Sojourner's Place

bristol, thanks for getting knocked-up!  

Posted by SjP in , ,

Bristol Palin is part of a growing American phenomenon were majority of babies born to women younger than 30 are out of wedlock. Karen Uhlenhuth of The Kansas City Star reports:

After creeping slowly and steadily upward most of the last 50 years, the number of babies born to young unmarried women quietly crossed a troubling threshold in 2006. For the first time in a half century of record-keeping, a majority of babies born to women younger than 30.

(Note: the orginal link to Karen Uhlenhuth's article has expired. Related articles are here, here, and here. Much obliged Ahmie for the hook up.)

Andrew Sum, an economist at Northwester University in Boston warns that the burgeoning number of such families presages “disaster.” His 2006 calculations are his most recent. Here's what he has to say about this "new normal" in American family life.

The inequality of incomes in these families is unbelievable. Forty percent are poor, or near-poor. A large fraction is dependent on public assistance. Unless the mother is very well-educated and has a bachelor’s degree or above, there’s a huge fiscal cost to the rest of us.

The next generation of children is going to be much more unequal than what we have today. You’re going to have a really elite group and a group that will massively fall behind. These gaps are really extraordinary. I testified before Congress and said, ‘Look, guys, we really need to face this.

This "new norm" seems to have become an issue now that the number of white unmarried women and teens having babies is on a significan rise. As long as it was assumed and "reported" that only African-Americans and other minority or low-income women and teenagers were having babies out-of-wedlock all was fine on the western-front. Now that statistis show that young white suburban teens are having babies, making pregnancy packs, and obviously having unprotected sex ITS TIME TO DO SOMETHING! But, of course we knew that would happen, didn't we?

Speak the Truth!

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old SjP ain't got nothing more to say.

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This entry was posted at Friday, September 12, 2008 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the .

9 sojourners hollin' back

Well since this common in this country I guess the young lady is just your average All American Girl.

September 13, 2008 at 8:25 AM

@ clnmike, ah thoughts exactly!

September 13, 2008 at 10:16 AM

Well, well, well...I guess now "we must do something!"

Kiss my entire behind...

September 14, 2008 at 12:46 AM

The "economic costs" of teenage pregnancy are largely a media invention. They would increase further should those teenage mothers have had children in their later years.

December 15, 2008 at 10:51 PM

@ Agnapostate, I'll check out the link you provide and perhaps then my opinion might change. But, I find it very difficult to believe how the "economic costs" of pregnancies actually increase as you suggest. That concept is simply very difficult for me to rationalize.

When teenagers become pregnant, someone pays in one way or another for both pre and post natal care. Since it is highly unlikely that they have jobs with health benefits, such care is ultimately paid by the tax payer. That is the first of many examples that come to mind. But I will check out the link to receive another or different frame of reference on this issue.

But, I definetely disagree with you about the "economic costs" being a media invention. I see very little if anything reported in the media about teen pregnancy. In fact, if Palin had not come on the scene - there would not have been any real discussion. Just like the media is not talking about it now.

Now, don't get me wrong - I believe that we must as humans take care of each other. I don't have a problem with social programs that provide assistance to those in need. I realize that you can't pull yourself up by the bootstraps if you don't have boots or straps in the first place. But, when I see far to many babies having babies, well that is a different issue entirely and I don't rely on or need the media to tell me.

Much obliged for stopping by. Please don't be a stranger, the doors are always open at SjP's.

December 15, 2008 at 11:48 PM

the link to the first article isn't working so I can't go to the source and try to evaluate their evaluation (and I'm typing around a sick babe myself who has been vomiting all day so I don't really have the brain power to go searching for the original research at the moment)...

I'm not entirely sure, from what was quoted, that B is following A in these two sentances:

"After creeping slowly and steadily upward most of the last 50 years, the number of babies born to young unmarried women quietly crossed a troubling
threshold in 2006. For the first time in a half-century of record-keeping, a majority of babies born to women younger than 30."

