The values we grew up with, taught to us by our parents, grandparents, and generations before them are being rediscovered by researchers and sociologists. How amazing to know scientists, sociologists, psychologists, historians, etc. are realizing the truth so long ago revealed in the sacred Scriptures are true, yes and are profitable.
“Old fashioned” values of a traditional family do benefit society. Lack of these values deeply divides individuals on several levels. Research has recently confirmed couples who have completed college, found good jobs and then married will have a longer lasting, stable marriage. In the end their discipline will create greater profit.
Family structure is often what creates a gap between the haves and have-nots. The inequality that divides is lack of that structure. A single mom has one income, high rent, possibly receives public assistance and has little time. The out of wedlock births are half to single mothers who have no support and the other half to cohabitating mothers and fathers with a variety of commitment in their relationships. Of the fatherless families, 50% are from divorce, separation or imprisonment.
What are the elements that divide?
1.Education: This includes high school and higher education. When researching city data bases one will be shocked at the low percentage of high school graduates who populate our cities. High school diplomas are essential for any type of common labor jobs, if not for anything more significant. One of the first questions asked on an application is whether the applicant possesses a high school diploma or its equivalent.
College education is a basic ingredient for a good job and a successful marriage. Why, do you ask? Research shows individuals with a college degree are more likely to marry another with a college degree. The reverse is also as likely; women without a college degree are less likely to marry.
A Brigham Young and Rice University study indicates that religiously affiliated youth are more likely to graduate from high school and 70% are more likely to enroll in college. They build relationships outside school, neighborhood and family. Mentors care for, counsel and encourage youth in a way school and family cannot. This is true across Catholic, Protestant and Black Protestant congregations. Church attendance helps predict high school graduation and prayer influences college enrollment. This study appears in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.
From 1940-1960 women who married were about the same for all education levels by age 30. First birth was by age 25 but differed for college graduates as it fell from 47% to 20%. By age 30, college graduates with a child dropped from 71% to 50%. The least educated had not put off childbearing.
Most educated women put off marriage and childbearing, least educated postpone marriage but not childbearing. The result is a rise in the fraction of less educated women who have children but are not married.
Single parenthood differed by education levels from 1970-1995. Single mothers with college degrees were 6% in 1965 which increased to 10% in 1980. Single parents with no high school diploma or certificate, was 13% in 1965 increasing to 47% in 1990’s. Single motherhood has spread faster among those less educated with the least earning power which affects the economy. College graduates seem exempt from single parenthood.
2. Marriage: The topic has already been touched on as the two go together. Changes in marriage patterns affect up to 40% of the inequality growth. Successful marriage and its rewards have been confined to a privileged class. Births outside of marriage account for 41% of all births, up from 17% in the 1980’s. Only 10% of births to college educated women are outside of marriage. The number for births to unmarried women with a high school degree or less is 60%. Motherhood outside of marriage occurs as much by class as it does race with the fastest growth being lower white middle class.
One would be remiss not to give credit to successful single mothers who have dedicated themselves to raising bright, successful children. Many have done so and we cheerfully congratulate them. We have had presidents who come from single parent homes.
Research, however shows their children are more likely to experience childhood poverty, act up in class, become teenage parents and drop out of school.
This issue really has to do with morality and is a commentary on its decline in this generation as permissiveness has increased. The topics of premarital sex, out of wedlock births, and divorce need to be addressed.
Until 1960 marriage was for a lifetime and divorce was rare until World War II when it rose but dropped again. But from 1960-1980 divorce doubled and remained high. Attitudes changed toward divorce as in a 1962 survey which show 50% of people said couples who didn’t get along should remain together for the benefit of the children. In 1977 80% disagreed. Adults marry according to maximizing their own personal welfare. But the children’s welfare must be considered in marriage and divorce. Children’s long term welfare is optimized if 80% of couples remain married until the children are grown. One of the parents is better off 40% of the time if they stay together until the children grow up.
