‘Dis­as­trous’ il­le­git­i­macy trends

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

In 2005, Amer­ica con­tin­ued to make progress in re­duc­ing the teen birth rate. Un­for­tu­nately, how­ever, the na­tion suf­fered yet an­other ma­jor set­back in its ef­fort to ad­dress the ever-bur­geon­ing prob­lem of out-of-wed­lock (i.e., il­le­git­i­mate) child­bear­ing. Specif­i­cally, out-of-wed­lock births ex­ceeded 1.5 mil­lion last year for the first time ever, rep­re­sent­ing 36.8 per­cent of all births in the United States. An­other find­ing was the fact that the His­panic birth rate pre­cisely dou­bled the non-His­panic white birth rate, ac­cord­ing to data re­ported by the Na­tional Cen­ter for Health Sta­tis­tics in its re­cent re­port, “Births: Pre­lim­i­nary Data for 2005.”

Last year the birth rate for teenagers fell 2 per­cent, de­clin­ing to 40.4 births per 1,000 women 15 to 19 years old. The 2005 rate rep­re­sents a 35 per­cent drop from the 61.8 rate that ap­plied in 1991, the most re­cent cycli­cal peak. Over that 14year pe­riod, the teen birth rate plunged from 118.1 to 60.9 (or 48 per­cent) for nonHis­panic blacks and from 43.4 to 26 (or 40 per­cent) for non-His­panic whites. The teen birth rate fell from 104.6 to 81.5 (or 22 per­cent) for His­pan­ics, whose teen birth rate is now more than dou­ble the over­all rate, more than three times the rate for non-His­panic whites and more than a third higher than the rate for nonHis­panic blacks.

Among 2005’s to­tal births of 4.14 mil­lion were 1.53 mil­lion ba­bies born to un­mar­ried women. How large a num­ber is 1.53 mil­lion? It is the equiv­a­lent of each year adding more peo­ple than are now liv­ing in Philadel­phia, the na­tion’s fifth­largest city. It is nearly three times the pop­u­la­tion of Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Over a 10year pe­riod, it is equiv­a­lent to adding nearly two cities the size of New York City to the na­tion’s pop­u­la­tion.

For decades the “il­le­git­i­macy rate,” (a term which has now en­tered the realm of the po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect), was col­lo­qui­ally un­der­stood to rep­re­sent the per­cent of to­tal births that were born to un­mar­ried women. Thus de­fined, the il­le­git­i­macy rate in­creased a full per­cent­age point in 2005, ris­ing to 36.8 per­cent. Among non-His­panic blacks, while the il­le­git­i­macy rate marginally in­creased by 0.2 per­cent, it none­the­less reached a stag­ger­ing 69.5 per­cent. For non-His­panic whites, the il­le­git­i­macy rate reached a new mile­stone, ex­ceed­ing 25 per­cent af­ter leap­ing from 24.5 per­cent in 2004 to 25.4 per­cent in 2005. Per­haps more alarm­ingly, the il­le­git­i­macy rate for His­pan­ics in­creased by 1.5 per­cent in one year, reach­ing an in­creas­ingly wor­ri­some rate of 47.9 per­cent.

The rise in un­wed births is “dis­as­trous, about as big a leap as we’ve ever had,” Robert Rec­tor, wel­fare an­a­lyst at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, told Ch­eryl Wet­zstein, of The Wash­ing­ton Times. He noted that the un­wed birth fig­ures lev­eled off and seemed to sta­bi­lize for a time af­ter Congress passed wel­fare re­form in 1996. How­ever, re­cent in­creases in th­ese num­bers “clearly show that the im­pact of wel­fare re­form is now vir­tu­ally zero, and we are go­ing back to the way things were be­fore wel­fare re­form,” Mr. Rec­tor told Mrs. Wet­zstein.

The trend in the il­le­git­i­macy rate over the past four and a half decades has been star­tling. Out-of-wed­lock births com­prised 5.3 per­cent of to­tal births in 1960, in­clud­ing 2.3 per­cent of white births and 23 per­cent of black births. To­day il­le­git­i­mate births are now ap­proach­ing 40 per­cent, a level that will be reached be­fore Pres­i­dent Bush com­pletes his sec­ond term if the rate of in­crease in 2005 (2.8 per­cent) is re­peated over the fol­low­ing three years.

Decades of so­cial-science re­search have con­firmed that there is a di­rect cor­re­la­tion be­tween the in­ci­dence of il­le­git­i­macy, on the one hand, and the in­ci­dence of poverty, ed­u­ca­tional prob­lems, prison con­fine­ment and in­nu­mer­able other so­cial prob­lems and patholo­gies, on the other hand. Thus, the ex­plod­ing il­le­git­i­macy rate among His­pan­ics is es­pe­cially omi­nous given that the His­panic birth rate (23) is now dou­ble the rate (11.5) of non-His­panic whites, whose il­le­git­i­macy rate (25.4 per­cent) was roughly half the His­panic rate (47.9 per­cent) in 2005. More­over, the His­panic birth rate in­creased in 2005, while the birth rates for non-His­panic whites and non-His­panic blacks de­clined. In­deed, non-His­panic white women bore fewer chil­dren in 2005 than they had in 2004, while His­panic births in­creased by 3.9 per­cent. The ris­ing His­panic birth rate is fur­ther aug­mented by the soar­ing and dis­pro­por­tion­ate His­panic im­mi­gra­tion rate. Un­less the trend in the His­panic il­le­git­i­macy rate is re­versed, so­cial prob­lems in the com­ing decades will cer­tainly ex­plode — not only within the His­panic com­mu­nity, but through­out the na­tion as well.

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