Fertility in a Single Mother World

single-momFamily structure is changing as a growing percentage of children are being born into single mother households, a group with the highest rate of poverty among family types. According to the book, Changing Poverty, Changing Policies, the poverty rate for single female with children households was 39.9 percent in 2006, compared to 7.5 percent for married couples with children. The share of single female with children households went from 8 percent in 1969 to 13 percent in 2006—the biggest population share increase of all family types.

While many critics call for initiatives to encourage marriage, many others such as the Council on Contemporary Families has found, “promoting marriage is not the answer to the problems facing single mothers and their children.” According to their research, one of the biggest flaws in this argument is “the assumption that all marriages are equally beneficial” when in reality, there are not enough good, stable prospects available as potential partners for single mothers in impoverished communities.

As an alternative, the Council on Contemporary Families found a growing consensus to “convince women to delay childbirth rather than to promote marriage,” which is already happening. Birth rates declined for women in their 20s between 2011 and 2012, but increased for women aged 30 to 44, as reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rachel Sklar wrote for a piece for Medium.com titled, “I’m 41, Single and Pregnant: Welcome to the New Normal” where she told the story of her unexpected pregnancy and why, in this day and age, it was not so shocking that she decided to keep the baby.

“While I can’t click on a pregnancy-related link or open a pregnancy book without being informed of what my assumed ‘partner’ should be doing, I also recognize that they are out of date, not me,” she wrote.

This week in The Atlantic, David Frum explained that the increase in single motherhood could be a reason why the abortion rate is falling in the U.S. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a survey last month, which found the number of reported abortions in the U.S. is the lowest it’s been in 40 years. Frum cited that the pro-life movement might have crept into the mindsets of society, as while only one-fifth of Americans think abortions should be outlawed, only 38 percent believe it is “morally acceptable.”

“As marriage fades, unwed motherhood has evolved from an acceptable outcome to something close to an inevitability,” Frum wrote.
But while the odds are stacked against single mothers, that does not mean these women are being forced down this path, or on the opposite side, are taking this decision lightly.

“For single women, admitting that you want kids when you’re still unattached can feel like exposing a vulnerability,” Sklar wrote. “It did to me… And the more we talk about it, the more of us will realize that we’re not going through it alone.”

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Melanie Breault

Melanie Breault is a freelance writer and graduate student in New York City. She is obtaining her master's degree in Urban Affairs from Hunter College focusing on women's economic development and living in Brooklyn with her Shepherd mix, Clarkson.