Staggering Social Change

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Juan Williams offers the following:

“Almost 50 years ago, when the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed, the national out-of-wedlock birthrate was 7%. Today it is over 40%. According to the CDC, the out-of-wedlock birthrate for white children was just 2% in the 1960s. Today it is 30%. Among black children, the out-of-wedlock birthrate has skyrocketed from 20% in the 1960s to a heartbreaking 72% today.”

It goes without saying that the implications of all of this are staggering. Today’s schools have already taken on more “socialization” tasks than they ever have before. (That’s one of the reasons so many schools have advisory programs.) But the statistics Williams points to will mean that schools and other institutions will have to do more, much more to meet the growing needs of our future students.

I wonder, given the gravity of all of this — why there isn’t a greater sense of  urgency on this issue?


4 thoughts on “Staggering Social Change

  1. I think you’ve got your answer to the question in the previous comments. There is no sense of urgency because criticizing a woman’s choice to have a baby out of wedlock is not something easily criticized.

    And what if UCC Mom is correct? A wealthy single mom is fine, but a poor single mom is bad news for the child. Good luck even discussing that one!

    No urgency because we can’t even discuss these things in a reasonable way – off limits really. Too bad… The truth is there somewhere.

  2. Emily,

    Thanks for writing, and I hope you don’t mind if I “push back” a bit on this.

    Study after study has shown that children from intact households with two parents do better than children from households that are broken by divorce or the lack of a father or mother.

    Marriage is more than a mere social construct. The economic statistics alone point out that the surest anti-poverty program is marriage. Why? Because marriage requires people to commit themselves to one another and to their children.

    Do many marriages end in divorce? Yes — and that is part of the problem. But even in the case of divorce, the children usually know their fathers. There may be hurt and alienation, but there is the chance of reconciliation. While some divorced fathers are deadbeats and have no connection or little connection with their children, most stay involved in their children’s lives.

    You raise an important question by asking, “Is it not better for that child to have grown up never having known their parents together than it would be for them to live through the often acrimonious process of divorce?” Yes, in some cases, I suppose, but in the vast majority? No way. Besides, Juan Williams is arguing for two-parent families. He assumes that the most likely scenario for keeping parents together is marriage. He would be the first to say that having the mother and father in the same house — even if unmarried — would be preferable to the situation today.

  3. An out of wedlock child can be raised to be a self actualized contributing member to society, if the parent has sufficient funds and access to adequate community services.
    Let’s focus on the real problem-poverty.

  4. Jim, while I do agree that children are best raised by two loving parents who are committed to one another, to assume that the only way to achieve that state of being is by the parents being formally married to another is narrow-minded.

    What of long-standing couples who choose not to get married because they don’t see the point, are irreligious or have philsophical opposition to a state’s involvement in defining their relationship?

    What of the same-sex couple who, in many parts of the world (including much of the US), can’t get married even if they want to?

    And why is the legal status of a child’s parents’ relationship so important at the moment of its birth? Isn’t it just as – if not MORE important – during the child’s lifetime? 35% of Canadian childen have parents who have divorced during their lifetime. Is it not better for that child to have grown up never having known their parents together than it would be for them to live through the often acrimonious process of divorce?

    Yes it’s best for a child to be born to two loving parents who are committed to each other as well as to their offspring. But to say that a piece of paper has anything to do with that is short sighted.

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