A new Senate report prepared by the vice chairman’s staff of the Joint Economic Committee at the request of Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) considers how changes in societal norms and moral behavior have led to the breakdown of the family unit in the United States and a dramatic increase in unwed pregnancies.
According to the report titled “Love, Marriage, and the Baby Carriage: The Rise in Unwed Childbearing,” approximately 40 percent of pregnancies occur outside of marriage. That rate is more than one third higher than in the early 1960s. It should be noted that in that same time period, marital pregnancy rates have fallen in half. The study blames this trend on the “contraceptive revolution,” “higher rates of sexual activity,” “improper contraceptive use,” and the “increasing acceptability of unwed childbearing.”
In an op-ed for the Institute for Family Studies, Robert VerBruggen, deputy managing editor of National Review, explained how the Sexual Revolution changed America’s perception of sex, marriage, and childrearing.
“The Sexual Revolution had opposite effects on the childbearing rates of married and unmarried women. Married couples’ fertility rate plummeted by about a third in the 1960s and early 1970s, almost certainly thanks to the introduction of the Pill at the beginning of that period,” he wrote. “Married people have always been sexually active, and the Pill allowed them to continue doing what they were doing with a drastically reduced risk of pregnancy if that was what they wanted.”
VerBruggen believes that while married couples were using contraception as a form of family planning, new forms of birth control led unmarried women to have “sex earlier and more frequently” as “shifting mores made premarital sex less taboo.”
All the while, as out of wedlock pregnancies increased, so-called “shotgun weddings” decreased. The report indicated that “there are times as many births today are from unwed pregnancies than in the early 1960s,” but only nine percent are followed by a shotgun marriage. That figure is down 43 percent from the early 1960s.
Interestingly, abortion was found to play hardly any role in the changing statistics. In fact, the report found that “pregnant women—married or single—are less likely to obtain an abortion [now] than they were before the Roe v. Wade decision.” The authors believe the decline in the abortion rate corresponds to the destigmatization of nonmarital pregnancies.
“That decline also reflects the declining stigma around unwed childbearing and a drop in unintended pregnancy,” the report states. “Since at least the early 1980s, a rising share of births from nonmarital pregnancies are from pregnancies that were intentional; today, half of births from nonmarital pregnancies are intended.”
As VerBruggen and other commentators have noted, the report ultimately shines a light on just how much societal norms have changed in the last half-century and the potentially fraught impact it is having and will continue to have on the American family.
“It’s a frustratingly complex picture… half a century after the Sexual Revolution, with no reversal in sight,” VerBruggen wrote. “But if we’re not happy where we are in this regard—and we shouldn’t be, given the harms children have suffered from family breakdown—it can’t hurt to know how we got here.”
(H/T: Christian Post)