Unemployed men, education levels, and unmarried parenthood

by Ryan Streeter on October 5, 2013. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

One of the most-discussed findings in Charles Murray’s Coming Apart was the fact that unmarried childbearing has spiked enormously since the 1960s among lower-income Americans, while remaining fairly stable among affluent Americans.

Education levels are directly related to income, so it stands to reason that education and unmarried childbearing are related. This graph shows this relationship in stark relief:

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The article from which the figure is taken also contains this interesting graph on the relationship between male unemployment and unmarried childbirths:

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While I disagree with the article’s author when he says that “unmarried parenthood is primarily a symptom of lack of opportunity” (which is a gross simplification of a complex set of socio-economic factors), it’s clear that lack of economic opportunity and a culture of unmarried childbearing are related. The data is incontrovertible, and yet talking about it still remains controversial. Until we get over that barrier, doing much about this will be next to impossible.

If we care about increasing opportunity in America, we need to make it socially acceptable again to talk openly about the connection between family, learning, and upward mobility.