Technology shock, the demise of shotgun marriage, and the increase in out-of-wedlock births

An interesting explanation for the substantial increase in fatherlessness.

Common Conservative claim: welfare caused it.
Common Liberal claim: fewer jobs for low-educated men caused it.

Article claim: birth control, condoms and abortion caused it.


Just to add, this is a very old article (1996), but somehow I’ve never seen it, and I don’t recognize the argument.

Also: authored by Janet Yellen and her husband!

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Haven’t read the article. Would you say it matches up well with Charles Murray’s recent book?

I haven’t read Murray, so somebody will have to read both. :slight_smile:

Part of the reason that it interests me is because it is another example where the classic Christian response to a particular technology—it’s neither good or bad, just a tool, it’s all in how you use it—falls apart on inspection.

Technologies have built-in purposes that you either can’t avoid or it’s very difficult to avoid. They also often have unintended consequences that you wouldn’t even know to avoid even if you understood the tool’s built-in purpose.


I read the article (lol).

Funny, she cites Charles Murray for his earlier work in the 1980s supporting the conservative and libertarian contention that increasing welfare benefits led to an increase in out of wedlock births.

By the time Murray wrote Coming Apart in 2012 (I said it was recent lol), he had changed his tune somewhat. He focussed only on white America but differentiates poor whites lacking a college degree vs degreed and affluent whites. Marriage as a norm has remained steady among the educated; it is among the white uneducated that all of the increase in out of wedlock birth has occurred. He covers these astonishing changes in social customs that have occurred. The uneducated have bought into the premises and conclusions of the sexual revolution. The educated have saluted the new constitution, but in their personal lives, quietly uphold tradition. And it is the tradition that helps them live happier, steadier lives that allow them to reap the benefits of their education and pass it to their children.

I don’t remember Murray spending a lot of time discussing abortion or contraception. He is a libertarian, after all.

The theory endorsed by this article is new to me, but it complements Murray’s work in Coming Apart. If you read Murray shortly before the 2016 election cycle began, as I did, he seemed very prescient.


On that note - he might be onto something, This comment, via Facebook, about the situation in the Republic of Ireland. David Quinn is a former editor of a Catholic newspaper.


Dear marriage supporter,

David Quinn is an experienced social and political commentator, based in the Republic of Ireland. He writes for (among others) the Irish edition of The Sunday Times, and is Director of the Iona Institute. I spoke with him about the complexities of religious and political culture on the island of Ireland, and its impact on marriage and the family. You can listen to our discussion here:

David Quinn interview

The traditional definition of marriage was enshrined in the Republic of Ireland’s Constitution, so changing it required a referendum. The redefinition was approved with a two-thirds majority, which David says was evidence that Ireland had already lost sight of what marriage is.

Marriage, he says, has changed from an institution for keeping parents together, into “a vehicle for adults”.

He reflects on the resultant increase in cohabitation and rapid decline in birth rates, well below replacement levels. Yet, he goes on, the more well-off still marry before having children, while the less well-off are “half as likely to marry” and “twice as likely to break up”. This is just one example of the “reverse hypocrisy where [the liberal elite] refuse to preach what they practice”.

There’s a “liberal civil war breaking out on free speech”, with discussions around marriage becoming an “intellectual no-fly zone”. Modern sexual ethics, David says, pitches the “freedom of the individual” against “the welfare of the family”. Even among the Roman Catholic churches, “it would be very rare to hear a church leader express concern that not enough parents are getting married and there’s too many parents breaking up”. As with many smaller countries, the Republic wants to “shine” with its woke policies on the international stage.

Before things improve, David believes, “we’re going to have to go through the lived experience of what a society looks like in which marriage is not strong anymore”. The casualties will be first and foremost children. We have a choice, he says: “learn from tradition, or learn the hard way”.


Didn’t Humanae Vitae make similar claims back in the 1960s?

We know that hormonal birth control pills affect women’s thinking and behavior, but I doubt that we have a good understanding of the extent of it.

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