Single Women: An Ominous Demographic Shift

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Earlier this week the New York Times reported that 51 percent of American women are single, a probable all-time high.

If that's accurate, it's not good news. We already know that the U.S. rate of unwed motherhood is skyrocketing and that gen X- and gen Y-ers have much less faith in the institution of marriage than we atavists, aka baby boomers. Children born to single mothers are more likely to live in poverty, perform poorly in school, and drop out.

But of all sources, an interesting online item from Baptist Press notes that there are quirks in the way the Times tabulated its data, which may artificially increase the percentage of women it categorizes in that 51 percent majority:

"The American Community Survey–the study used by the Times–included in its count of women who live alone spouses of deployed military personnel (note: which the Times reported) and other married women who live by themselves 'for reasons other than marital discord,' Robert Bernstein, an official with the U.S. Census Bureau, told Baptist Press."

But one thing the paper did not include, according to Baptist Press, is that "the report (on which the Times based its analysis) also counted among the number of women living alone those as young as age 15. That inclusion itself may have tilted the numbers in favor of those living alone without a spouse."

Wherever the truth lies, the fact that marriage seems to be so terribly out of fashion or out of reach for so many young Americans is not progress. And President Bush's marriage initiative, which plans to spend almost a half-billion dollars over a period of years funding (mainly) church groups to counsel young people to marry seems like wasted effort. I cannot posit a way to reverse this trend. Young Americans just seem to have lost their faith in marriage. Perhaps a generation of single parenthood will persuade them that as flawed as marriage may be, it beats the alternative.