The news of 4.3 million births in the United States in 2007 — the highest birth rate in U.S. history — seems to be something to celebrate, and it is. However, this rate released by federal researchers last week was accompanied by depressing data as well.
On the upside, these 4.3 million births mean that the U.S. population is more than replacing itself. This is a healthy trend, one that stands in contrast to the declining populations of most advanced countries in the world.
However, the teen birth rate was up for the second year in a row. Most disturbing, births to unwed mothers reached an all-time high of about 40 percent. This continues a trend that began years ago. In 1957, five percent of births were to single mothers.
Researchers have noted that it is more acceptable for women to have babies without a husband, whether that be a co-habiting unmarried couple or single women, especially those in their in their 30s and 40s.
Cultural attitudes about abortion may also be part of the explanation. Abortion is less popular; giving birth is more popular. Other studies show abortion rates have been going down, which I believe is a direct result of the success of the pro-life movement.
No matter the reason, this 40 percent out-of-wedlock statistic is horrific. It bodes ill for the future of children who are born without a father in the home. According to the research study Why Marriage Matters:Twenty-Six Conclusions from the Social Sciences, a child without both parents in the home is much less likely to finish college, more likely to engage in criminal behavior, and is at a greater risk for child abuse and poverty. In fact, the greatest single contributing cause to poverty in America is single parenthood.
Children need a mother and a father.
We must do all we can to revalue true fatherhood and biblical marriage in our churches. Every church should be, among other things, a pro-marriage counterculture to the “anything goes” society in which we live.
Dr. Richard Land is president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention's official entity assigned to address social, moral, and ethical concerns, with particular attention to their impact on American families and their faith.