UNMARRIED PARENTHOOD HAS INCREASED.
Since 1950, the illegitimacy rate has multiplied more than four times, from 4.0 to.17.1 percent of all births. FQr.each thousand unmarried white women aged 15 to.16, births increased from 13.8 in 1970 to.15.1 in 1981, while falling from 95.5 in 1970 to. 85.3 in 1981 for black women. Nearly one-third of the babies born to. white teenagers are born out of wedlock, and over three-fourths of those born to black teenagers are born out of wedlock [Statistical Abstract, 1981, p. 95J. Over one-half of all black babies in the nation arc born out of wedlock [Timc, 116:67, Nov. 9,1981). In some areas the figure is much higher-77 percent in central Harlem [Tile New York Times, Nov 8, 1981, p. 20]. A survey of all New York City . children Dorn out of wedlock in the 1960s and 19705 found three-fourths of them living on welfare in 1975 [Auletta, 1982]. What are .the prospects· for children born into a neighborhood where most of the children are illegitimate and are living on welfare in singleparent households? What are their chances for ever sharing the" American dream"? . A generation ago nine out of ten illegitimate babies were placed for adoption: today more than nine in ten of them are kept by their mothers. This often condemns the mother to a life.of economic deprivation and the baby to a life of emotional deprivation [Furstenberg, 1976;Fosberg, 1977].O~ wonders about the ultimate social consequences of having a significant part of the next generation raised by unmarried adolescents whom we do not . consider mature enough to sign' a contract, drive a car, cast a vote, or buy a drink. Some people oppose sex education in schools and teenage contraception and pregnancy services lest they arouse sexual curiosify and stimulate .premarital sexual intercourse. What research evidence we have suggests otherwise. There is some evidence that sex education reduces teenage sex activity and that premarital childbirth is reduced by, the availability of contraception and abortlon'services [Moore and Caldwell, 1981}.Within three tears after a pregnancy clinic began operating " , in two St. Paul high schools, the s,tudent. . pregnancy rate fell by 40 percent [Edwards, 1980). During the past decade, the percentage' of sexually active teenagers has increased - greatly, the use of contraception by teenagers has doubled, and the, premarital pregnancy . rate has declined [Villadsen, 1982), As this is
written, ·however, it; appears that .family planning services and, abortion -services may be reduced. U this happens, an increase in premarital preponderates, illegitimacy and unwanted children can-be predicted