May 14, 2012

Mommy, where do poor children come from?

Matthew Yglesias writes:
The problem of teen/single/unwed motherhood is one of the relatively few issues liberals and conservatives seem to be able to agree on these days. The right is more likely to pitch the issue in terms of marital status (“single moms”) and the left in terms of simple age (“teen moms”), but both sides reach the same basic conclusion. Raising a child is difficult. Raising a child without help from a partner is very difficult. Doing it at an early age is going to substantially disrupt one’s educational or economic life at a critical moment, with potentially devastating consequences for one’s lifetime. Therefore, preventing early nonmarital pregnancies (whether through liberal doses of contraception and sex education, or the conservative prescription of abstinence cheerleading) would seem universally desirable.  
But perhaps we’re approaching the problem from the wrong direction, according to Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine in a new paper “Why is the Teen Birth Rate in the United States So High and Why Does It Matter?” published in the spring issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives.  
They conclude that “being on a low economic trajectory in life leads many teenage girls to have children while they are young and unmarried and that poor outcomes seen later in life (relative to teens who do not have children) are simply the continuation of the original low economic trajectory.” In other words, it is a mistake to the leap from the observation that women who gave birth as teenagers are poor to the view that they’re poor because they gave birth. Lexus owners are much richer than the average American, but that doesn’t mean the average person can get ahead by buying a Lexus. Women with better economic opportunities tend to do a good job of avoiding childbirth.

Sure, but the bigger question is: What's in society's long-term interest? I mean, where do the next generation of poor children come from? Does the stork bring them?

Obviously, with the exception of immigration, poor children are mostly the product of poor parents.

Society is better off if the kind of young women whose lives wouldn't be ruined by having a child out of wedlock reproduce less rapidily. 

Let's take a real example: black teen illegitimate fertility spiked up during the Crack Era, peaking in 1991. Various thing happened after that that reduced it, probably including welfare reform and FDA approval of long term contraceptive shots for girls.

Black teen fertility has been significantly lower since 1991. You never, ever hear about that historically important trend, though, because A. You aren't supposed to say that having fewer poor black teens around today than if 1991 had gone on forever is a good thing (What kind of depraved Nazi eugenicist are you?); but, B. Everybody with a brain in their head thinks it is a good thing.

29 comments:

SFG said...

So why are you against abortion? I think we should be handing them out like candy canes.

Less NAMs, less crime. And as you yourself have pointed out, red-staters can have more kids, so you'd eventually get your country back.

Anonymous said...

ALL groups started out poor in America. Why did some groups rise out of poverty while others did not? Jews started out poor. Using Yglesias's logic, Jewish women would all have done nothing but have kids.

Btw, didn't birthrates plummet during the Great Depression because of massive poverty? Hmm.
And birthrates boomed after WWII when the economy was good. Hmm.

Anonymous said...

In the past few weeks, I have spoken to two "girls" (no, I can't call them women) whose circumstances I know fairly well.

The first just turned 24, has one child out of wedlock and is living with her boyfriend, who is the father of her child (yes, they are on welfare). She told me that stopped taking the pill because she has decided she wants another child before her daughter, who is in kindergarten, gets much older and because "Welfare will pay for a second kid."

The second is 21, has two children, both out of wedlock, each from a different father and yes, of course, is on welfare. She lives with her mother whose youngest child, the girl's youngest sib, is under 18, and so the mother receives welfare as well. A few weeks ago, this second girl expressed concern that she might be pregnant. Not having seen her since, I don't know the outcome of that.

Both girls are pleasant, not bright, and lacking skills. The first has no hs diploma and this year made a brief attempt to take classes that would prepare her for the GED, which I know she'd have no chance of passing. It doesn't matter as she quit after two weeks anyway.

The second has a hs diploma yet no basic skills, can't even do multiplication or read the local newspaper at an acceptable level.

This is CA after all.

FYI, the first is Hispanic (not illegal), the second, black.

Libs never want to admit that the welfare they think helps these people so much just makes them make poor choices and stick you and me with the bill and the social consequences.

Anonymous said...

"You never, ever hear about that historically important trend"

lol, wasn't that there that 90-weeks-on-the-Times-list econ bestseller... turned into a movie... forthcoming Bravo series & line of action figures...

Freidrich said...

