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Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing and Paternal Absence: Trends and Social Effects

by Robert Rector

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    Document Information

  • Description:
    Document issued by the Congress of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which met at the Vatican on June 3-5, 1999 for a conference on "The Paternity of God and Paternity in the Family."
  • Larger Work:
    Familia et Vita
  • Publisher & Date:
    Pontifical Council for the Family, 1999 No. 2-3 issue


For more than three decades in U.S. society, marriage has declined, illegitimacy has flourished, and fathers have disappeared from the lives of children. The erosion of marriage and fatherhood has been accompanied by a mushrooming of other social problems: crime, welfare dependence, child abuse and drug abuse. The collapse of marriage, rise of illegitimacy, and absence of fathers are the root cause behind most of the nation's social problems.

When the American War on Poverty began in 1965, 7 percent of America's chil dren were born out-of-wedlock; today nearly a third are. As we speak, one American child is born outside marriage every 25 seconds.

The rise in illegitimacy has been driven by three factors: 1) a decline in the portion of women of child bearing age who are married; 2) an increase in the birth rate of non-married women; and 3) a decrease in the birth rate of married women. As a resuft of these factors, the number of births to married women has declined dramatically and is now at the lowest level since the end of World War II. During the same period, out-of-wedlock births have increased 1,000 percent, rising from 125,000 in 1946 to 1.26 million in 1997.1

For most years, since the mid-1960s the percentage of births which were out-of-wedlock increased steadily. In the last few years, however, there has been modest good news. In 1995, 1996, and 1997 there was, for the first time in three decades, a "pause" in the growth of illegitimacy. The growth of the white out-of-wedlock birth rate slowed considerably, and the black rate actually declined slightly. This "pause" in the growth of illegitimacy (which coincided with the debate and passage of national welfare reform in the Uriited States) is of great social significance. The crucial question is whether this pause will continue or whether illegitimacy will soon resume its steady upward climb.

Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing by Ethnic Group

Childbearing out-of-wedlock and absence of fathers varies greatly between racial/ethnic groups.The highest rate was non-Hispanic Blacks, among whom 69.4 percent of births were out-of-wedlock. American Indians have the second highest rate at 58.7 percent, followed by Hispanics at 40.92 percent. Among non-Hispanic whites, 21.54 percent of births are out of wedlock, and Asians/Pacific islanders have the 1owest rate with 15.64 percent of births being out-of-wedlock.

While black Americans have the highest percentage of births that are out-of- wedlock, this does not mean that most illegitimate children in the U.S. are black. Blacks represent only a small portion of the U.S. population. Since whites greatly outnumber blacks within the population, the number of white children born out-of wedlock exceeds the number of such black children despite the higher illegitimacy rate among blacks. Of the roughly 1.2 million children born outside marriage in 1997: 41 percent were non-Hispanic Whites; 32 percent were non-Hispanic Blacks; 23 percent were Hispanics; American Indians and Asians each comprised 2 percent.

It is important to note that nearly all of the increase in illegitimacy occurring in recent years is due to whites (including Hispanic whites.) Between 1980 and 1997, annual black non-marital births increased by only about 100,000. By contrast, white out-of-wedlock births more than doubled (rising from 328,984 to 793,202). In 1980 the numbers of black and white out-of-wedlock births were nearly equal; by 1997 there were almost two white out-of-wedlock births for each black birth.

Other Social Factors Relating to Illegitimacy

The rise of illegitimacy in the U.S. should not be confused with teenage pregnancy. Out-of-wedlock child bearing is overwhelmingly a problem among young adult women (age 18 to 25), not minor teenage girls in high school. Only 13.17 percent of out-of-wedlock hirths occur to girls under 18. In fact, more out-of-wedlock births occur to women age thirty and over, than to minor teenage girls.

The decline in marriage among young adult women has been accompanied by a rapid increase in sexual activity outside marriage. Some 79 percent of non-married women aged 20 to 24 report sexual activity within the prior year.2 Similar rates of sexual activity occur among non-married women aged 25 to 35. Overall, some 10 to 15 percent of coitus between non-married partners occurs without birth control protection.3

The conventional image is that out-of-wedlock births are largely the result of accidental pregnancy. In fact, nearly half of all illegitimate births are the result of an intended pregnancy; 34 percent are the result of a pregnancy that occurred earlier than the mother wished, and only 14 percent are the result of a pregnancy that was completely unwanted.

There is a strong tendency toward repeat out-ofwedlock births. Roughly half of all illegitimate births are not first births, but are second, third or even later births to the mother.