A majority of babies being born to women under 30 is not, in and of itself, troubling. This statistic - if I'm reading it right, and there's not enough info there to be sure one way or the other - actually includes married and unmarried mothers, and all birth orders (first born, second born, etc). SO, it can be read several ways - women could be starting to have their children younger, but still after marriage and even after getting a degree (I earned my BA and married my college sweetheart the year I was 22, had my first child at 27 and my 2nd at 30). There could also be an added factor of smaller family sizes factoring in - larger families that aren't started in teen years, unless they're really close in age, will wind up with at least some coming after mom comes 30. I see two trends in the moms I know, ones who delay childbearing until much later (first birth not until after age 35, sometimes not even until after 40 - which OBs say increases risks of genetic defects in the child, thus increasing long-term social costs arguably as much as the healthy child of a teen mother). The other group is deciding "we're not likely to be any more financially stable at menopause than we are now, so we might as well have the children while they're more likely to be healthy and we're young enough to enjoy them" mentality. Both groups seem to be trending toward no more than 3 children in the family (planned, if not already born) and several are intentional only children. Compare that to my generation's births, our moms were about the same age when they started but they had, on average, more children and continued having them past their 30th birthday.

This is just my off-the-top-of-my-head evaluation of the quote and could be totally off-base, but I'm suspicious of any time there are emotive words with statistics (I had a very good statistics professor in college who encouraged us to ALWAYS question any statistic that's being used in a persuasive manner).

That being said, I always encourage women to be in a stable and strong relationship, with all the "fun with just the two of us" time out of their system before they bring a baby into the mix for a myriad of reasons. We are naturally inclined to sacrifice for our children - it's the way things should be, I think. But if what we're sacrificing is our own youth for them, the chances are we'll resent it (and possibly them) later. My own mother was pushed to get pregnant with me by her family (she had been married for several years, I was the first grandchild on both sides) and she really wasn't ready for motherhood yet. My parents' marriage ended before my 3rd birthday and my mom and I have never had a real mother/daughter relationship - I think partially because of her being rushed and then abandoned (not just by my father, all the aunts and uncles that wanted a baby in the family so bad weren't around much in my childhood).

Social support networks are very important to parents of young children doing their family tasks successfully and sanely. I'm more worried about the deterioration of our community engagement, personally, than I am about the particular average age of new mothers. I think more community engagement and involvement might help raise the maternal age up again via a lot of different methods (increased supervision, feeling that people care about you so you don't need a baby to feel loved, seeing how much work babies really are in the real world via knowing your neighbors and helping with their kids, etc).

Just some thoughts from a sleep-deprived "young" mother.

December 19, 2008 at 10:44 PM

@ Ahmie, first much obliged for stopping by SjP's. Please don't be a stranger as the doors are always open at Sojourner's Place.

Speaking as an "old mother" of two, your points are valid and in many ways speak directly to this artilce. As you said, you had both of your children by the time you were 30. As for me, my childrearing ended at the age of 37 with the birth of "Irish twins". While I wasn't really looking for love, it found me when I was about 34 after having completed a BS, MS, and Ph.D. Marriage and motherhod were not on my radar - but they were certainly a welcomed "blip" which I have now enjoyed for nearly 22 years. BTW, both of my near-adult children were born healthy and I pray they will someday be wealthy and wise.

While it is certainly true that you can make statistics "say" anything you want. Like that glass half filled or half empty analogy. But when I am very concerned about young girls - like Bristol - who find themselves pregnant at such an early age. My oldest daughter, now 20 is the Godmother of her BFF's newborn daughter and she has another friend who's newborn son my husband would like to "adopt" as the son he never had. A couple of weeks ago, I delivered a keynote address in recognition of high school students who had grade point averages of B+ or better. With over 150 students being honored, there were at least 3 teen-aged girls who were visibly pregnant. Not to mention the 10s of 20s teenage girls I see almost on a daily basis in the mall, grocery stores, and local eateries, etc. who are pregnant. I am deeply concerned about the quality of life these young women will have and aspire to have - unless they "don't know from where babies come" - having sex at any age is a choice (excluding the unthinkables,of course). But, having said that, and assuming that there is an increase in the number of teen-age unmarried girls having babies - there is no way to negate the fact that someone will have to pay for this "new norm". And generally, that's me and you - the taxpayer.