So...

make abortion and contraception free and set up Planned Parenthood's on every ghetto street corner?

Now that's Change I can believe in.

Anonymous said...

So is Matty considering benign-ish neglect or is he charging at some poor-man-at-his-gate angle? He wraps up by saying teen moms are symptom-not-cause of poverty (all right) ergo real problem is the hypothetical Oort cloud out there ultimately causing both (huh?) This guy never goes in for thinking about anything sequentially.

"being on a low economic trajectory" sounds like code for "straight, NAM, can't support the thriving downtown bar scene/monorail project." It does put that Charles Murray bit about neo-racist elites back into the mix.

Anonymous said...

Abortion is the main reason the US black population never rose above 13%... This is good or bad?

beowulf said...

"Fathers of children born to teens are on average almost four years older than the mothers, and a majority is over the age of 21."
http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/cg/pp/teenpregnancy.asp

Anonymous said...

It's funny how you pathetic trash like to talk smack about abortion being a good thing because it kills non-white babies and then wail and whine in public about how 'abortion is murder!" "party of life!" etc you sad excuses can't even muster up the courage to say what you really believe in public but you big brave men who spend all day on internet are gonna start a revolution? yeah right. White people have spoken and they want nothing to do with you or your backwards opinions but you say "thats only because their brainwashed by the jews!!!!" if that were true then what does it say what the intelligence how the 'white race' huh? racists like you guys won't even give white people the credit of being responsible for their own opinions, some master race indeed.

Anonymous said...

I am in the Charles Murray camp (see The Coming White Underclass) which says don't pay unmarried women to have children. Pay for abortions or orphanages but don't give unmarried women money or other support. Maybe they'll actually settle for a beta provider then instead of being married to the government.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe they'll actually settle for a beta provider then instead of being married to the government."

Most of the men available to these women aren't alphas or beta providers. A whole lot of the men in their social circles are unemployed, on drugs, or in prison.

Anonymous said...

I am in the Charles Murray camp (see The Coming White Underclass) which says don't pay unmarried women to have children. Pay for abortions or orphanages but don't give unmarried women money or other support. Maybe they'll actually settle for a beta provider then instead of being married to the government.

Why not pay the men for family formation and child support?

Yes, it's sexist and paternalist but it might work better than the status quo. Let government give all men a small basic stipend with no strings attached - and a larger one for wife/child support. The large amount need not even be cash but credits or vouchers for family-related expenses (thus preventing its possible squander on Star Wars action figures and the like).

Thus women would have a strong motivation to marry some sort of man.

Mr. Anon said...

I don't care about abortion. The whole issue has had an enormously distorting effect on our politics, and particularly Republican party politics. Millions of conservative voters have been persuaded to cast their vote based on this one issue for candidates who then undermine every single other interest those voters have.

It's like soak-the-rich rhetoric from the Democrats. Something they talk about to rile up their base, but nothing they'd ever really do (not to the actual rich, that is).

jody said...

the number of teenage mothers is down somewhat - not a huge drop, but it's down - however the number of single mothers is way up. and the rate keeps growing, too. it's not even leveling out.

in a world where inflation is a steady 3% to 4% no problem, yet real wages do not increase at all for low skill workers, this means more and more poor single mothers, not less and less poor single mothers. and they get poorer over time, as inflation erodes their salary.

another generation from now, when the rate of single mothers is even higher, but inflation has eaten a 25% chunk out that 14 dollars an hour those single moms are earning, we're in for some REAL socialism type voting.

Kiwiguy said...

In NZ there is a bit of controversy over the government simply making contraception free for beneficiaries and their teenaged children. Invariably an idiot cartoonist has to suggest this is something Josef Mengele would do!

http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2012/05/not_funny.html

Anonymous said...

Having a baby as a teen has zero negative affects on the mother and child. Never has. Having a baby with a loser who won't support you, let alone marry you, now that has always been a losing proposition.

A 25 year old engineer who marries a 16 year old girl whose dad is an engineer has no reason to think either his wife or kids will be idiots or drug addicts, yada, yada, nor their lives devastated.

Anonymous said...

In other words, in Yglesias-speak, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

You simply cannot win.

Yglesias will cook up some convoluted excuse to exonerate his pets no matter waht the facts and culpability of the case is.