Most out-of-wedlock births do not occur as a result of ephemeral sexual encounters between near strangers. In fact, nearly forty percent of all out-of-wedlock births occur to women who are cohabiting with an adult male, who in most cases is the newborn's father. Regrettably, these cohabiting rclationships are unstable and generally dissolve within a few years rather than evolving into marriage.

Another key factor in determining whether a woman will have a child out-of- wedlock is religious belief and practice. Regular church attendance cuts the probability of having a child out-of-wedlock roughly in half.

Father Absence, Poverty, and Welfare Dependence

The most obvious consequences of the rising tide of illegitimacy and disappearance of fathers are: welfare dependence and child poverty. The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) data gives a nationally representative sample of young mothers and their children. These children can be divided into four groups:

1. Out-of-wedlock-Never Married: Children born out-of-wedlock whose mother has never married alter the birth of the child;

2. Out-of-wedlock-Subsequent Marriage: Children born out of wedlock whose mother marries subsequent to the child's birth;

3. Within Wedlock-Divorced: Children born to married parents who later divorce;

4. Within Wedlock-Marriage Intact: Children born to parents who were married at the time of birth and remained married.

The amount of time can be seen since birth that a child has lived in poverty for the four different categories of children. Children born out-of-wedlock to never married women are poor fifty-one percent of the time. By contrast children born within a marriage which remains intact are poor 7 percent of the time. Thus the absence ofmar riage increases the frequency of child poverty 700 percent. However, marriage alter an illegitimate birth is again relatively effective, cutting the child poverty rate in half.

A second consequence of father absence and out-of-wedlock births is prolonged welfare dependence. Children born out-of-wedlock whose mothers bave not married have received Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) benefits for fifty percent of the time since birth. (AFDC is the primary cash welfare program for families with children in the U.S.) By contrast, children who were born in wedlock and whose parents have remained married have received AFDC only 3 percent of the time since birth. Thus AFDC receipt is 1700 percent more frequent among illegitimate children of never married mothers than among legitimate children raised by intact married couples.

If a woman gives birth out-of-wedlock but subsequently marries, the average length of time spent of AFDC will be cut in half, falling from 50 percent (for children 6f never married mothers) to 23 percent. Marriage even after an out-of-wedlock birth is thus quite effective in reducing dependence. Conversely, if the parents of a legitimate child divorce, the length of time on AFDC will rise from 3 percent (for intact married couples) to 13 percent for divorced families.

The portion of time can also be shown which children in the four different categories received any of the following means-tested welfare benefits: AFDC, Food Stamps, Medicaid, SSL and WIC. On average, children in the "out-of-wedlock-never married" group received some form of welfare benefit for 71 percent of the months since birth. By contrast, legitimate children whose parents remained married have received some welfare for 12 percent of the time. Welfare receipt is six times greater among the never-married group.

Marriage, Fatherhood, and Abortion

Abortion in America is profoundly linked to the sharp decline in marriage and the increase in non-marital sexual activity outside of marriage. About 5.5 million pregnancies occur in the U.S. each year; nearly half (44 percent) of these pregnancies are to non-married women.4 Surprisingly, the pregnancy rate among never married women is virtually the same as for married women. In 1994 there were 95 pregnancies per thousand married women age 15 to 44. Among never-married women the rate was 91 pregnancies per thousand.

However, while married and non-married women have similar pregnancy rates, they differ greatly in whether a pregnancy is carried forward to childbirth. Nearly half of all pregnancies among non-married women end in abortions. By contrast, only 11 percent of pregnancies among married women end in abortion.5 Overall, three quarters of abortions in the U.S. are performed on non-married women.

Additional Social Consequences of Father Absences7

From the very beginning, children born outside of marriage have life stacked against them. The impact on the child is significant and can be permanent. Being born out-of-wedlock and growing up in a single-parent family means the child is more likely to experience:

Such children are far more likely to:

The absence of married parents is related to retarded development in early childhood. A study of black infants (aged 5 to 6 months) living in households of lower socioeconomic status in America's inner cities found that male infants who experienced "minimal interaction with their fathers" had significantly lower levels of overall mental development and lower social responsiveness for novel stimuli.8 Illegitimate children tend to have lessened cognitive development.9 10 11 Many of these children have problems in controlling their activity (popularly called "hyperactivity"). This lack of control usually is an indication of problems in learning that will arise later in the child's development.12 The effect on boys is greater, at least in the early years.13 14

