In the two decades preceding the Great Recession, the American prison population nearly tripled, according to the Pew Center on the States. And make no mistake: mass incarceration rips at the fabric of families and whole communities.Incarceration rates certainly cannot account for children being born out of wedlock, but it can help account for a lower than preferred overall rate of marriage.
Another, albeit related, perspective on the family came this week from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University.
In 2009, almost two-thirds (64.5%) of children lived with married parents. Although children living in married parent families may experience a wide range of family and household living arrangements, including residing with biological and stepparents, full, half or step siblings, or other related or unrelated household members. The traditional nuclear family consists of two married parents who are both biologically related to all children in the family, and no one else is living in their home. In other words, the child is only living with his or her married biological parents and full siblings. In 2009, half (50.8%) of children in the U.S. were living in a traditional nuclear family. We have witnessed a relatively modest 12% decline over a 13 year period. In 1996, 56% of children were in traditional nuclear families.So, despite the increase in out-of-wedlock births among almost all groups in the US, it is still the case that nearly two out of three children are living with married parents, even if both parents are not biologically related. Since one of my own children is adopted, I'm not one who thinks that the biological relationship is the most important thing in the world, but having two parents is generally better than just one, for both economic and social reasons. Obviously, the more current or potential husbands/fathers who are in jail, the harder this is going to be.