On Out-of-Wedlock Births Becoming Western Norm

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/08/2011 12:01:00 AM
A ghetto bastard, born next to the projects
Livin' in the slums with da bums; I sit and watch them

Why do I have to be like this? Momma said I'm priceless
So I am all worthless, starved, and it's just for being a nice kid

A few weeks ago, Charles M. Blow came out with a widely commented op-ed on, well, how crappy America is compared to its industrialized counterparts on any number of social metrics--health, education, inequality, incarceration rates, etc. Reader of the IPE Zone should be well aware of these since I'm in the habit of pointing them out myself. Even in this day and age, Americans are exceedingly fond of preaching to others how their way of life is so superior, when the sad reality is that the US is quite backward on a great many social indicators. I could add more to Blow's list--fatten it up, perhaps--but I'll refrain for now.

Continuing this train of thought, I started to look around for statistics on out-of-wedlock births in the US compared to the rest of the world. Being a fairly observant Catholic (notice the name), I was thus stunned to find that pretty much the entire West is heading towards a situation wherein the majority of births will be out of wedlock. Hence the classic video clip above of Naughty By Nature's catchy, autobiographical hit "Ghetto Bastard." Back in 1991, it was a statement of everyday life in highly racialized and inequitable America. Now, they might as well make it an OECD kindergarten anthem (my bad; the evil twin hijacked the keyboard). All the same, you have to wonder if the stigma is still there especially in the States. After all, these figures were collated by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC). Hint, hint?

There is a political economy behind these figures I am more familiar with in Europe. Given that birth rates in most of Europe remain well below the replacement rate (2.1 births per woman), many welfare supports and rights for mothers have been retained even for those with children out of wedlock births to discourage further erosion of fertility rates. What is more, the commonality of single motherhood has generally lessened the social stigma associated with "Papa Don't Preach" events. So, with fewer economic and social handicaps attached to single motherhood, many begin to women begin to wonder, "Why bother with marriage?"

Alas, things are not that simple back in the States. As it turns out, the lack of quality public health care support the US is infamously unable to provide still causes a penalty even if 40% of children are now born out of wedlock there. You also need to consider that live-in unions are less stable:
But experts say the increases in the United States are of greater concern because couples in many other countries tend to be more stable and government support for children is often higher. “In Sweden, you see very little variation in the outcome of children based on marital status. Everybody does fairly well,” said Wendy Manning, a professor of sociology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. “In the U.S., there’s much more disparity.”

Children born out of wedlock in the United States tend to have poorer health and educational outcomes than those born to married women, but that may be because unmarried mothers tend to share those problems.
It's unsurprising that out-of-wedlock births have hardly shot skyward in Japan. In contrast to the newfound permissiveness you find in the West. there is still strong ostracism and social pressure working against such phenomena. The same thing holds true in South Korea as well to keep the comparison valid by including Asia's more industrialized nations.

Once more, I think these phenomena represent how cultural differences still hold. Asians by and large still frown on this practice, while it's become utterly unremarkable in the West. As any number of Western countries head towards the over 50% out-of-wedlock mark--some are already there reinforcing certain stereotypes--I know where I stand. Call me old-fashioned, but Naughty By Nature tunes are best listened to rather than lived. So much change in so little time; debates on Western decadence should include discussions on these figures.

Ever in search of manufactured controversy, Amy Chua will probably begin brandishing the idea that Asian mothering techniques work since their offspring still have fathers or something to that effect.