Similar findings were enumerated again in the recent 1992 National institute of Child Health and Development summary, "Outcomes of Early Childbearing: An Appraisal of Recent Evidence".15 And such findings are in line with earlier studies. For instance, Project TALENT, a federal survey commissioned in 1960, which backed the development of 375,000 high school students from 1960 through 1971, found that children born outside marriage were likely to have lower cognitive scores, lower educational aspirations, and a greater likelihood of becoming teenage parents themselves. Once again, all of these effects were greater for boys.16

The absence of married parents risks emotional and behavioral problems during childhood. The effects of illegitimacy continue to compound through childhood. The National Health Interview Survey of Child Health (NOSH) confirms that children born out of wedlock have far more behavioral and emotional problems than do children in intact married families. These problems include:

-- Antisocial behavior: disobedience in school, cheating and lying; bullying and cruelty to others; breaking things deliberately; failure to feel sorry alter misbehaving;

-- Hyperactive behavior: difficulty concentrating or paying attention; becoming easily confused; acting without thinking; being restless or overactive;

-- Headstrong behavior: easily losing one's temper; being stubborn, irritable, disobedient at home; arguing excessively;

-- Peer conflict: having trouble getting along with others, being not liked, being withdrawn;

-- Dependent behavior: crying too much, being too dependent on others, demanding attention, clinging to adults.

Children raised by never-married mothers have significantly higher levels of all of the above behavior problems when compared to children raised by both biological parents. When comparisons are made between families that are identical in race, income, number of children, and mother's education, the behavioral differences between illegitimate and legitimate children actually widen. Compared to children living with both biological parents in similar socioeconomic circumstances, children of never-married mothers exhibit 68 percent more antisocial behavior, 24 percent more headstrong behavior, 33 percent more hyperactive behavior, 78 percent more peer conflict, and 53 percent more dependency. Overall, children of never-married mothers have behavioral problems that score nearly three times higher than children raised in comparable intact families.17

Children born out of wedlock have less ability to delay gratification and poorer impulse control (control over anger and sexual gratification). They have a weaker sense of conscience or sense of right andwrong.18 Adding to all this is the sad fact that the incidence of child abuse and neglect is higher among single-parent families.19

Being born out of wedlock increases the probabilitv of teen sexual activity. Boys and girls born out of wedlock and raised by never-married mothers are two-and-a-half times more likely to be sexually active as teenagers when compared to legitimate children raised in intact married couple families. This finding applies to both blacks and whites. Children born out of wedlock whose mothers marry after the child's birth appear to be slightly less likely to be sexually active as teens but are still twice as active, on average, as legitimate teens of intact married couples.20

The risks and consequences ofillegitimacy continue through the middle years of childhood and express themselves in poor academic performance. A 1988 study by Sheila F. Krein and Andrea H. Beller ofthe University of Illinois finds that the longer the time spent in a single-parent family, the lower the education attained by a child. In general, a boy's educational attainment was cut by one-tenth of a year for each year spent as a child in a single-parent home. Controlling for family income did not reduce the magnitude of the effect noticeably.21 These findings are confirmed again and again in studies, conducted in the United States and abroad, whicb demonstrate that illegitimacy is also associated with lower job and salary attainment.22 23 24

The absence of married parents leads to intergenerational illegitimacy. Being born outside of marriage significantly reduces the chances the child will grow up to have an intact marriage.25 Daughters of single mothers are twice as likely to be single mothers themselves if they are black and only slightly less so if they are white.26 And boys living in a single-parent family are twice as likely to father a child out of wedlock as are boys from a two-parent bome.27 The TALENT study, noted earlier, already had found that children born to teenage parents are more likely to become teen parents thernseives.28 Children born outside of marriage themselves are three times more likely to be on welfare when they grow up.29

The Disappearance of Fathers is a Major Factor in America's Crime Wave

Lack of marriage and fathers, rather than race or poverty, is the principal factor in the crime rate. It has been known for some time that high rates of welfare dependency correlate with high crime rates among young men in a neighborhood.30 But more important, a major 1988 study of 11,000 individuals found that "the percentage of single-parent households with children between the ages of 12 and 20 is significantly associated with rates of violent crime and burglary." The same study makes clear that the widespread popular assumption that there isan association between race and crime is false. This study also concluded that poverty does not explain the incidence of crime.31 Illegitimacy is the key factor. The absence of marriage, and the failure to form and maintain intact families, explains the incidence of high crime in a neighborhood among whites as well as blacks. This is a dramatic reversal of conventional wisdom.

