Summary: Here are some mind-blowing facts about America’s new family system, and what encourages it and makes it work. No matter how traditional the marriage, what follows is often quite different.
Unmarried mothers are one part of the new American family. Divorce is the other.
Marriage has been an institution in flux for centuries, but the rate of change accelerated after California Governor Ronald Reagan signed the revolutionary Family Law Act of 1969, retroactively abolishing the “traditional” binding contract of marriage and replacing it with no-fault divorce. The feminist revolutions which followed forced further changes in marriage. The result (not predicted by experts): a large fraction of women valued their independence more than their husbands.
A common pattern has emerged for women. Marry, have kids (with a husband helping raise them during those early difficult years), divorce after they’re in school, and collect child support. This gets the children she wants without the bother of having a husband (after some years of marriage). The resulting high divorce rate — over 50% — with roughly 80% initiated by wives, makes marriage a risky proposition for men.
The numbers tell the tale. In 2005/06 less 60% of US adolescents (11, 13, and 15 years old) lived with both birth parents, per the OCED Family Database (source). That was the lowest level among OECD nations. That number is probably lower today. The numbers are worse among the poor and some minorities.
This is America’s new hybrid family system. Its pillars are easy no-fault divorce and and the government’s child support system. The government aggressively collects child support from fathers, and supports the children when the father cannot (or does not). It is a subsidy for divorce. In Economics 101 we learn that if we subsidize something, we get more of it.
The family system-that-once-was did not die. We killed it. In the next section (below) the US Census describes what replaced it.
By Timothy Grall of the Census, January 2016.
This report focuses on the child support income that custodial parents reported receiving from noncustodial parents living elsewhere and other types of support, such as health insurance and noncash assistance. The most recent data in this report are from the Child Support Supplement (CSS) to the April 2014 Current Population Survey (CPS). …The report also shows trends over the past 20 years.
In the spring of 2014, an estimated 13 million parents (who are referred to as custodial parents in this report) lived with 22 million children under 21 years of age, while the other parent lived somewhere
else. The 22 million children living with their custodial parent represented over one-quarter (27%) of all 83 million children under 21 years old living in families.
The proportion of Black children in families who lived with their custodial parent while their other parent(s) lived outside their household (48%) was about twice as large as the proportion of White children (23%). About 30% of Hispanic children, who may be any race, lived with their custodial parent.
- One of every six custodial parents (18%) were fathers.
- More than one-quarter (27%) of all children under 21 years of age lived in families with only one of their parents while the other parent lived elsewhere. About half (48%) of all Black children lived in custodial-parent families.
Mothers are more likely to be never married than divorced; for fathers it is the opposite.
- Custodial mothers: 40% were never married and 31% divorced.
- Custodial fathers: 28% were never married, and 45% divorced.
- Similar fractions had other backgrounds: 16%/15% currently married, 12%/11% separated, 1%/1% widowed.
- The proportion of custodial mothers with income below poverty (31%) was higher than that of custodial fathers (17%). The poverty level for custodial-parent families declined between 1993 (33%) and 2001 (23%), but since has not changed significantly.
- Over half (52%) of custodial mothers had either legal or informal child support agreements (vs. 31% of custodial fathers).
- About 68% of the $33 billion in child support due in 2013 was reported as received, averaging $3,950 per year per custodial parent who was due support.
This is just an intermediate stage in the evolution of the modern family. Only slowly will we learn about the effects of these changes on our young — and on America. I doubt we can do more than guess as what awaits us in the future as we continue sliding down the slippery slope of social change.
Of course, these policies are under our control. We need only commission research to learn what is happening, and devise mechanisms for rational sets of public measures to steer the family system in the desired direction. If we choose not to do so, let’s not whine about the results.
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If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about women and gender, about feminism, about romance, about marriage, about ways to reform America, and especially these…
- The revolution in gender roles reshapes society in ways too disturbing to see — Bloom on relationships.
- Love in the new world, after the gender wars — Allan Bloom on the ‘fall of Eros.’
- Men are “going Galt”. Marriage is dying. Will society survive?
- Will today’s young men marry? America’s future depends which of these answers is right.
- Important: For Father’s Day: revolutionary words that will forever change the American family.
- Mark Regnerus’s essay: Cheap Sex is the Inconvenient Truth in the end of marriage.
- A look at America’s future after marriage becomes rare.
- The disastrous results of trying to “have it all”.
Two books by Professor’s Regnerus about the revolution.