December 20, 2008 at 12:11 PM

Thank you for the welcome, I'm going to add your blog to my Google Reader subscription but I do tend to get behind on reading on a regular basis so don't take it personally if I disappear for long spans of time (note my own primary blog, which hasn't been updated since, I think, March)

And please don't think I was being judgemental about the older mother comment - I wasn't trying to be, just pointing out a counter point to the "teen mothers/their children are a burden on society" argument in general. My mother had her only other child at 37 and my brother is as healthy as any other 19 year old. I hear from women over 35 a lot about how annoying it is to automatically be considered a "high risk pregnancy" because of matneral age >35 with no other risk factors and from personal experience/social network, I really haven't seen much evidence of "higher risk" with later maternal age with other risk factors (smoking, current or extensive prior drug/alcohol use, poor diet, etc) are included in the equation. The argument is that since we're born with the number of ovum we'll have then growing older means more time to damage them (environmentally or just natural genetic mutations over time). Some young women do plenty of things to damage the ovum very quickly while some older women have lived very healthy lives (at least as far as their ovaries are concerned) so personal history should really be more of a factor.

Sarah Palin's son Trig is rather a point-in-fact, were the family not well-off as they are, they'd "burdening" society at both ends - later childbearing increasing the risk of Down's Syndrome (thus needing more educational spending for special needs - which I fully support) and pregnant teen. If you do the math, the Palin's first son (Track) was also conceived out of wedlock (they married at the end of August and he was born in April), which statistically does not lead to stable and lasting marriages (they beat the odds there, significantly, and hopefully for Bristol's babe Bristol and Levi also repeat that pattern - maybe it's something in the social support system in the Palin's extended family).

Unfortunately, teen/unwed pregnancy does seem to be linked to significantly higher incidence of other unhealthy behaviors.... I guess I'm more looking at the teen/unwed pregnancies as a symptom instead of a cause, and trying to think of what the underlaying causes may be to work on those instead of just shaking my head at the harder road the young women and their children are traveling (as the author of the original articles seemed to be and society in general is wont to do, not aimed at anyone reading this particularly). Let's hope that Bristol wasn't spending too much time around Levi's mother, given the latest news from Alaska.

I was finding it rather grimly amusing that this statistic calls me a "young mother" and OB/GYNs think anyone birthing over age 35 is an "older mother", so I guess the only "approved" childbearing age is between ages 31 and 34. I'm planning at least one more child, who will be born in that maternal age window - I'm not caving to peer pressure, I promise ;)
It's good to hear your daughter's friends are getting linked into a family that is as compassionate and out-reaching as yours seems to be - that's an advantage that some babes born to better statistical circumstances won't get. I know a lot of married 20 and early 30s mothers who isolate themselves way too much, when a little bit of community would really improve their lives. They keep their struggles very private and suffer in near-silence because they think it's the responsible thing to do and don't want to be "complainers" but the stress shows and their kids notice (I know mine do, even my 18mo behaves differently when there's extra unaddressed stress in the household). I personally knew of at least 10 mothers (currently pregnant or already had kids) in my graduating class of 312 back in 1995 in a not-poverty-stricken suburb (working class with a mix of some lower-middle and firmly-middle class families, about 98% white, all the moms were white girls). It's not a new problem but I think it's hitting critical mass finally. And I'm ashamed of our society that it had to hit a certain level of the "right" kind of families before it became an issue that "we need to do something about NOW!" and not back when it was primarily seen as a non-white/poor people issue. Hopefully we'll continue to evolve and involve!