Research on underclass behavior by Dr. June O'Neill confirms the linkage be tween crime and single-parent families. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, O'Neill found that young black men raised in single-parent families were twice as likely to engage in criminal activities when compared to black men raised in two-parent families, even after holding constant a wide range of variables such as family income, urban residence, neighborhood environment, and parents' education. Growing up in a single-parent family in a neighborhood with many other single-parent families on welfare triples the probability that a young black man will engage in criminal activity.32

Even stronger evidence is provided by a study of the family backgrounds of youths incarcerated in juvenile correctional jails in Wisconsin in 1993.33 Only 13 percent of the juvenile offenders came from married couples where the child's biological father and mother were currently married and living together. In other words 87 percent of the juvenile criminals in Wisconsin came from never married or broken homes. The report clearly shows, not only, that most juvenile crime is performed by youth from splintered homes but that such children are far more likely to commit crimes ihan are those from homes with intact marriages. While only 13 percent of incarcerated offenders were from married couple homes with two biological parents, United States Census data shows that some 70 percent of Wisconsin children actually lived in such intact families in 1993.

The comparative probability of juvenile incarceration based on family structure can be shown. A child living with a never-married family was more than 20 times likely to be incarcerated for criminal activities than is a youth raised by married biological parents. A child from a divorced family is some 15 times more likely to be incarcerated than is a child from an intact two parent family.34

Fatherhood and the Underclass

Single parent families, eroded work ethic (particularly among males), violent crime and drugs are the defining characteristics of underclass communities. The decline in the marital bond linking fathers to families is the precipitant and principal factor in the emergence of the underclass. As the number of stable husbands within a neighborhood declines, the development of younger males is affected in three ways.

First, the presence of stable adult male authority in the home and within the larger neighborhood is necessary to restrain excesses and to teach boys self-control, particularly in teen years. As adult male authority disappears within a community, the process of socialization fails and the lives of boys become increasingly chaotic and violent. (The disintegrative process of boys living without adult male authority is compellingly depicted in William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies).

Second, the presence of stable husbands/breadwinners in the home and community provides vital role models to maturing boys. As the number of such role models declines, the exposure and attachment of the younger generation to the husband/breadwinner role wanes. As young men grow up without aspiration toward or identification with the breadwinner role, their commitment to education and work (both of which are naturally linked to the goal of supporting a wife and children) also deteriorates. Another way of phrasing this process is that the working class male's cooperative participation in society is largely a result of their identification with the role of husband and breadwinner. Once this identification is severed among a large portion of working class young men within a community, their positive participation within larger society may well be marginalized or terminated.

Third, both man and nature abhor a vacuum. As young men no longer identify with the role of husband and breadwinner, other role models will move in to fill the void; these role models will invariably be violent and anti-social. In American underclass communities, the pimp, the drug dealer, and the gang leader have become the models toward which youth aspire. A culture of self-destructive narcissism flourishes, marked by violence, risk taking and drugs. In addition, when men no longer see themselves as the supporters and protectors of women, the nature of sexual relations changes. Males become sexual predators whose self-esteem rests on mastering women, maneuvering them to relinquish sexual favors without commitment or support from the man.35 A male's status will actually be enhanced to the extent his mastery of women allows him to parasitically draw economic and material support from them.

Thus, communities where marriage is eroding are trapped in a destructive and accelerating feed-back cycle: a decline in the number of stable husbands and breadwinners produces a younger generation of men less capable of filling traditional roles, leading to further decline in the number of breadwinners. Women, on their part, turn to government welfare as an alternative to marriage. Once this trend reaches a certain critical mass, marriage all but disappears and social order collapses.

The New Family

In American society and other modern societies, the traditional family, consisting of husband, wife, and child, is being replaced by a new model of family, comprised of a non-married mother, child, and the welfare state. All parties -- father, mother, child, and society -- are victimized by this new model. Under this system, men continue to be biological fathers, but are robbed of their natural mature function as sustainers of wives and children. Thus, they are deprived of their true adulthood, and remain stunted in a limbo of perpetual, egoistic adolescence. Women, deprived of the protection of marriage are impoverished and socially marginalized, often becoming trapped in abusive and violent relationships with a series of uncommitted men. Not surprisingly, the development of children in these fractured environments is thwarted in multiple ways. Finally, society itself is threatened as the spread of the new model family brings personal tragedy, parasitism and violence.

