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Divorce down, marriage down, illegitimacy exploding

By David R. Usher
web posted May 21, 2007

This week, the NCHS announced that divorce rates are the lowest since 1970.  Marriage is down, and shacking-up is on the rise.

But the federal government forgot to mention the biggie – the "missing link" -- the one statistic proving that Republican "welfare reform" is a complete disaster: Illegitimacy is now at new historic record levels. In 1980, 29.4% of children were born out of wedlock.  In 2004, 35.8% of children were born outside marriage.

While everyone debates why folks are shacking (or hooking) up in increasing numbers, nobody in the media mentioned what happens when people live together out of wedlock: Illegitimacy explodes.  

In 2004, illegitimate births increased at a record-matching level of 3%Illegitimacy rates are still highest for women in their twenties, but the illegitimacy rate for women age 35-39 nearly doubled since 1980.

How does all this prove that welfare reform was a failure?  The Personal Responsibility and Work Act of 1994 (PROWA) accomplished nothing positive.  The welfare state was converted into an even more aggressive "child support state", actually increasing entitlements to have children out of wedlock, and granting the Department of Health and Human Services and state agencies the dual powers of arbitrary levy and confiscatory powers the Internal Revenue Service never imagined possible. 

Illegitimacy is now heavily entitled, and marriage is not.  Married families pay taxes to support illegitimate mothers (who get tax credits in addition to welfare and child support). 

Why are record numbers of women in their thirties having children outside marriage?  Feminists have been telling women for years not to marry.  Have a career, nail a guy or two before your biological clock runs out, and Congress will finance the feminist dream. 

Let us put the problem of anti-family federal government in perspective.  HHS is the largest line item in the federal budget – approximately $612-billion in 2004. It is growing even faster than our defense budget.  In one way or another, the vast majority of these expenditures go towards undermining or destroying marriage. 

Pop Quiz: What do the District of Columbia, the Virgin Island, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Marianas have in common?  Hint: The illegitimacy rates in those places are over 50%. Poorer states run close to 50%, because its easier to earn a living having illegitimate children than it is to work or find a decent husband.

The American public is wise to this, but neither party is dealing with it.  Both parties are avoiding the issue like Castro avoids democracy.  This is one reason why Congressional approval ratings in the latest Gallup polls place President Bush's rating 4% higher than the abysmal 29% approval rating for the "new" Congress.

Political pressure is building in America for real change in Congress and the White House.  Marriage values cannot be held back or ignored inside the beltway.  Like volcanic magma, there will be a political eruption.  The mugwumps sitting on the rim better start moving. ESR

David R. Usher is Senior Policy Analyst for the True Equality Network and President of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, Missouri Coalition.

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