The Economist on the Fraying of Marriage in America
If marriage affected only the two people who choose (or not) to wed, it would be easier to ignore falling marriage rates. But with them come rising out-of-wedlock birth rates. In 2010, 40.8% of all births were to unmarried mothers. Among Hispanics that figure was 53%, and among blacks 73%. In 1965 Daniel Patrick Moynihan, later a Democratic senator from New York, called for emergency federal intervention to aid in “the establishment of a stable Negro family structure”, and justified it in part by an out-of-wedlock birth rate among blacks of 23.6%—half what it is today.
With illegitimate births come single-parent homes, in which 35% of all American children lived in 2011. Children brought up in such homes fare worse than children raised by married parents over a range of academic and emotional outcomes, from adolescent delinquency to dropping out of school. The poverty rate among single-parent, female-headed families is over five times that of married, two-parent families. Nearly 71% of poor families lack married parents. And children brought up in poverty tend to be poor themselves.