Social Stability in the United StatesPATRICK FAGAN
Third world countries around the globe are now being pressured into adopting US population policy even though those very policies have, in the US, resulted in untold suffering, in terms of alienation and internal disintegration.
As the Cairo population conference approaches, the US should bring some humility to the debating floor; perhaps its delegation should go to listen and learn rather than to lead.
Rumor has it that a great deal of pressure is being applied to countries that oppose or waver on the Clinton administration's preferred language on population policy. That the US must resort to pressure on these policies is understandable. It cannot point to its results with its own people to sell the policies. Rather, the US experience is a lesson in population policy disaster.
Based in the US, and financed mainly from within the US, Planned Parenthood has been the major influence in setting American population policy, just as International Planned Parenthood has been the major influence in setting United Nation's policy. The policies have been in place long enough for the painful consequences to be clear. The US is on a demographic collision course with disaster, experiencing greater and greater suffering because of the trends set in motion among its own people.
THE ILLEGITIMACY EXPLOSION
The number of US children born without fathers in the home is growing at a steady and inexorable pace.
By about the year 2012, if current trends continue, the majority of children born in the United States will be illegitimate. Today the rate of illegitimacy among children born to all mothers under the age of 20, and for all black children, is almost 70 percent.
Long before this level of rejection had taken place the consequences of births outside of marriage were already taking a heavy toll. In 1990 the United States Bureau of the Census published Children's Well- Being: An International Comparison. By revisiting these comparisons of the United States with other developed countries, the reader can gain some idea of the diminished capacity for love and nurturance in the US. The Census study paints an unambiguous picture. The United States is in the worst shape of all countries in its level of love and nurturance, of family bonding and affiliation, of community peace and cohesiveness.
According to the Census report, among the world's nations the US has:
The figures used in the Census study are 1988 figures. Since that time the rate of illegitimate birth has continued its increase, and now stands at 30 percent. The numbers of babies being born to younger and younger unmarried teen mothers has been growing steadily over the past few decades.
Bad as these numbers are, the growth in the rate of births outside of marriage is now fastest among white women over the age of 20. Up until recently the fastest growth in births outside of marriage was among the black population. Now the acceleration is in the white population—a much larger proportion of the nation's overall population. The white fatherless cohort born in the year 2020 will dwarf that of today.
SINGLE PARENT HOUSEHOLDS
The sharp rise in the number of children living in single-parent homes can be traced back to the number of births outside of marriage. The steady growth in single—parent households has unhappy consequences for the nation in decreased educational and productive capacity. The longer a child lives in a single-parent home, the less he attains educationally; his job attainment, too, is lower. The aggregation of millions of citizens with lower capacities means a reduced productive capacity for the nation, and a lowered ability to compete internationally.
One of the reasons the US overtook Great Britain in productive capacity in the late 1800s was its much higher literacy rate; its labor pool could operate more effectively in the industrial setting. Today the US literacy rate lags severely behind other developed nations. This lag is caused by the exceedingly low scores of students in the inner cities—the neighborhoods dominated by out-of- wedlock births. (In 1991 the out-of-wedlock birth rate in poor black inner city neighborhoods was over 80 percent.)
Other effects that stem from birth outside of marriage include increased rates of poor neonatal health, higher infant mortality, retarded cognitive development, lower impulse control, retarded social development, increased behavioral and emotional problems, increased welfare dependency, and increased involvement in crime.
ABORTION, DIVORCE, AND ALIENATION
In the US, Canada, and Norway, over 50 percent of all abortions were performed on young women aged 15—24. This is a significant indicator of alienation—the alienation of the mother from her unborn child, of course, but also frequently the alienation of the young woman from her parents. The US topped the list with 62 percent.
Infant mortality is 1.7 times higher for babies born to unmarried mothers. Being poor and unmarried adds to the risk of very low birth weight and infant mortality. Washington, DC, the capital of the United States, has the highest rate of out-of-wedlock births in the country, and the highest rate of infant mortality, a rate which continues to grow. In 1991 it stood at 21 per 1,000 births, twice the rate for the country as a whole.
The US has by far the highest divorce rate among nations for which statistics are available; the national rate of divorce is 62 percent higher than in the next closest country, Great Britain. In recent years American social scientists have demonstrated again and again the negative effects of divorce on children. They are similar to those enumerated for out-of-wed lock birth. Remarriage after divorce does not improve the situation. Behavioral and emotional problems for children in blended families are even higher than for single-parent children.
CRIME AND POVERTY
Mexico, which is not yet regarded as a developed nation, has the world's highest rate of male homicide. But among developed nations, the US has the highest homicide rate—four times higher than France, which comes second on the list. It is a popular myth in the United States that the high rate of crime can be explained by race and poverty. Although crime rates are much higher among blacks in the US than among whites, the differences between the races vanishes when marriage is factored in. Murder rates are the same— and low—among people both white and black who live in married, intact families. They are also the same—and high—among people in single-parent families. Crime rates are highest where there is a concentration of single parent families. When one considers the future trends in out-of-wedlock birth rates, the US can expect further increases in its already astronomical crime rate.
Although poverty rates are open to many interpretations, which could change the order of poverty rankings, it is clear that the US has a massive problem of children living in poverty. However, 89 percent of these children are in single-parent families. Only 11 percent of children in poverty are living with two parents. Having a child outside of marriage is one of the surest paths into poverty.
As the Clinton Administration heads into the UN Cairo conference on population issues, it is strongly advocating policies that have had a deleterious effect on the US population. Rather than exporting its own pathologies, leading other countries down the same path of alienation and internal disintegration, the US might turn to those countries that boast a strong positive record in family stability, and follow their lead.
Fagan, Patrick. “Social Stability in the United States.” Catholic World Report (August/September 1994): 37-39.
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Patrick Fagan is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary, with responsibility for family policy, in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Copyright © 1994 Catholic
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.