Modern marriage and parenthood

Nice piece in the Atlantic about the demographics of modern marriage.  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I just think the “capstone” idea of marriage is dumb:

First, the cornerstone theory of marriage no longer applies. Culturally, young adults of all social classes and income levels are less likely to think of marriage as the “cornerstone” of their lives—that is, the first thing they do as adults. Instead, people now think of it as a “capstone”— sort of a trophy for having earned a B.A., obtained a job, and generally learned to live on their own for a while. The national marriage age has gradually ticked up as a result. For people who don’t have all the stones leading up to the capstone, though, the entire order of operations gets messed up.

Don’t have the right person to marry till you have accomplished these goals?  Fine.  But the idea that you should not get married until you have achieved a particular set of goals seems silly to me.  If you are mature enough and have the right person, what does it matter if you have the job you want, the degree you want, etc.?  Why not have that person you love fully invested in your effort to achieve those goals.  Okay, my little rant.  I like my cornerstone marriage.  Anyway, as for the interesting demographics:

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes … actually reverse that. First comes the baby, then, we’ll see.

For people who don’t have a college degree, having a child in wedlock has become the exception, not the rule. According to a new analysis presented at the Population Association of America, among parents aged 26 to 31 who didn’t graduate from college, 74 percent of the mothers and 70 percent of the fathers had at least one child outside of marriage. Even among mothers who had high school degrees or some college but no B.A., the majority of births occur among moms who are either single or cohabiting…

Second, marriage is increasingly something only educated people do. As my former colleague Jordan Weissmann wrote, the less a man earns these days, the less likely he is to have ever been hitched. College-educated people are increasingly only marrying other college-educated people, and they’re more likely to get married overall. One reason less-educated women are having children out of wedlock is that college-educated men are not interested in marrying them.

“The college-educated young adults can see a good future, where they’re likely to find a good partner, pool two incomes, and they’re willing to wait to have kids till they can do that,” Cherlin said. Meanwhile, the less-educated women “don’t see the possibility of finding partners with good incomes. And many are unwilling to give up the opportunity to have a kid by waiting.”

So, what’s wrong with this?  Actually, it’s bad for kids.  Whether married or cohabitating, kids benefit from a stable home. And they are not getting that from unmarried American moms:

The plurality of the moms in the study who didn’t finish high school before having a kid (36 percent) are actually not single: They’re living with a boyfriend. And that would actually be okay, if those relationships were stable. The trouble is, they’re not.

Unlike in Western Europe, where couples cohabit for years and sometimes decades, often with kids, less-educated Americans tend to rotate in and out of cohabiting relationships as the years wear on. They have children with multiple different partners, creating complex webs of child obligations, step-parents, and half-siblings.

“One might say ‘who cares?’ [about the cohabitation],” Cherlin said. “In fact, the French don’t seem to care. Scandinavian people do the same thing. But our cohabiting relationships aren’t like theirs.”

“I’m not saying everyone has to be married, but it’s best for children if their parents are in stable relationships. It doesn’t have to be marriage, it doesn’t have to be two different genders. The problem is the instability of the kids’ lives as they live through all these comings and goings.”

No great thoughts from me on this, just find it all quite interesting.

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Photo of the day

Looks like In Focus is now doing photos of the week galleries.  Cool!  From last week:

A picture taken on May 3, 2014, (released June 12), shows people visiting “The Gateway to Hell,” a huge burning gas crater in the heart of Turkmenistan’s Karakum desert. The fiery pit was the result of a simple miscalculation by Soviet scientists in 1971 after their boring equipment suddenly drilled through into an underground cavern and a deep sinkhole formed. Fearing that the crater would emit poisonous gases, the scientists took the decision to set it alight, thinking that the gas would burn out quickly and this would cause the flames to go out. But the flames have not gone out in more than 40 years. (Igor Sasin/AFP/Getty Images)

Guns and kids

Nice article in Slate on just how deadly guns are to kids.  The key stats:

The overwhelming empirical evidence indicates that the presence of a gun makes children less safe; that programs such as Eddie Eagle are insufficient; and that measures the NRA and extreme gun advocates vehemently oppose, such as gun safes and smart guns, could dramatically reduce the death toll. Study after study unequivocally demonstrates that the prevalence of firearms directly increases the risk of youth homicide, suicide, and unintentional death. This effect is consistent across the United States and throughout the world. As a country, we should be judged by how well we protect our children. By any measure, we are failing horribly.

The United States accounts for nearly 75 percent of all children murdered in the developed world. Children between the ages of 5 and 14 in the United States are 17 times more likely to be murdered by firearms than children in other industrialized nations.

Children from states where firearms are prevalent suffer from significantly higher rates of homicide, even after accounting for poverty, education, and urbanization. A study focusing on youth in North Carolina found that most of these deaths were caused by legally purchased handguns. A recent meta-analysis revealed that easy access to firearms doubled the risk of homicide and tripled the risk for suicide among all household members. Family violence is also much more likely to be lethal in homes where a firearm is present, placing children especially in danger.Murder-suicides are another major risk to children and are most likely to be committed with a gun.

But, but, but… 2nd amendment!!  Freedom!  Sure lots of kids may needlessly die, but how does that compare to my right to defend myself with an AK-47 in Chipotle?!

And as for that defensive gun use:

Crucially, these deaths are not offset by defensive gun use. As one study found, for every time a gun is used legally in self-defense at home, there are “four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.” A study of adolescents in California found that there were 13 times as many threatening as self-defensive uses of guns. Of the defensive encounters, many arose in confrontations that became hostile because of the presence of a firearm.

So, why not once again link to Gary Wills.  Our nation sacrifices its children on the altar of its love of guns.  This has to change.

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