Tag Archives: Single Mom

The Evolution of the Family


Recently Jeb Bush has taken jazz for claiming that “we should shame single mothers”.

Public shaming would be an effective way to regulate the “irresponsible behavior” of unwed mothers, misbehaving teenagers and welfare recipients, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) argued in his 1995 book Profiles in Character.

When I read this my immediate reaction was, “Holy man, are you kidding me?  Another dipshit republican stepping in it when it comes to social issues?”

Then I read his quote:

“One of the reasons more young women are giving birth out of wedlock and more young men are walking away from their paternal obligations,” he wrote, “is that there is no longer a stigma attached to this behavior, no reason to feel shame.”

So, yeah, THAT’S different than the characterization that Bush thinks we should trot a woman into town square, tie her up and then publicly shame her like some ISIS punishment.  What Bush is saying is that A) Intact families, complete with mothers and fathers, generate better outcomes for children than households managed by a single parent B) Society has recognized this and built in a method whereby single parent behavior is NOT placed in a positive light.

Nobody, right or left, disputes the body of evidence that claims 2-parent households are better units for kids than 1-parent homes.  We should discourage single moms, AND dads, from running households.  Divorce should present as a social burden on society.  Birth out of wedlock should be viewed as unacceptable behavior.

All of which is different from the meme that somehow single moms should be subject to the formal and organized shaming that the haters are heaping at Jeb’s feet.

Poverty: Socioeconomics vs IQ – The Bell Curve

About 6 weeks ago I started posting data from the book, “The Bell Curve.”  The first portion of the book deals with various conditions, poverty, education, crime and so on that take place in our society.  And more than just look and detail those conditions, the authors try and look at what might cause some of those conditions.  The point being that a vast majority of today’s commentators on such matters blame the socioeconomic conditions of families for the unfortunate plight many of our citizens find themselves in today.

Having problems graduating high school?  Check and see if the kid is from a poor family.

Mothers raising children in poverty?  Check and see of that mother herself came form a poor family.

Individuals in jail?  Check and see if those folks came from a poor family.

And the evidence is there that such an impact exists.  But is there another, stronger variable that impacts these conditions?  The author’s answer is, “Yes.  And that variable is IQ.”

Let’s review the first set of data I showed back then.  The first set of data shows the probability that an individual will be living below the poverty line in 1989, the data the study used:

The next set of data shows the probability that a child will be living below the poverty line in 1989 when her mother is married:

And the third set of data shows that same probability for that same child if her mother is single.

The data has an uncomfortable, but not surprising trend, to be born wealthy is better than being born in poverty.  However, here the authors, as I mentioned, looked for additional variables.  Specifically IQ.  Look at the data with the socioeconomic status AND the IQ included in the same graph.

Let’s go down the line starting with the probability of living in poverty:

The difference is dramatic.  Not only does having a very low IQ put you at significant risk of living in poverty compared to having a very low SES background, but being very intelligent is more important than being very wealthy.

Next we look at children of married mothers living in poverty and the impact that her SES and IQ have:

While the dramatic difference in the values isn’t the same, the pattern is.  A mother having everything else considered who is less intelligent has a higher probability of raising her children in poverty than an equally neutral mother of higher intelligence.

Finally, the probability of children of single mothers living in poverty and the impact that her SES and IQ have:

Right back to the dramatic difference.  What looked like an impacting variable before, SES clearly now has the appearance of having a minimal effect on raising children in poverty.  Rather IQ dominates this condition for children of single mothers.  Those children lucky enough to be born to the brightest of mothers have a 1/7th the chance of living in poverty compared to those children whose mothers score on the very lowest on IQ tests.

Clearly, as it relates to poverty and child poverty, IQ is the runaway variable when compared to SES.


The Family: SES Impact – The Bell Curve

I’m continuing my way through the book, “The Bell Curve” by Herrnstein and Murray.  I’ve posted already on several of the chapters describing the impact of the socioeconomic status of the families people come from.  Fascinating stuff.

The chapter next on the list deals with the family; specifically the family structure.  The chapter takes a look into what impacts how the family is formed and remains together, or not.

First, let’s take a look at marriage.  Specifically, marriage by the age of 30.  Marriage is very important in society and is critical in creating the building blocks that form successful family units.

So, how does the socioeconomic status of the parents impact the chance of marriage of the child?

