The plight of single women who desire to have children

There is a curious hypocrisy when it comes to unwed mothers. When those mothers are wealthy and/or celebrities, this is seen as a lifestyle choice on the part of the woman, courageous even, boldly taking charge of their own lives and changing society’s attitudes to traditional mores. But when the unwed mother is poor and/or black, it is deplored as if it were yet another sign of the lack of virtue that is presumed to be the cause that keeps them down.

So I was interested in this passage from the new book Are We Getting Smarter? Rising IQ in the Twenty-First Century (2012) by James R. Flynn. Flynn is the social scientist associated with documenting and popularizing the surprising phenomenon that IQ’s have been rising since the early 20th century at a rate of approximately 0.3 points per year. This is now known as the ‘Flynn Effect’.

On page 178 of his book Flynn addresses the issue of so many black women having children out of wedlock:

The black women of America have been castigated for bearing children out of wedlock, as if their social circumstances were identical to those of white women.

For every 100 American non-Hispanic white women of marriageable age, there are 86 promising spouses, that is, men who are alive, not in jail, and worked at least half-time over the previous 12 months. For every 100 Hispanic white women, there are 96 promising spouses, as a result of a huge (and partially illegal) influx of males from South America. For every 100 black women, there are 57 promising spouses, which is to say that almost half of them must either go childless or have a child by a man unpromising as a permanent partner (Flynn, 2008).

Their dilemma is also the product of limited racial intermarriage. In 1900, when Irish-American women found half of Irish-American males dysfunctional, they could marry Swedes, Italians, and even Englishmen. The fact that they could marry out gave them a huge pool of promising partners. Black women are trapped. Indeed, they are net losers from what interracial marriage exists: five black men leave the pool of potential spouses to partner nonblack women, while only two black women find a long-term spouse outside their race (Flynn, 2008). Every generation of black American women face a marriage market worse than that of Russian women after World War II, which left 70 Russian men alive for every 100 women. The USSR accepted that there would be many solo-mother homes. Black American women are given lectures. Their president advises them “not to lie down with any fool,” as if there were enough nonfools to go around.

Lynn (2002a) asserts that the fact that black American women have a more negative attitude toward marriage is a sign of psychosis. Their attitudes are not symptoms of mental illness but recognition of their social circumstances. We may see their plight as a collection of “personal problems,” but that says more about us than about them.

The real problem is not that so many black women are single mothers, but that there are so few black men who make promising life-partners. And note that the bar is extremely low for being considered promising (not in jail and have worked at least half-time over the previous 12 months) so the paucity of men who can clear it is shocking. For white women too, the numbers are not that great.

In Vietnam too, the number of eligible men dropped drastically because of the American invasion of that country and the resulting long war, creating similar pressures on women there who wanted to have children but could not find eligible partners. But the social stigma of being an unwed mother is extremely high in that country. The New York Times reports a moving story of how some courageous women in one small village decided to defy public opprobrium and have the children they wanted, and so they approached men to help them conceive. It was clear that the men would never interact with them afterwards and their paternity would be kept secret. And over time, at least some in the village grudgingly accepted them.


  1. slc1 says

    There is, of course, another option, namely in vitro fertilization, such as was undergone by Mary Cheney, daughter of the former Vice-President. As I understand it, in most instances, the donor is unknown to the recipient and his identity is kept secret.

  2. sra says

    In vitro fertilization runs between $10,000 and $20,000 per try, is not guaranteed to result in pregnancy, involves daily injections for a certain period of time and requires the use of donor sperm. Why would anyone willingly go through that if they could have sex and get pregnant?

  3. tusense96761 says

    There are too many suppositions in your article you come across as a racist against whites. Here is where your argument falls apart. You say that white people aren’t okay with poor black women getting pregnant out of wedlock verses older white women doing the same thing. Did you stop to think that there are plenty of poor white women giving birth out of wedlock too? If people are bothered by young unmarried women giving birth it has nothing to do with the color of their skin, but maybe more to do with compassion for these young women and their struggle ahead with the difficulty of raising a child on their own and compassion for the child that does not have a Dad or a two parent family. The author should also consider that both the young and the older women that are going on to have their babies and raise them on their own would rather in most cases have a partner to do this with. Besides feeling compassion for these women of lower economic status that are likely to go on welfare, it’s economics too ,most tax payers are not thrilled with haven’t to support single mother’s and their babies but know that it what welfare was predominately started for and the best use of those funds. if you want to look at the sinister side of this argument, you should look into what government was really doing when they came up with welfare and after you dig deep, you will see destruction of the black family in the U.S. So was the government really helping black people or poor white people. Women on welfare or planning on going on it must look at is as temporary and don’t fall for politicians that want to keep you on welfare. It has hurt three generations of families because it has enslaved those that have used it as a support system, you will never get out of poverty on welfare. Welfare is living in poverty.

  4. DaveL says

    There are a couple pieces of the puzzle being left out here. The first is that the high rate of single motherhood in poor black communities does more than just give pearl-clutchers the vapors. It’s a big contributor to continuing poverty in those communities.

    The second is why there are so few marriageable men available, and one big answer to that is the War on Drugs. It has shown itself over the past three decades to be practically custom-made for yanking young minority men out of school, off their career path, and out of society for doing things the harm of which is questionable.

  5. ph041985 says

    “There is, of course, another option, namely in vitro fertilization, such as was undergone by Mary Cheney, daughter of the former Vice-President. As I understand it, in most instances, the donor is unknown to the recipient and his identity is kept secret.”

    You’re ignoring the disparity between the available societal privileges afforded to a high-ranking politician’s daughter and the average unwed minority female of lower status, which is what this whole post is about.

    In-vitro fertilization is a pretty lengthy and costly procedure. Not to mention it usually requires all sorts of other prerequisite medical procedures and conditions. I do not think in-vitro fertilization is a very viable alternative, the way things stand.

  6. ollie says

    This is not puzzling at all. If someone has and raises a kid on their own dime, no one really cares. The problem is when they see public aid as a financing for their kids.

    Yes, I know: public aid for the poor pales in comparison to the tax breaks for the mega wealthy, but the public aid for the poor is more visible in every day life, and ordinary people, in some sense, have a bit more power over it. No one is going to completely vote away tax breaks for the wealthy, but one DOES have the option of voting for those who can really stick it to the poor.

  7. slc1 says

    Apparently, the difficulties didn’t phase Mary Cheney who went through the procedure at least twice to produce 2 children. I would also point out the 2 of Rmoney’s male children have low sperm counts and their wives had to go through the procedure in order to conceive.

  8. max says

    Nothing is causing the lack of unions between white men and black women but fear,white women were not raped by black men so are far more accepting where as for black women that taboo is still there for some,but many thousands of black women have crossed the racial divide and air their beautiful unions proudly all over YouTube,funny enough the stats show that Bw and Wm have the most successful union out of every single group including white on white while dismally bm and white women spouses had the highest divorce rates

    The author hit the nail on the head-the problem is Not that black women make up the numbers being single mothers but the fact that there are so few life partners resulting from black men.

    The author makes a very valid point,if there are not that much good black long term partners for black women that are available then she will almost be bringing up the children on her own possibly with a man not related to the children,most black men are sadly either in prison,interracial relationships,gay or single or might have passed which means that even if all the black men that are left hooked up with black women,there would be an overwhelming amount of black women still single which means that today the black women either has to start dating out other race men,be a lesbian or end up single.

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