Divorced mothers were common in the late 1960-1970’s and reached its peak in the 1980’s. They rose with each educational group but college educated women were less likely to divorce. The question has been asked, “Why did divorce rates flatten out when non-marital childbearing accelerated?” The answer is obvious and is supported by the statistics, divorce rates declined as cohabitation and non-marital childbearing increased therefore the lack of commitment created a decrease in divorce which was unneeded.
In the 1960’s 50% of 25 year old women had sex before marriage but by the 1980’s five out of six had. Those who said it was wrong in the 1960’s composed 75% while in the 1980’s only 33% said so.
Non-marital childbirth or childbearing were very unusual until the 1960’s. If a woman was pregnant before marriage in the 1960’s, the couple married and raised the child together. By the 1990’s 33% of children were born to unmarried couples and by 1994 75% of people surveyed indicated people desiring children ought to get married therefore morals did not change as fast as promiscuity. Since 1980, the probability of unmarried parents living together increased. The 1980-1990’s cohabitates accounted for the entire increase of non-marital births among white women. Of those cohabitating only 22% will be together when their child reaches the age of 15. Parental cohabitation is a very unstable situation.
3. Parenting: Married couples are having children later, divorcing less and concentrating on parenting time. This is contrasted by single mothers who do not marry and may have children with more than one man.
Research suggests more education creates a stronger family structure with committed, involved fathers. Those with less education tend to have a complex, unstable situation with men “here today and gone tomorrow.” This creates greater gaps in a child’s life chances. Half of unmarried parents living together at a child’s birth will split within 5 years.
Biological parents have an obligation to raise their children together if at all possible. This is a moral and practical obligation. From 1900-1970 10% of children did not live with both parents. Of those 5% were by death and 39% for other reasons. By 1990 this statistic rose to 50% the result of increasing divorce. No other country in the world is as bad as the United States. In other countries if a non-marital birth occurs, the parents are expected to stay together and raise the child.
Parents who do not get along make child development problematic. Removing a violent parent is good for the child while removing an unfaithful parent may be good for the spouse may have consequences for the children.
Two parents are better than a single parent or a single parent with a step-parent. Children need stability and not living with two biological parents is associated with change in household composition that children find upsetting. Children who live with a widowed parent do better than one never married, divorced, or divorced and remarried because the instability factor is not there.
Lack of a male role model increases disciple problems, dependency on government and problems in relationships with other children. With two parents children are more successful:
i) Perform better academically
ii) Fewer teenage pregnancies
iii) Completed high school more often
iv) Attended college
v) Employed in early adulthood
Living with a step-parent may help economically but the child is as likely to drop out of school or have a teenage pregnancy as children of a single parent. The economic advantage is offset by psychological disadvantages. For the child, it is harder to deal with the new parent and becomes difficult to parent someone else’s children.
4. Economics: Marriage is a contract where husband and wife hope to reap economic benefits. Each has their specialty, as an example the husband in market network and wife in household production. As each improves their efficiency, the marriage gains. Other benefits include investing in each other such as education, sharing collective goods such as home, sharing risks such as when labor forces change they share each other’s earnings. The advantages of marriage far outweigh the assets of a man or a woman. With this said, marriage should be more attractive for lower income people but it is not.
Changes in economics increased the gap in the 1980’s. Top incomes soared, middle incomes stalled, and lower income fell. In the 1970’s, households with children in the top 10% incomes had 5 times as much income as those in the bottom 10%. That changed to 10 times as much.
Why the change? Many market changes contributed to this gap. The growing premium of a college education, new technologies requiring a bright mind rather than brute and brawn, the loss of manufacturing due to automation and foreign countries’ production, growth of the financial sector, and decline of labor unions.
Economic problems often are found to be a two-way street. Poor economics leads to marital decline as marital decline leads to economic devastation. In that same context, single women have a difficult time finding marriageable men and those who need to stick together for economic reasons fail to do so. Single parenthood has contributed as much as 40% to the inequality.
Little child support from an absentee father, public assistance that legislators want to take away lest they become dependent on it keeps single mothers poor. In the 1960’s 30% of poor families were single mothers but since 1970 that number has held steady at 60%.
