The latest figures on out-of-wedlock births should be setting off alarm bells in every corner of the country. After a number of years at the wholly unacceptable level of one of every three births out-of-wedlock, the numbers in the last three years have lunged to 40 percent. This is a crisis direr than the economy, more dangerous than foreign enemies. America cannot remain a superpower abroad with a crumbling family structure at home.
The crisis these new numbers represent is a crisis in male-female commitment. We are facing increasing gender rejection. Something is deeply and dangerously wrong between the sexes. Young American men are increasingly unable to commit to the mothers of their children.
In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan saw a 24 percent out-of-wedlock birthrate in the black community and sounded the alarm. All the great gains of the civil rights movement were threatened by the breakdown of the black family, Moynihan warned. He suffered then the fate of the prophet without honor. As the messenger bearing the bad news, he was very nearly stoned. His unheeded warnings about crime, drugs, educational failure have become the collection of pathologies that all Americans know too well. Today, Moynihan’s distinguished public career is honored, but his message is too little heeded.
What is driving these menacing numbers? Why are 40 percent of American children being deprived at birth of their fathers? By the time they reach age 18, fully 60 percent of young Americans have seen their mothers and fathers break up. This comes either from divorce or from the breakup of cohabiting relationships. Or it stems from never-formed families. How can the young learn commitment if their parents remain uncommitted?
This lunge toward a 40 percent out-of-wedlock birthrate is the sign of a culture unraveling. In its wake will come a blighted future of increasing crime, educational failure, drugs, and poverty. It is not poverty that is driving these numbers; the out-of-wedlock birthrate is driving poverty.
What can be done? First, do no harm. Or do no more harm. We must recognize that federal family planning efforts have contributed to this crisis. All data shows that young people who have multiple sex partners are less likely to marry and, if married, are less likely to remain married. Why then should our tax dollars subsidize a “hook up” culture?
We are shoveling money at groups whose sole purpose is to facilitate out-of-wedlock sexual activity.
Second, we must recognize that religious attendance is positively correlated with marriage, family formation, and family stability. The federal government can never directly fund churches and synagogues, but it can observe the “do no harm” rule.