This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Out-of-Wedlock Births Add Diversity to Households in the US

Today's New York Times leads with a story that draws on a report from Child Trends last November which itself draws especially upon birth data from the US National Center for Health Statistics. Among women under 30 in the US today, a majority of births are now to unmarried women.

Large racial differences remain: 73 percent of black children are born outside marriage, compared with 53 percent of Latinos and 29 percent of whites. And educational differences are growing. About 92 percent of college-educated women are married when they give birth, compared with 62 percent of women with some post-secondary schooling and 43 percent of women with a high school diploma or less, according to Child Trends.
Almost all of the rise in nonmarital births has occurred among couples living together. While in some countries such relationships endure at rates that resemble marriages, in the United States they are more than twice as likely to dissolve than marriages. In a summary of research, Pamela Smock and Fiona Rose Greenland, both of the University of Michigan, reported that two-thirds of couples living together split up by the time their child turned 10.
One of the lines in the story that really got to me was the following:
Amber Strader, 27, was in an on-and-off relationship with a clerk at Sears a few years ago when she found herself pregnant.
When she "found herself pregnant"? Hello, we know how this happens, and this is why methods of birth control need to be available to both men and women (and I'm not talking about the Bayer aspirin regimen). 
An important theme in the story is that women no longer need the financial support of men and so they are more readily able to manage on their own. I agree with that whole-heartedly, but we usually think of that in terms of women being able to delay or avoid having children who will set them back financially and in many other ways. Indeed, Melissa Harris-Perry was just today discussing on her new TV show the "side-effects" of birth control being the ability of women to get an education and have a career. 

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