Single moms now the majority under 30
Our colleague Lane DeGregory did a very well-written look at the life of a single mom that you can read here. She was prompted by the news that for the first time in history, the majority of births to American women under 30 take place outside marriage. And the fastest-growing group in that number of single women having babies? Moms just like Jamie Lee Zehnder she profiled — white women in their 20s with some college education.
What does this say about us that more young women are on this path? The feminist blog Jezebel says it's actually a good thing, that is shows women aren't settling for a poor union and unhappy marriage just because they have a baby.
As DeGregory notes in her report, the Washington, D.C., research group Child Trends released a study last week based on 2009 data from the National Center for Health Statistics. It reported that the number of children born to single mothers has been increasing steadily for the past half-century. But this is the first time that more babies are born to young, unwed women than to married moms.
What's driving the trend? Some say access to birth control has changed attitudes about sex and reproduction. Others say the sinking economy has limited the number of men who can afford to have families. Still others say women don't need men to provide for them, that they can raise kids on their own. Many ask, "Why get married?" You lose government benefits, get tangled in someone else's finances, risk divorce. Why not just live together?
Zehnder's mother, Donna Zehnder, 52, has her own theory: Having sex doesn't mean you're committed anymore, she said. Men create pregnancies and just walk away. The more children who grow up without dads, the fewer value fatherhood. "Boys don't grow up wanting to be good husbands and dads anymore," said Donna Zehnder, a nurse who has been married for 32 years.
So does this trend say more about men than it does women?
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
Follow us on Twitter @WhoaMomma
PHOTO: Jamie Zehnder, 24, gets a kiss from son Caden, 2, near bed time. Zehnder is part of the fastest-growing group of singles having babies: white women in their 20s with some college education. [Photo by JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]