Fatherhood and Welfare

The decline of fatherhood and marriage is thus tied to the growth of the welfare state and is inherent in the structure of government welfare programs. Welfare programs are programs which are "income-tested" or "income-limited": this means that benefits from a welfare program are restricted to households whose non-welfare income falls below a certain limit. This restriction may take the form of an abrupt termination of eligibility when non-welfare income reaches a specified level, but is more likely to take the form of a graduated schedule in which benefits are incrementally reduced as non-welfare income rises. In the United States, there are over 70 major income-tested welfare programs. These provide cash, food, housing, medical care and targeted social services to low income persons; they have a cost of over $400 billion per year or 5 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. About half of this welfare spending is directed to families with children.

It is critical to understand that all income-tested welfare programs are inherently anti-marriage and produce what has been termed "household splitting effects." This occurs because welfare benefits fall as household earnings rise; welfare can thus be maximized by removing an employed father from the home or taking steps to ensure his earnings are formally disregarded by the welfare system. To understand how this process works in the U.S., we can imagine an example: "Annie," a mother, and "Bill," the employed father of her children. If Annie and Bill are not married and merely cohabit, Bill's earnings will generally be disregarded by the government and Annie will receive a variety of welfare benefits. If, on the other hand, Annie and Bill get married, Bill's earnings will immediately count against Annie's welfare eligibility and her benefits will be terminated or substantially reduced.36

There are various permutations on this principle, but the underlying rule is always the same: if a mother and father present themselves as two separate legal units to the government, they will be able to draw on two sources of income, welfare and the father's earnings. if, however, the mother and father are a married couple, they will receive, in general, only one source of income, the father's earnings. It is crucial to understand that this is not a small accident in welfare system, but is the inevitable result of the nature of "income-tested" welfare. Such welfare programs are inherently biased not against marriage, per se, but against the earnings of an employed husband.37 Earnings jeopardize welfare income; welfare benefits will be maximized only if the husband does not work or if the father and mother are not married.

The very structure of welfare programs thus implicitly penalizes married couples with an employed husband with a low or moderate income. The only way to eliminate this bias would be to universalize all income-tested benefits currently targeted toward single mothers. Under a universalized system, all mothers would receive the same benefits irrespective of marital status and irrespective of their husband's earnings level. Under such a hypothetical system, no mother would suffer a reduction in welfare because she was married to a working husband.

Such a universal benefit system would be extremely expensive. Moreover, even in such a system, anti-marriage effects would remain. The presence of generous universal supports to all mothers would undermine the economic necessity of marriage, rendering husbands' earnings less necessary or even superfluous. This would be particularly true for low wage, low skill fathers, precisely the group for whom marriage has become the most tenuous.

New Policy Directions

Thus, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to eliminate the anti-marriage effects of current welfare systems. However, this does not mean that positive steps to strengthen and promote marriage cannot be taken. Such positive steps would include:

1. Articulate the goal of marriage. The death of marriage is the central social problem facing advanced societies. Yet, in the U.S. at least. the silence of political and social leaders on this topic is deafening. The first step in restoring marriage would be for leaders to forcefully provide the message that marriage is essential to the welfare of men, women and children, and that bearing and raising children out-of-wedlock is undesirable for both the child and society.

2. Provide Abstinence and Marriage Education. Young people should be educated about the crucial linkage between marriage, human happiness, and social well-being. (This message is completely absent in the U.S.) They should be instructed in ihe value of abstaining from sexual activity until marriage, and should be taught the inter-personal skills needed to build strong and committed relationships between men and women.

3. Limit Subsidization of Single Parenthood. Welfare subsidies serve as a competition to marriage and undermine the importance of moderate-skilled men as breadwinners and husbands. Limitations should be placed on traditional welfare subsidies to single parents; these would include policies such as work requirements and providing loans rather than grants.

4. Reward Marriage among At-Risk Groups. New programs should be devised which communicate social and governmental affirmation of marriage, and which explicitly reward the initiation and continuance of marriage by at-risk individuals.


1 The decline in marital births has been particularly severe among black Americans. Today the numberof black children born within marriage is roughly half the number at the end of World War II. This change is largely due to a precipitate drop in the number of adult black women who marry.

2 Vital and Health Statistics, Table 27. Among these sexually active young women 44 percent report sexual activity with one partner during the prior year; 24 percent report two or three partners; and 11 percent report four or more partners.

3 Vital and Health Statistics, Table 48.

4 Stanley K. Renshaw, "Unintended Pregnancy in the United States" Family Planning Perspectives, January/February 1998.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid., p. 26.

