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Jewish World Review April 23, 2001/ 30 Nissan, 5761

Suzanne Fields

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Consumer Reports

Where have all the daddies gone? -- UNWED mothers set a record high for births. (Ho-hum.) For the first time in our history, more than 1.3 million babies came into the world without fathers married to their mothers. (Eyes glaze over.)

In 1999, fully one-third of all babies were born to single women. (Wake us up when you have some news.)

These numbers in the final report on birth data by the National Center for Health Statistics have been generally ignored by most newspapers. The Washington Post didn't mention the rise in illegitimacy in a six-paragraph story about the report. The Washington Times, the rare exception, put it on the front page.

Blacks, as usual, are hurt most. Of the 1.3 million illegitimate births, 69.1 percent were to black women, 42.2 percent to Hispanics, and 22.1 percent to non-Hispanic whites. There's a slight decrease for blacks and a slight increase for whites and Hispanics. But no matter how you look at the why and wherefore, the numbers are spectacularly high.

The 4 percent increase in illegitimacy between 1997 and 1999 has generally been ignored or rationalized as insignificant because there has been a concurrent 3 percent growth rate in the population of unmarried women between the ages of 15 to 44 years. Hence a 4 percent increase in illegitimacy doesn't strike anybody as a big deal. We're supposed to regard it as just the accepted American way of families, just another lifestyle choice.

Nevertheless, these statistics reflect rising personal and public costs. A litany of woes stalk these children into adulthood, such as lower educational achievement, poor health and economic misery. The taxpayers will pay for an array of bad things, ranging from poverty to prison.

Most of all, this means that more sad and troubled kids will have no daddies to anchor them emotionally in their childhood. More boys will grow up without the loving attachment of a father to imitate, no big guy to teach them how to throw a baseball, arm wrestle, or solve a math problem. More girls will miss twirling to the salsa in daddy's arms, waxing in his admiration of her new haircut, or learning a video game sitting next to him at a computer screen.

Feminism taught us that Mom can do almost anything Dad can do, some of them better than Dad, but she can't be mom and dad at the same time, and trying to raises the level of stress and reduces the patience of both mother and child. None of this is new. What is new is the blase public indifference.

Nobody, or almost nobody, wants to go back to the bad old days when a stigma was attached to unwed motherhood, but it wouldn't hurt to bring a back a little embarrassment if not shame, to call indifference to the decencies for what they are: Unwed motherhood is bad for a child's health -- and it's not so good for Mom's health, either. Anyone squeamish about making a moral issue of it can call it dumb behavior. A society that can transform the image of a smoker from chic fashion to social felony can make illegitimacy unacceptable.

Teen-agers are getting the message that getting pregnant is not a good career move. The birth rate for teen-age mothers age 15 to 19 is declining, although high at 49.6 births per 1,000 teen-age girls. Clearly fewer teen-age girls see pregnancy as a positive passage to womanhood.

The sexual revolution is recognized now as having done considerably more damage to the have-nots than to haves. Myron Magnet, author of "The Dream and the Nightmare'' and an intellectual guru for George W. Bush, observes that the legacy of the '60s counterculture victimized a generation of poor who locked themselves in a ghetto of indulgent behavior.

With the illumination of hindsight, we're less patronizing toward the poor than we used to be about the importance of personal responsibility. Welfare reform changed economic incentives. We no longer reward unwed mothers by giving them a bonus for every child they produce. Cultural attitudes are harder to turn around, but we've got to find a way to do it. We've got to make it big -- and bad -- news when a study tells us that we've hit a record of babies born without fathers. We've got to remember where we left the outrage.


04/20/01: Fashionable discrimination
04/16/01: Reaching for the moon
04/13/01: Who's sorry now?
04/10/01: The details
04/05/01: News that wasn't fit to print
04/02/01: The devil in the legal details
03/29/01: Making marriage glamorous
03/27/01: Crime and punishment on the small screen
03/23/01: When speech isn't free
03/19/01: Russell Crowe doesn't wear a Black Beret
03/15/01: 'The little intimidator' of the breakfast table
03/13/01: "We are asking the Creator for clemency"
03/08/01: Saving El Salvador with dollars and sense
02/27/01: The last cowboys of their craft
02/23/01: When Bubba graduates to Bobo
02/16/01: Clarence Thomas addresses an imperfect world
02/12/01: Ariel Sharon, not by Steven Spielberg
02/07/01: Profaning the sacred with the political
02/05/01: What's the Creator got to do with it?
02/01/01: Live like the snopses, leave like the snopses
01/29/01: It's education, stupid
01/25/01: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows"
01/22/01: Poetry and religion in the Bush administration
01/18/01: Ashcroft can't dance (don't ask him)
01/15/01: Clothes make the First Lady
01/11/01: Pity Jerusalem in the 'peace' process
01/08/01: Laying the political race card
01/04/01: 'What women want' in the new millennium
01/02/01: This year, looking ahead is sure sweeter than looking back
12/21/00: Black power with a Republican face
12/21/00: First impressions of two First Ladies
12/18/00: Challenge for the 'better angels of our nature'
12/14/00: What we've lost sight of
12/13/00: Hillary in the lion's den
12/08/00: Return of the 'second sex' on campus
12/04/00: Politics as entertainment today
11/30/00: Winner vs. whiner
11/27/00: Measuring against history
11/23/00: Memories of Thanksgiving past
11/17/00: In defense of the Electoral College
11/16/00: More than one way to win an election
11/13/00: Sexual politics squared
11/09/00: A Middle East legacy
11/06/00: Filling in the dots at campaign's end
11/02/00: His own man in full
10/30/00: The Oval Office, through a glass brightly
10/23/00: There'll always be an England. Maybe.
10/19/00: The celebrity candidate
10/16/00: 'Ladies night' at the second debate
10/12/00: Gore vs. Bush: Volvo vs. Maserati
10/10/00: We weep for Rami for he is dead
10/05/00: Looking at Lieberman from inside the 'ghetto'
10/02/00: Campaigns, candidates, and kissy-face
09/28/00: Laughing and crying over Joe Lieberman
09/21/00: Targeting teenagers for money
09/21/00: Sexual politics in New York
09/18/00: Surviving the stereotypes and debates
09/14/00: Gloria Steinem runs cheerfully into captivity
09/12/00: Sex in the eye of the partisan
09/07/00: 'Sex and death' on the college campus
09/05/00: Joe Lieberman as a 'Menorah Man'
08/31/00: Rising suns of the conventions
08/17/00: Changing icons: From Loretta Young to Hillary Clinton
08/14/00: The Creator returns to the public square
08/10/00: Bursting with pride, but caution too
08/07/00: Brains, beauty and beastly politics
08/03/00: A candidate with a superego
07/31/00: The sizzling Lynne Cheney
07/27/00: The party of the aging Playboys
07/24/00 Hillary drives the Jewish wagon into a ditch
07/20/00 Conservatives gone fishin'
07/17/00: Snoop Doggy Dogg was a founding father, wasn't he?
07/13/00: When a teenager doesn't need a prime minister
07/10/00: Abortion as cruel and unusual punishment
07/06/00: Surviving 'survivor' TV
07/03/00: Independence Day with Norman Rockwell
06/29/00: Here comes 'something old'
06/26/00: Waiting too long for the baby
06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink

©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate