More than half of all births for women in America under the age of 30 now occur outside marriage.
This is a signal that the trends in motherhood are changing, for better or for worse. Go back a few decades and you would barely find a single mom out in the crowd. Now single mothers under 30 years of age actually outnumber their married counterparts.
There are still more women in America who are married when they have children, but it is a relatively slim lead – 59% of all American women in 2009 were married when they had children.
And it isn’t just poor women and minority communities that are seeing this trend. It is actually white women who are leading the way when it comes to having children out of wedlock. White, 20-something women who have taken college but have not finished a degree lead the pack when, completely ripping apart old stereotypes of single mothers.
It is surprising to note, however, that college grads are actually bucking this trend and getting married before having children. Frank Furstenberg, sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, even notes that marriage has become a “luxury good” reserved for people who are “educated.”
Even liberals and conservatives are pointing fingers at each other as to why this phenomenon is becoming more common.
Liberals say that shrinking paychecks have made it harder to find marriageable men, while conservatives say that the sexual revolution and safety net programs made marriage less desirable. Both sides seem to have a point. The lack of decent-paying jobs have made the “traditional” American family impossible to finance, while cohabitation and single motherhood have become less stigmatized than they were before.
What matters at the end of the day, though, is the welfare of the children.
Single mothers who manage to obtain solid education, secure a paying job and meet all the developmental needs of their children can handle the job well enough. For those who barely survive on a single income, though, then that piece of paper that defines marriage could be the only thing that could force the deadbeat dad to at least help out with his child’s food, medicine and schooling.