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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The single-mom catastrophe

The demise of two-parent families in the U.S. has been an economic catastrophe for society.


By Kay S. Hymowitz

June 3, 2012

 The single-mother revolution shouldn't need much introduction. It started in the 1960s when the nation began to sever the historical connection between marriage and childbearing and to turn single motherhood and the fatherlessfamily into a viable, even welcome, arrangement for children and for society. The reasons for the shift were many, including the sexual revolution, a powerful strain of anti-marriage feminism and a "super bug" of American individualism that hit the country in the 1960s and '70s.

 In its broad outlines, the story is familiar by now. In 1965, 93% of all American births were to women with marriage licenses. Over the next few decades, the percentage of babies with no father around rose steadily. As of 1970, 11% of births were to unmarried mothers; by 1990, that number had risen to 28%. Today, 41% of all births are to unmarried women. And for mothers under 30, the rate is 53%.

 Though other Western countries also concluded that it was OK for the unmarried to have kids, what they had in mind as the substitute for marriage was something similar to it: a stable arrangement in which two partners, cohabiting over the long term, would raise their children together. The embrace of "lone motherhood" — women bringing up kids with no dad around — has been an American specialty.

 "By age 30, one-third of American women had spent time as lone mothers," observed family scholar Andrew Cherlin in his 2009 book, "The Marriage-Go-Round." "In European countries such as France, Sweden and the western part of Germany, the comparable percentages were half as large or even less."

 The single-mother revolution has been an economic catastrophe for women. Poverty remains relatively rare among married couples with children; the U.S. census puts only 8.8% of them in that category, up from 6.7% since the start of the Great Recession. But more than 40% of single-mother families are poor, up from 37% before the downturn. In the bottom quintile of earnings, most households are single people, many of them elderly. But of the two-fifths of bottom-quintile households that are families, 83% are headed by single mothers. The Brookings Institution's Isabel Sawhill calculates that virtually all the increase in child poverty in the United States since the 1970s would vanish if parents still married at 1970 rates. (...)

Full article: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-hymowitz-unmarried-mothers-20120603,0,1889065.story

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