The Right Opinion

Single Belles, Single All the Way

By Mona Charen · Dec. 7, 2012

Discussing the role of single people in the election of 2012 on my weekly podcast with Jay Nordlinger “Need to Know” (available on or, your humble columnist chose the insensitive way to address it. Chatting with Jonathan V. Last of The Weekly Standard about his piece “A Nation of Singles,” I popped off that “Single mothers want the state to be their husbands and father to their children.”

Jonathan put it better: “Well, let's say that single mothers are more vulnerable to economic shocks and are more concerned about the safety net.” Much more diplomatic. Single voters were a key demographic in 2012 (if the percentage of married voters had been what it was in 1980, Romney would have won) and there is little reason to imagine that their importance will wane in the future. Singles increased their share of the vote from 2008 by 6 points.

Until about 1970, the percentage of the adult population in America that was married never dipped below about 93 percent. Since then, marriage has been steadily declining. Today, about half the population is single. The unmarried represented about 40 percent of the electorate, and they broke heavily for Obama – by 16 percentage points among single men and 36 percentage points among single women – giving him two-thirds of his margin of victory. (By contrast, Romney prevailed among married voters by 56-42.)

The marriage gap is also an education gap in America. Those with little or no college, and particularly those without a high school diploma, are shunning marriage in favor of cohabitation. The college-educated, by contrast, are still marrying at close to the rates they did in the 1950s (though later in life, which contributes to lower fertility). Stable families among the elites perpetuate their status, providing their children with the financial and emotional stability necessary to lead fulfilling lives. Highly unstable families among the less educated lock in inequality, as well, prompting Charles Murray to call upon the elites to “preach what they practice.”

It isn't a matter of urgent national importance when non-parents choose to live together without benefit of clergy (love the old fashioned expression). When children come into the picture, it is. There is simply no controversy about the data: Two-parent married families are best for children – and best for society.

According to the Census Bureau, one of three American children grows up in a home without his biological father. These children are almost four times more likely to be poor (44 percent) as are children from intact families (12 percent).

Fatherlessness (and while there are some single fathers raising children, they are a small minority) is associated with increased incidence of every measurable pathology. It is evident from birth, and even before. Children of single mothers have higher rates of infant mortality, receive less health care, perform more poorly on post-natal tests, are slower to gain weight and have more complications. Babies with a father's name on their birth certificates are four times more likely to live past age 1 than those without.

In school, the pattern holds. Children from single parent families tend (and these are aggregates, not universals) to get lower grades, have more behavior problems, experience higher rates of depression and other mental illnesses and drop out at higher rates. Children of single parents are more likely to be unemployed, get into trouble with the law and be incarcerated. (Source: National Fatherhood Initiative.)

Cohabitating couples are far more likely to separate than are married couples, which means children often live with non-relative adults. A child living with his mother and her boyfriend is at maximum risk. The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that children in such households are 50 times more likely than children of intact families to be the victims of physical or sexual abuse.

There are simply reams of social science data showing that marriage is the best institution for adult and child happiness/flourishing. But it seems that in America today, only activists for same sex marriage are enthusiasts.

The state can prevent single mothers and their children from falling into destitution, but with fewer and fewer Americans marrying and providing stable homes and reliable earners, the pool of resources available to support more fragile families shrinks. The Democratic party cheers these trends for now – but in short order even they will find they've sawed off the limb to which they are clinging.



Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

Neo-marxist snake oil, promises Kristmass, just around the corner! Single moms by the Left-wing b^lLs#$t by the ton! Fiscal sanity---what's that--- and who cares how deep we go in the deficit hole---"I want, I want, gimme, gimme!"Why did my liberal neighbor vote for downsizing/destruction---she's married to Uncle Sam--blind sheep for SOCIALISM.Amerika=Karl Marx.

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 6:15 AM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

Single moms buy the left-wing B>S>

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 6:16 AM

Rip Van Winkle in Tulsa, Oklahoma said:

I hate to say it but it must be said - this problem has been caused almost entirely by women. Women need to hold men to a high standard (marriage, stability, work ethic, etc.) before they engage in sexual behavour with them. What has actually changed during the last 50 years is not the behavour of men but that of women.

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 10:16 AM

George Rogers Clark in Ohio said:

Thank you, Mona:

The numbers tell the tale. Since single parents are a large demographic receiving welfare assistance their impact on the budget is growing exponentially as their numbers grow. Democrats have created the problem (Johnson - AFDC) and appended it in each election cycle, but when the limb breaks --- we all come crashing down. America is in this mess because we have become immoral, selfish, and deceived. Ah, yes, conditions brought on by the overwhelming trend toward secularism.

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 11:21 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

It all started when it no longer was a shame to have a child out of wedlock. The morals that had served us so well in the past went out the window when the liberals started their mantra that if you felt like doing it no matter if it was morally wrong go right ahead. Also young men bragging about the number of children they have fathered but yet take no responsibility for them. Women having babies by the same man who never pays a penny for their upkeep. Just read the birth announcements in local papers and look at the times that the children have different last names but no father is around. No sense of shame or pride about their bad choices.

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 12:47 PM

Army Officer (Ret) in Kansas said:

Women are the gatekeepers of sex. Men are the gatekeepers of commitment. It's not terribly complicated.

The Sexual Revolution broke the dynamic by unhinging the two. The idea that men were the prime beneficiaries of the "Free Love" movement is less than half true. Because of the natural hypergamy of women, only a small percentage of men received the "benefit" of women providing sex without strings. The majority of men do not fall into the "Alpha Male" category, and thus the sexual free-for-all that ensued did not translate into vastly increased sexual access for most men.

Quite the contrary, in fact. Competition for the attention of "Alpha Males" created a sexual arms race that resulted in 20% of men getting 80% of the action, leaving most men stuck with little prospect of marrying someone who had not already spread her legs for numerous men. Some choice.

Now factor in no-fault divorce (half of all marriages end in divorce, and 75% of divorces are initiated by women - and most of the time it is for reasons that would have been correctly recognized as trivial 50 years ago). After the wife nukes the marriage she gets the kids, the house, and much of his after-tax income. He gets to live with his parents or in a crappy apartment, limited visitation, and a jail cell if he loses his job and can't pay his lawyer, her lawyer, her bills, and child support for a kid that has a 30% chance of not even being his own offspring.

Then re-engineer the education system to favor girl's ways of learning, and create Title IX to further disincentivize male students, and absurd sexual harassment laws in colleges and workplaces - meanwhile women STILL reject any suitor who does make more money than she does...

Chaos, I say... CHAOS!

If this problem is to be solved, women need to make themselves worthy of commitment, which means keeping their legs together and being as aware of their real RESPONSIBILITIES as they are of their fictional GRIEVANCES.

I'm glad I met a good woman when I did - 25 years and counting. I'd hate to be a young single guy now - marriage is a minefield for men: Russian Roulette with three bullets.

Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 5:58 PM