Lest We Overgeneralize

I love Bob Herbert, and I agree with his latest editorial on the need for fathers to stick with their children, an editorial occasioned by Barack Obama's Father's Day speech, which I also agree with... 



However, these data...

...the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston was compiling data that revealed a dubious milestone. In 2006, for the first time in U.S. history, a majority of all births to women under 30 — 50.4 percent — were out of wedlock. Nearly 80 percent of births among black women were out of wedlock.

By comparison, when John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960, just 6 percent of all births were to unmarried women under 30.

Since then, the percentages have risen across the ethnic spectrum. One-third of white, non-Hispanic women under 30 who gave birth in 2006 were unmarried. For Hispanics, it was 51 percent.
...should not be considered signs of fathers not caring for their children. The mother and father being married to one another is NOT the same as the father being committed to the children. And that's just for starters: there are lots of "fathers" who are really sperm donors -- whether through a clinic or through sex, there is an understanding that his job DID end at conception, and the mother agrees with that. The mother may be raising the child alone, or the mother may have a boyfriend or girlfriend -- she may have additional family members participating, she may, in short, be raising the child in perfectly wonderful surroundings without a never-needed dad. Or, maybe the mother and father are living together, raising the child together, and just aren't married, which is what Brian and I will be doing if we ever get this pregnancy thing going. Or maybe the mother and father don't live together but live across town from each other, and each takes an active role in the parenting. Or maybe -- radical I know -- the father is actually caring for the child full-time, and the mother is MIA. How do your statistics handle that?

Raising children is and always has been far more complicated than MAN + WOMAN + SPAWN. And while I agree that someone who went into the job of making babies with the understanding that he would help raise the child needs to stick with it, stats about "unMARRIED" mothers has nothing to do with fathering -- or mothering, for that matter. I love Bob Herbert, but on this one he's overgeneralizing, comparing the stats of 2008 to the stats of 1960, and interpreting them through the filter of Ozzie and Harriet. And that don't work, baby.

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