Slate publishes an advise column, Dear Prudence, which I often read and find pretty insightful. Emily Yoffe, who writes the column, wrote an article way back in March (not sure why I haven’t seen this until now) about the growing number of unmarried women choosing to have children. Yoffe concludes, and I agree wholeheartedly, that this is a troubling trend. Based on the statistics, these are the children that are most likely to live in poverty, drop out of high school and know lives of struggle.
College educated women are very, very unlikely to have children out of wedlock, and (this isn’t mentioned in the article) if they do, at least from what I know personally (and reading some tales from the other side of the pond) they seem more likely to get married to their child’s father afterward. This doesn’t seem to be the case for many of the women Yoffe discusses. They are situations in which one or both of the parents doesn’t believe in marriage (having seen so many divorces) or simply think it’s an unnecessary “traditional” encumbrance.
Yoffe calls it a national catastrophe, and I think to some degree that’s a hyperbole. In recent years we’ve seen younger people increasingly choose to get married (although, perhaps that’s just the ones with college degrees) not to mention the focus on gay marriage of late, which proves, if nothing, that there’s a very large chunk of the population that desperately wants to get married. She shows different sides of the argument as to why women choose this path, and doesn’t really pick a side — I’m inclined to believe it has to do with the economic situation that we find ourselves in. If more college educated women are getting married and not having children out of wedlock, shouldn’t we hope to live in a country that allows more young people the opportunity to receive such an education?
Anecdotal evidence has shown me that having a baby before getting married — or getting married as a result of a pregnancy — is not a good idea. I’m sure there are some folks for whom it has worked well. But I can’t endorse a way of life that seems to bring a child into an inherently unstable environment. It seems old fashioned to say that two people should meet and marry only after they’ve had enough time to make it clear to themselves that they are making exactly the choice that both want to make. After that, it’s time to start thinking about bringing another living entity into that arrangement.