External economic support for single parents makes marriage less common. With money available from public assistance or relatives, the advantage of marriage is diminished. Rising welfare benefits reduces marriage while lowering benefit should increase marriage. The difference however, should be the standard of living between being married and unmarried. What is it that we can do together which we cannot separately?
Divorce and remarriage keeps a family close to where they were financially. Cohabitating is not much better especially with the uncertainty of how much the boyfriend will contribute if anything. He may make it worse. Living with parents will help poverty to some degree. Other non-economic factors figure in as well such as marrying a habitual unemployed spouse making the economics even worse.
5. Values: Charles Murray’s new book, Coming Apart indicates the decline of marriage is the erosion of values more than the decline of economic opportunity. As of 1990 women who had some higher education but yet not a degree had 10% of the births outside of marriage. This figure has now tripled to 30% contrasted by women of all races with college degrees coming in with 8%.
One third of single moms with high school degrees or less have children with multiple men, 12% of those with some post high school education and zero percent of those studied with a college degree had children with multiple partners. These are very telling statistics that leads to confusion and disruption for the children.
In the 1970’s the top one third of both middle and highest incomes had 95% of households with children contained two parents at home, but today, 88% of the highest and 71% of the middle class find it so. The middle has been drooping into the lower class and experiencing some of their realities.
6. Realities: One must come to terms with the realities of the haves and have-nots. Most happily married couples and families do not come about because of good luck, a spoon in their mouth, having the right political connection or inherited talents.
Most of these came about by a prescribed way and definite order. The order is: high school degree, college degree, good job, marriage and finally family. Doing things in this order will earn an annual family salary near the six figure mark. This is better than three fourths of the general population.
The single mom working and struggling with a single income of 20-30 thousand dollars annually may find herself in the middle of other parents but her family income lags at the 19th percentile.
Many of the happily married, two income households can build or buy a house in a good neighborhood next to a great school. The single mom may be bouncing from apartment to apartment attempting to find more reasonable rent so she settles in a neighborhood where she can purchase discount groceries and accepts a poorer school system, realizing a lesser quality of education for her children.
Time becomes a real factor in both scenarios. The happily married, college educated family has time and money for children’s activities. They can volunteer and involve the children in many activities and the seasonal sports. They have time to do these things because the married couple shares responsibilities at home where Dad leads and the children follow his lead. Extra-curricular activities have been shown to improve academics so an activity gap indicates the affluent doing better in school.
The single mom handles all responsibilities herself. After completing a day’s work, chores being done and errands run, little time is left for other activities. One income leaves little for the expenses of sports or activities. Another parent is not present to show the boys how to be boys and mom just doesn’t do it right.
The 1970’s had 1/5th of the top family incomes spending four times as much as the bottom 1/5th on sports, music, private schools, etc. but now they spend seven times as much.
Two parents give the family two perspectives; when Mom’s suggestions fail, Dad gives his “best shot.” The single mom has to go it alone and often struggles when her perspective is defied or ignored.
Studies show single parent’s children more likely will grow up poor and suggest the absence of a father makes it harder to climb the ladder out of poverty. Out of the poorest 1/3 with two parents, 58% moved to a higher level with only 44% of those with a single parent did. Other results show 15% with two parents fell to the bottom 1/3 while 27% did who lacked two parents. Two parents will most likely lift you out of the bottom and help to keep you from falling.
Another reality is marriageable men are available to single ladies. Marriage can be a motivating factor for men who prepare themselves for life. It can help them realize the value of an education and a good job. With these two motivating factors behind them, marriage and success looks promising.
Being a responsible father has great rewards. Just showing up and being present for their children’s events are satisfying to the children. They take pride in pointing you out to their peers. Often some expression of thanks or gratitude will be uttered by the child because you made the effort.
The single mom shows up alone. Often she makes great sacrifices to do so. At times she will have to leave work early or ignore some household chores as she attends the events fully knowing they await her upon her return. Her children are very excited she is there and as they grow older hopefully they will appreciate the sacrifices she has made for them.
From the sacred Scriptures, I Timothy 4:8…godliness has profit for all things, holding promise for this life and the life to come.