The chart above shows data for white individuals in the study.

Because of the impact of education and its suppression on marriage, it’s useful to separate folks who have a high school diploma only from those who have a college diploma.  As you can see, socioeconomic status of the family of the individual has little impact on marriage.  Most people are married by 30 with an even higher percentage married by 40.

If marriage is important, then divorce is important as well.  After all, it’s the two parent home that’s critical to the success of ensuring kids gain a strong foothold in life.  And the data?

An interesting trend to be sure.  As family wealth increases, the rate of divorce increases as well.  Indeed, by the time we reach 2 standard deviations from the mean SES, the individuals are divorcing at 17 points higher than those on the lower SES end.  This represents a greater than 100% increase.

Here the conversation shifts from marriage and divorce without reference to children to those families formed outside of marriage.  And so enters the illegitimate child.  I tend to agree with the authors that the old-fashioned view of illegitimacy was that it occurred mostly at the lower ends of the socioeconomic scale.  It was “the poor girls” having babies out of wedlock, not the wealthy.

But does the data support that view?  The answer is kinda.


The women at the very end of the socioeconomic scale have illegitimate births at a 19% rate while the richest of women are giving birth about 8-9% before marriage.  The 10 points or so isn’t much, but again, does represent nearly a 100% increase in the rate comparing the very wealthy to the very poor.

Here the authors move into an interesting question.  Does poverty cause illegitimacy or does the welfare system cause illegitimacy?  The idea, or the argument, being is that the welfare system enables the single mom to refrain from taking precautions that she might otherwise take if she were to bear the cost of raising the child.

To tease out an answer to this, an interesting question is asked:

Among NLSY white mothers who were at or below the poverty line in the year prior to giving birth, what proportion of the babies were born out of wedlock?  The answer is 44%.  For women above the poverty line?  6%.

What does the data, shown in the usual format, show us?

A pretty compelling argument that the wealth of the mother’s family plays a role.

Poverty: Socioeconomic Impacts – The Bell Curve

I’m reading “The Bell Curve” and am finding the book fascinating.  As I mentioned in my previous post on this topic:

That attaining wealth is more and more becoming reserved for the pre-existing well to do’s.

For a long time I’ve fought this belief.  I’ve fought the idea that America is not the land of opportunity.  That we’ve somehow lost the idea that if you work hard enough you can do anything.

I’ve fought it.

And now I’m reading a book, The Bell Curve, and I’ve seen some interesting data.  For example, it seems to be important where you come from if you wanna avoid poverty:

As I continue to make my way through the book, there is good data that reinforces the above statement.  Namely, where you come from, or who you are born to, impacts where you will end up.  Consider the white population:

I can only estimate the data above, the book doesn’t provide exact numbers, but you can see that as parental SES goes from 2 standard deviations below the mean to 2 standard deviations above the mean, the chance that an individual finds themselves in poverty is reduced.  In fact, if you look at the numbers, the families at the far poor end of the scale have almost three times the chance to produce poor children than the very well off families at the other end.

What if we dig deeper in the data?  What happens if we look at the probability that a child lives in poverty?  How does socioeconomic status impact that?

Well, it turns out that the data is divided.  For example, consider married white mothers:


It turns out that that being a married mother helps reduce the chance of childhood poverty.  Reduces but only slightly.  However, what is interesting is that the impact of a higher socioeconomic parent is magnified.  In the general public, a higher parental SES ranking meant that an adult had 1/3 the chance of ending up in poverty.  For children, it’s much more dramatic.

For a child, having parents in the lowest SES class means that poverty is ~5.5 times as likely than if that child came from parents in the highest SES rankings.  That is, kids from the most well of parents suffer poverty at rates of about 2%.  Kids from the least well off suffer poverty at rates of about 11%.

Now for the shocker.  Let’s look at single white mothers:


Kids of white mothers that are either separated, divorced o r never married suffer massively higher rates of poverty than mothers of kids who are married.  But again, for the sake of this specific conversation, the socioeconomic ranking of the parents is meaningful.  Parents who rank at the very low end raise kids who have approximately a 39% chance of being in poverty.  Mothers who are in the top ranks of socioeconomic ranking?  Their kids only have about a 30% chance of living in poverty, almost a 33% less chance.

The data is hard to argue with.  The “well off-ness” of the parents seems to have a powerful impact on the chance of poverty of a child.