The Bastard Boom

It’s a harsh title, I know, and I wouldn’t have run it but for the very fact of diminishing stigma evidenced in recent statistics (which is to say that the term “bastard” has no real social force in accord with its actual meaning*):

The 4,317,119 births, reported by federal researchers Wednesday, topped a record first set in 1957 at the height of the baby boom.
Behind the number is both good and bad news. While it shows the U.S. population is more than replacing itself, a healthy trend, the teen birth rate was up for a second year in a row.
The birth rate rose slightly for women of all ages, and births to unwed mothers reached an all-time high of about 40 percent, continuing a trend that started years ago. More than three-quarters of these women were 20 or older.
For a variety of reasons, it’s become more acceptable for women to have babies without a husband, said Duke University’s S. Philip Morgan, a leading fertility researcher.
Even happy couples may be living together without getting married, experts say. And more women — especially those in their 30s and 40s — are choosing to have children despite their single status.

With cultural trends, causes and effects jumble over each other, so it presumes too much to tease them apart in search of the decisive, but analysts and reporters do a disservice to the public by not mentioning, in this context, the concerted movement over the past decade-plus to redefine marriage as something not intrinsically related to child bearing and rearing. Writing the radical new definition into the law would burn the bridge by which we’re crossing into cultural no-man’s-land.
That is one way in which same-sex marriages does indeed affect society at large.


* Certainly, I believe it to be to the unmitigated good that children born under such circumstances face less social stigma than once was the case (if any at all). That the parents appear to face less and less, however, is among the contributing factors to our society’s decline.

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Harold
Harold
12 years ago

Massachusetts has the lowest teen birth-rate in the country,by far
20 births per thousand vs 39per thousand
nationwide
Also the lowest divorse rate
Can SSM have something to do with this?

Justin Katz
12 years ago

Massachusetts has one of the lowest marriage rates in the country (PDF), marriage being a prerequisite to divorce. (Typically, divorce rates are tallied per capita, not per marriage.)
Massachusetts also has one of the highest abortion-to-pregnancy ratios for teenage girls. (And, one can infer, a high contraception rate.)
Furthermore, Massachusetts has a relatively wealthy, well educated population, and I’ve long argued that we, as a culture, invest in the institution of marriage for the benefit of those with a deficit of advantages — that is, those who are most apt to make bad decisions.

michael
12 years ago

Teens give birth not by accident, rather by intent. In this day and age there is no reason for an unwanted pregnancy. Families encourage the girls to have babies to raise their income. The grandmothers or aunts take over child raising obligations, the head of houshold who gets more benefits is free to go about her life, or have another child.
If that child can be diagnosed with any number of conditions that render him or her disabled, the family gets another “pay” increase. The school system gets to hire a teachers aide for each disabled student in their jurisdiction and we get to pay for it.
SSM has little or nothing to do with it.
This may be a lopsided, cynical world view, but it what I am subjected to working with the population of Providence.

Harold
Harold
12 years ago

“and,one can infer,a high contraception rate”
if so why do they get so many abortions?
i am just asking?
A high contaception rate,should mean less abortions,I would “infer”

Justin Katz
12 years ago

Michael,
Your points are definitely applicable, but the article emphasizes out-of-wedlock births among women over 20. There’s undoubtedly a welfare component to this, but the shift in societal attitudes (assisted in part by the SSM argument) facilitates the abuse.

Harold
Harold
12 years ago

Michael
You are right on the money,
Justin likes to blame the Gays,and SSM,
for all of our promblems
I could infer,from some of his past comments,that Justin does not like Gay people,though I might be wrong.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

Justin-no kid asks to be born.Calling them bastards in any context,especially for a pro lifer just doesn’t seem right.I’m a pro lifer also.Many,many children born out of wedlock go on to live good and rewarding lives and give back to society.
Just think of some of our sh*t bag politicians like Patrick Kennedy and a lot of “bastards” seem great by comparison.
The word “bastard” should be relegated to describing things like files(the only thing I remember from carpentry class).

rhody
rhody
12 years ago

Catholicity as a factor for low pregnancy rates? Not so sure. Rhode Island is just as Catholic, if not more so, than Massachusetts.
As for the “purity” of Catholics…I went to a Catholic high school, and by the end of the calendar year I graduated, at least a half-dozen guys I knew of in that class were becoming dads(if there were any abortions, I didn’t know about them). And the next summer, one of my best friends did the proverbial shotgun wedding.
And I know plenty of hardcore churchgoing Catholics who don’t allow themselves to get bent out of shape by SSM, including my mother, whose parish priest is one of the state’s biggest anti-SSM activists. Any time you’d like to tell my mother she’s going to hell, I can hook you up…

Justin Katz
12 years ago

Joe,
As I explain in the post, I permitted my indulgence in wordplay only because the term no longer has any social force. I think it’s been so for my entire life. In other words, the justice of indistinguishable treatment of people no matter the circumstances of their birth is so obvious, in my view, that the description is barely even colorful.

Chairm
Chairm
12 years ago

To those who dispute the influence of the pro-SSM agitation, do you believe that the nonmarital trend is contradicted by, or in accord with, your reason for being in favor of treating one-sexed union as marriage?
Not just in the law, but in the culture that sustains the law that merged such union with marraige?
Thanks.

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