7 Patrick Fagan contributed heavily to this section of the paper.

8 Frank A. Peterson, Judith L. R~benstein and Leon J. Yatrow, "Infant Development in Father Absent Families" The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 1979, No. 135, pp. 51-61. The study finds the differences in development were due to the level of interaction with the father rather than the number of adults in the household or the household's socio-economic status.

9 Walsh, "Illegitimacy, Child-Abuse and Neglect, and Cognitive Development, Journal of Genetic Psychology, Vol. l5 (199O), pp. 279-285.

10 J.J. Card, "Long Term Consequences for Children Born to Adolescent Parents", Final Report to NJCHD, American Institutes for Research, Palo Alto, California, 1977; and also, J.J. Card, "Long term consequences for children of teenage parents", Demography, Vol. 18 (l98l), pp. 137~l56.

11 Wadsworth et al., op. cit.

12 J. Brooks-Gunn and Frank Fustenberg Jr., "The Children of Adolescent Mothers: Physical, Academic and Psychological Outcomes", Developmental Review, Vol. 6 (1986), pp. 224-225.

13 Card, op. cit.

14 Brooks-Gunn et al., op. cit.

15 Christine A. Bachrach and Karen Carver, Outcomes of Early Childbearing, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) Conference Proceedings, May 1992.

16 Card, op. cit.

17 Deborah A. Dawson, "Fami1y Structure and Children's Health and Well-being: Data from the l988 National Health Interview Survey on Child Health", paper presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Toronto, May 1990.

18 E.M. Hetherington and B. Martin, "Family Interaction", in H.C. Quay and J.S. Werry (eds.), Psychopathological Disorders of Childhood (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1979), pp. 247-302.

19 A. Walsh, "Illegitimacy, Child-Abuse and Neglect, and Cognitive Development", Journal of Genetic Psychology, Vol. 15 (l990), pp. 279-285.

20 Research by The Heritage Foundation based on the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

21 Sheila F. Krein and Andrea H. Beller, "Educational Attainment of Children From Single-Parent Families: Differences by Exposure, Gender and Race", Demography, Vol. 25 (8 May 1988), p. 228.

22 Eric F. Dubow and Tom Lester, "Adjustment-of Children Born to Teenage Mothers: The Contribution of Risk and Protective Factors", Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 52 (1990), pp. 393-404.

23 Card, op. cit.

24 Robert W. Blanchard and Henry B. Biller, "Father Availability and Academic Performance among Third-Grade Boys", Developmental Psychology, Vol. 4, No. 3 (1971), pp. 301-305.

25 Neil Bennett and David Bloom, "The Influence of Non-marital Childbearing on the Formation of Marital Unions". Paper given at NICHD conference on "Outcomes of Farly Childbearing", May 1992.

26 Sara S. McLanahan, "Family Structure and Dependency: Early Transitions to Female Household Headship", Demography, Vol. 5, No. 1 (1988), pp. 1-16.

27 William Marsiglio, "Adolescent Fathers in the United States: Their Initial Living Arrangements, Marital Experience and Educational Outcomes", Family Planning Perspectives, Vol. 1-9 (1987), pp. 240-251, reporting a study of 5,500 young men.

28 Card, op cit.

29 Kristin Mooer, "Attainment among youth from families that received welfare". Paper for DHHS/ASPE and NICHD, Grant No. HD2l537-03.

30 Arthur B. Elsters et al., "Judicial Involvement and Conduct Problems of Fathers of Infants Born to Adolescent Mothers", Pediatrics, Vol. 79, No. 2 (1987), pp. 230-234.

31 Douglas Smith and G. Roger Jarjoura, "Social Structure and Criminal Victimization", Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, February 1988, pp.27-52.

32 M. Anne Hill and June O'Neill, Underclass Behaviors in the United States: Measurement and Analysis of Determinants, New York City, City University of New York, Baruch College, March 1990.

33 Wisconsin Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Youth Services, Family Status of Delinquents in Juvenile Correctional Facilities in Wisconsin, April 1994.

34 Based on data provided by Pat Fagan. Due to limitations in the Census data on Wisconsin youth in general, these figures should be interpreted as rough probabilities rather than precise estimates.

35 Elijah Anderson, Streetwise: Race, Class, and Change in an Urban Community (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1990), pp. 112-119.

36 A rule against cohabitation by welfare mothers could be used, but it would be difficult to enforce and might only push "Bill" from the home.

37 Traditional welfare programs also create a strong incentive for the mother not to work or to hide her earnings from the government.

About the Author: Robert Rector is a Senior Welfare and Family Analyst at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

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