Sunday, September 26, 2021

The Decline and Fall of the American Family

The American family is in serious decline. Millennials, especially, are not forming families. Some are having children out of wedlock. Some are forgoing parenthood. Some, especially those of the female persuasion, miss out because they waited too long. Among those who do get married, a significant number will eventually split up. 

Fewer and fewer children are being brought up in families. And, as a consequence, America’s social fabric is seriously tattered.

Helen Andrews surveys the situation, first, by the numbers:

Nearly 25 percent of Millennial women are now projected to have zero children in their lifetimes. Less than 5 percent of women say when asked that they want no children. That leaves the other 20 percent — millions of women who will die childless, not because they wanted to, but because they couldn’t put the pieces together in time.

One problem, reported here and elsewhere, lies in the fact that more women than men are going on to college. And, as it happens, women with advanced educations are seriously disinclined to marry men who do not have similar credentials:

Women have outnumbered men on college campuses for decades, resulting in an imbalance between the number of college-educated single women and the number of college-educated men available to them as partners. Yet women’s standards for marriageability have remained as high as they were when the imbalance was in men’s favor, wanting a partner who earns more and is at least as educated. This mismatch is one reason the share of American adults who have never married has reached a record high of 35 percent, up from 21 percent twenty years ago and 9 percent in 1970.

The cohort that has never married has reached alarming high numbers. Over the time that America has been bathing in feminism, to say nothing of countercultural trends, marriage has increasingly become a rarity. Could there be a connection?

Of course, one reason for the disjoining lies in the fact that schoolteachers do everything in their power to diminish boys and to enhance girls. We have reported on this for some time now. Andrews identifies the problem:

Women’s preference for having a partner who has at least as much education as they do may not be rational, but it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. If constantly expanding college enrollment is cutting off large segments of the female population from a supply of marriageable men, then that is something to weigh against any attempt to boost college enrollment even further. We can’t just shrug and assume that whatever people end up doing must reflect their preferences.

Unfortunately, these educated women have no real notion of their biological clocks. The information has been suppressed by certain cultural forces who believe that childbearing is bad for women:

Women overestimate their chance of becoming pregnant naturally after 40, guessing a 60 percent chance in a given month when the real likelihood is 5 percent. They also consistently overestimate the odds that a round of in vitro fertilization (IVF) will successfully result in a live birth.

We could try telling them the truth, but lots of people don’t want women better informed on this subject. For some, it is a matter of self-interest. Employers prefer women to focus on their careers without worrying that their window for having children is closing – so much so that firms now pay employees to put their eggs on ice. Companies that sell consumer goods to single women like it when they have plenty of disposable income to spend on themselves.

For others, it is a matter of ideology. Feminists don’t like to hear anyone talk about biological clocks. In 2002, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine wanted to place ads on buses and in movie theatres informing women of various fertility-related facts, to correct precisely the sort of false assumptions that Shanahan and educated women like her often have. One ad, for example, simply stated, “Advancing Age Decreases Your Ability to Have Children.” The National Organization for Women (NOW) organized a successful campaign to get the ads pulled, not because anything in them was false, but on the grounds that they “sent a negative message to women who might want to delay or skip childbearing in favor of career pursuits.”

As for the current notion that we must follow the science and ensure that everyone have the best information available, those who are hawking this deception have long since been ensuring that women not know the facts about their own fertility.

Letting people make their own informed decisions should be the default choice of any conservative political philosophy. But in the matter of family and childbearing, if we simply trust people to make their own individual choices, we may find that people don’t make choices in their own long-term best interests, as they themselves would understand if they were better informed about the facts and better able to predict their own desires later in life.

It is surely an important social problem. Disjointed families, unclear relationship ties produce social disorganization. It is not a good thing:

Declines in fertility and marriage rates can be taken not just as indications that something may be wrong with the economy or housing policy or college debt, but as problems in themselves.

Not everyone wants a white picket fence, two-point-five children, a male breadwinner, and a stay-at-home mom. There’s plenty of room for pluralism. But stable families are good. Marriage is good. Babies are good. Public policy should acknowledge that. If conservatives won’t, who will?


lynney62 said...

All I can offer is many men today are gay, many women are lesbian. I have no idea why...I imagine they were feeling this also back in 1820 but just never told anybody. The "family" of the 40's and 50's is dead, buried. I have no idea why?????????????????

lynney62 said...

Just want to add one more thing.....the more power in government, business, arts given to women tends to over shadow their private urges for "motherhood".....Oh, yes, these women are sweet, compassionate, long as it's someone else's child or family....they tend to avoid taking on the responsibility of raising a family of their own=======aka: Liberal women today.