One thing, while out-and-about, don't automatically assume that the women are as young as they look - I was mistaken for being 18-20 while pregnant with my 2nd, around my 30th birthday. My husband is a high school teacher (in inner-city Cleveland, so his students are predominantly persons of color struggling with poverty) and we see it too. Funny thing, until he was teaching in a predominantly non-white school (which is to say, up until a couple years ago - his first year of teaching was the 1999/2000 school year) both of us were regularly mistaken for students when entering the buildings the first few times. I'm thankful for the school uniforms because it means I get asked for a hall pass less often ;)

As for "not knowing where babies come from" - part of that is that they don't know how to prevent it, thanks to the current presidential administration refusing to fund family planning education and insisting on abstinence-only. Sure, a lot of the kids won't listen to the teacher sharing the information in class, but it only takes a few actually listening and sharing accurate information with their peers to make a difference (I'm currently listening to the audiobook of Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point" and the processes he describes fit well with this idea). They know where babies come from, but don't know how to prevent it - and with the lack of supervision of teens that comes with their own parents having to work more or being divorced already or never married themselves, teen sex is a reality that is hard to prevent with the lack of supervision (and pay-to-play becoming the norm for extracurricular activities increases the problem, as well as funding cuts for other free afterschool activities of potential interest). If you've not heard of them already, is an organization trying to bring some of these issues into the political discussion (tho they're primarily focused on issues facing families with small children, it impacts older kids as well).

Having sex is a choice, yes, but not giving the kids the information to prevent pregnancy when we can't prevent them from having sex is also a choice - and it's a choice being made for the kids by the people in power, while living in an overly-sexualized society. I hope that my children wait to have sex until they're ready to handle ALL the potential consequences of the act (not just babies but STDs and the emotional/spiritual aspects of being in a sexual relationship) but I can't (legally) force them to comply with that (i.e. refuse to let them out of the house, put a locked chastity device on them, etc - those kinds of things would generally get a prompt visit from Child Protective Services at least!). And I can't control how their future partners are being raised. All I can do is try to prepare them and instill good values in them... and try to share that with the greater community at the same time to make a bigger impact than just my household. I also recognize that I'm blessed to have the time and energy to do that, having been raised by a single mother who worked 2 jobs to provide for me and my brother (oh, yeah, she was 37 and unwed with him - she never remarried after my dad - and wound up on WIC and foodstamps after his birth, so age is FAR from the only factor involved in the social problems babies bring along). This is an ongoing conversation that I've had for years with other stay-at-home moms - many of them plan to homeschool and I am saddened by the parent resources that removes from public education settings (and increasing the burden on the taxpayer, since now things that were done by PTA volunteers are increasingly having to be done by paid staff - which means they have to hire more staff or lose good staff to burnout at higher rates).

Sorry so long and rambling, typing around the kids (and the baby is sick with a stomach bug) and I tend to connect a lot of issues together in a complex web whenever I try to talk about any particular one.

December 20, 2008 at 1:06 PM

@ Ahmie, glad to "see" you again! Believe me I do understand...its pretty hard trying to just keep up with life and then when you add blogging - well, sometimes you can only swoop by. So, no worries, I do understand.

I live in a city in a state where teen-age pregnancies is almost a norm rather than an exception is so many cases. When my daughters were in high school and involved in sports, I was always surprised just how many babies with babies were in attendance. I do my best not to assume anything - learned that can really get me in trouble. But given the numbers reported for where I live, I suspect that a significant number of the "young" women I see pregnant are in fact teen-agers.

Yes, my daughter's friends are very lucky in that they have families and extended families - of which we are very happy to be a part - who are very loving and supportive. It is, of course, quite unfortunate that others do not have this support system.

This is an issue, however, that has many facets. Many of which, you discuss. But, one that comes to mind is this. Using my daughter BFF as an example, her mother - now a grandmother is younger than you. Her mother is less than 10 years older than I am. I do not offer this illustration in judgement. Not at all, because I know that "there but by the grace of God, go I". I simply offer it as a case in point and in agreement with your statement: It's not a new problem but I think it's hitting critical mass finally. Your statement sums up exactly what the intent of this post.

Much obliged, again...see you soon!

December 20, 2008 at 3:21 PM
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