The Census Bureau announced that a record number of American children – nearly 1.5 million – were born to unmarried women. This represents more than a third of all babies born in the country last year.
Most of those babies were not born to teenagers. Teen moms only accounted for a quarter of the births to unmarried mothers. In fact, the teen birthrate has been declining significantly for some years.
Most of those million and a half babies were born to women in their twenties. Most are done their preparation for adulthood, and have begun it – babies first, husbands maybe. Many of them (the Census Bureau did not report how many) are living with the fathers of their babies. We have good reason to think from other research that many of those cohabiting mothers believe that the baby puts them a giant step closer to marriage. The fathers of their babies, on the other hand, are more likely to think that if she didn’t insist that they get married before the baby was born, the pressure is off to ever get married – or even to stay permanently.
A third of all babies born last year are born without legal ties to their fathers. A large proportion of them – half is probably a safe guess – will not have much of a relation with their fathers in 2025, when they become full adults in the eyes of the law. That is a huge and scary proportion of all the new adults to have come up fatherless.
Here is a worthwhile centrist family goal: by 2010, let’s get the number of out-of-wedlock births down to a mere million. That will serve hundreds of thousands of children better, and serve society as a whole.