Everybody's a sociologist when it comes to teen marriage: Let me follow-up on my last post with a comment on today's article in the NYT on teenage pregnancy. They took news of Palin's daughter's pregnancy as an opprtunity to remind readers how teenagers, especially girls, are doomed if they get married and have babies when they're teenagers.
What has happened to Bristol is not the best way to go, but let's use our brains for a second. First, early marriage was widespread 20 years before the divorce explosion of 1965-75. Most divorces take place in the first few years of marriage. If I get time, maybe I can look at this more closely, but I'm guessing that the divorce rate among those who married at 18 in 1950 was lower than those of people marrying at 30 nowadays. There isn't something inherent in early marriage that is conducive to divorce and failure.
Second, so many of these studies on negative outcomes assume that those who have babies as teens are in all important ways the same as those who don't. I haven't seen these studies typically control for things like IQ, talent, farsightedness, self-contol, industriousness, persistence, etc. I have read studies that have indicated that teens who have babies would have turned out poor even if they hadn't gotten pregnant.
To use a personal example, as I did in the last post. My brother got a girl pregnant when both of them were 16. He and the girl were excellent students, but their strict religious upbringing led them to have sex without confronting head-on what they were doing and what needed to be done to prevent pregnancy. (Plus, my bro was unhappy at home and irrationally thought a pregnancy might be a way out).
So the girl got pregnant. Most kids in their shoes would have gotten an abortion, but our type of people is a tad uncomfortable with slaughtering children, especially our own. Our parents and her parents pushed for adoption, but my brother and the girl told them all to go pound sand. They got married in our church 5 months before the baby was born.
Fast forward two decades. My brother has almost finished his MBA, he is the regional director over a number of large assisted-living facilities, and he makes probably three times what I make. His wife got her B.A. and was a very popular local TV news anchor for several years. Double careers were a little too much for them, so she scaled back her career a bit.
They have four beautiful children, and the oldest (the one conceived out of wedlock) has earned a 4-year full-tuition scholarship to a university where the average ACT is close to 30. He is majoring in math, and his college GPA is just about perfect.
Now, of course the sociologists would have predicted disaster for my brother and his wife. So why was the prediction wrong? Because sociologists, along with America's elites, believe that you are the product of your circumstances. If you get zapped with a baby at 17, you're done for. My bro and his wife made it because they are industrious, talented, relentless people. They would have been successful without the early marriage; they were successful with it.
If a sociologist says so, you know he can't be completely right.