Typical lefty.

Anonymous said...

"It's funny how you pathetic trash like to talk smack about abortion being a good thing because it kills non-white babies and then wail and whine in public about how 'abortion is murder!" "party of life!"
__________

I think you are mixing up groups, sir or madam. I don't read religious "abortion is murder" posts on this HBD blog. I'm not saying there aren't those who oppose abortion who might post here, but they certainly aren't posting about that topic.

Anonymous said...

thus preventing its possible squander on Star Wars action figures and the like

Squander?

Anonymous said...

Having a baby as a teen has zero negative affects on the mother and child. Never has. Having a baby with a loser who won't support you, let alone marry you, now that has always been a losing proposition.

But the discourse has been steered into that blind alley by PC. Who has those babies with whom (the losers) is deemed beyond discussion. Thus the issue is widened to a collection of generic, deracinated teen mothers.

John Mansfield said...

I find federal tax policy very friendly to me as a husband and father. Without a wife and children, I would pay several thousand dollars more each year.

Londoner said...

angry anonymous @ 6:19, put the straw man away please. We are keenly aware that we are anything but the "master race", not in theory and certainly not in practice, and I don't think I've ever heard different from an iStever. What we are is an ethnic group with a right to exist and a right to fight to survive in a recognisable form. That's all any of this is ever about. The Hollywood-inspired fantasy narrative in your head is not even close to the truth.

Anonymous said...

"So why are you against abortion? I think we should be handing them out like candy canes."

Most people who oppose abortion see it as a serious evil akin to murder. Therefore they're not willing to apply a utilitarian calculus to it, just as no-one (practically speaking) would endorse mass killing the poor to solve the problem of the underclass. It's non-negotiable.

Complain if you like, but where would we be without our moral non-negotiables?

Cennbeord

rob said...

I'd rather look away as dim girls get abortions now than look away a generation from now as the dumbs starve or lootstomp.

Realistically, the welfare state won't go away. Letting the daughters of welfare moms collect welfare without becoming babymammas themselves might help. They'd at least take a lifestyle with each bastard.

Putting the bottom fraction of women in prisons to the same extent as men would help, too.

Anonymous said...

Where do stupid liberals come from?

Violet said...

Jody said,
"...the number of teenage mothers is down somewhat - not a huge drop, but it's down - however the number of single mothers is way up. and the rate keeps growing, too. it's not even leveling out."

There is a massive blind spot amongst the managerial Right and Jody is kind of getting at it: we are still much worse off an this is never acknowledged (thus inspiring little confidence in the proposals that follow).
Steve seems to hope that the technology that helped worsen our culture can be focused like a laser upon the underclass with no effect upon everyone else except a higher standard of living due to less of the old underclass.
I am profoundly skeptical.

Claverhouse said...

Absolutely none of us would gave been ever been born if poor people hadn't had kids.

Even 'comparative' wealth has never been the norm throughout history.

Maya said...

"Absolutely none of us would gave been ever been born if poor people hadn't had kids.

Even 'comparative' wealth has never been the norm throughout history."

Sure, but poverty isn't the problem. As long as the parents care about the best interests of their children, the children will be okay, most likely. As a ghetto teacher, I can tell you that the problem with our poor kids is a complete lack of parental care and guidance, not the lack of material possessions. My parents had me in a tiny studio apartment, couldn't provide fresh produce in the winter and meat only once a weak, and I spent my elementary school years wearing my male cousin's old clothes. Yet I was happy, healthy, and my life was fine. That's because my parents were caring and responsible. They had us in those conditions because in that place, at that time, that was as good as it was ever gonna get. There was no realistic way to prepare a better nest, so responsible people did their best in that context. However, people who care about their future children don't want to settle for poor conditions if they feel that they can realistically create a better nest by waiting longer and working more. It's about doing the best you can for your children.

Anonymous said...

"Raising a child is difficult. Raising a child without help from a partner is very difficult."

I raised two sons from age 3 1/2 by myself while holding a 40 hr/week job, taking care of 5 rental houses, my house and built a 1935 Ford hotrod from a bare frame and maintained various machinery including my lawnmower and my 1946 Harley, and a 1966 Chevy truck. I didnt find raising my kids to be difficult. Maybe the whiners shouldnt be raising kids if they cant handle it.