source of female inequality. Simone de Beauvoir
called it "an obscene bourgeois institution," (a description I agree with,
by the way, if you take out the "obscene") and as we all know, Betty
Friedan, referred to it as a "comfortable concentration camp." To be a
wife was to be confined in a stereotype straightjacket that severely limited
women's individual potential, as well as keeping them under male control.
It followed from all of this that divorce could be a positive; the popular
media would frequently use the words "change" and "growth" in stories about
divorcing celebrities and sometimes they still do. And it also followed
that if a woman wanted to have a baby on her own, well, that was okay too.
Judges, lawyers, and legislators helped to normalize these assumptions by
moving without much discussion to pass no-fault divorce laws and also to
erase legal distinctions between married and unmarried parents. In short,
marriage, which had been universally understood as a means of assigning the
rights and responsibilities of parenthood, was now completely detached from
childbearing or childrearing. It was simply one way to find adult
fulfillment - or not.
As for children, no one really had much to say about the effect of this
radical transformation on them, or if they did, they implied that since the
nuclear family was such a hot house of patriarchal dysfunction, the kids
might be better off too. It's mind-boggling to read what passed for social
science research on the family throughout the 1970's and 1980's. For those
decades family researchers either ignored the question of family structure
entirely, or concluded from the flimsiest of studies that kids were
resilient and whatever unhappiness they experienced when dad moved out to
live with his girlfriend would pass quickly. It wasn't till the early
1990's that social scientists designed more serious studies and began to
reach a consensus that kids do better on average with married parents.
After twenty plus years of reassurances about the children of divorce and
nonmarriage, they were Emily Litella-like, "Oh. Never mind."
FP: Can you talk a bit about the effect the family upheaval has had on
Hymowitz: Given the legacy of slavery that made marriage impossible for
blacks and Jim Crow laws that emasculated men, the unmarriage revolution was
bound to hit blacks especially hard. When Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote his
controversial report "The Negro Family", he was warning the country about a
25% illegitimacy rate among blacks. In one chapter of my book, I tell the
story of how black leaders and black and white academics accused Moynihan of
every sin in the p.c. book. He was a racist who could not possibly
understand "the strengths of the black family." He was a sexist who failed
to appreciate the "strong black woman" and her "extended kinship networks."
It became impossible to have an honest conversation about what was happening
in the black community for the next twenty years even as black welfare
rolls, crime rates, and teen births were soaring.
Well, now the rupture between marriage and black childbearing is just about
complete. Seventy percent of black births are to single mothers. Seventy
percent. This has had a disastrous effect on men, who have lost their major
social roles as provider and father. It is also a tragedy for the country
because it makes the goal of full black equality unachievable. Growing up in
single parent homes, black kids are destined to stay behind.
FP: You refer to the Mission. What is it and why does it matter?
Hymowitz: American marriage has always been uniquely child centered. As I
mentioned, the founders understood that raising children to thrive in a
republic was a big undertaking, requiring the careful nurturing of
children's social, moral, and cognitive development. This goal of
developing children for a dynamic and unpredictable future is what I call
the Mission. Of course, single parents can also be "Missionaries" and many
are. But it is not only much harder to organize family life around your
children's development if there is only one parent around, it is less built
into the structure of day to day life.
The unfortunate irony is that at the same time as the unmarriage revolution
was moving into full swing and single parent homes were on the increase, the
United States was turning into a knowledge economy that made a college
education essential to achieving middle class status. Yet having not been
beneficiaries of The Mission, the children of single parents are far less
likely to go to college and if they do to go to college, to attend a
selective institution. A few years ago, Jennifer Garner, a Cornell
professor, was struck by the fact that only about 10% of her students came
from divorced families. She and a colleague got together and looked at
other high ranking schools and found the same thing; ninety percent of the
students were from in tact families. That 90% is the Mission at work.
Likewise, that 90-10 spread is the unhappy consequence of the Marriage Gap.
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