Which is more common: single moms or married homemakers? In the debate concerning sex, marriage and family, I'd like to avoid the extremes of folks who say on one side that the diversification of family life is to be celebrated and those on the other side who claim that traditional family life is dead and Armageddon looms. Big themes like this have to be addressed with data in pieces, so here's my first installment.
Using General Social Survey data (N = 1,872), I calculated the percentage of all white moms ages 20-45 in this decade who have a least one child who: 1) have never been married; or 2) are married homemakers. Which group do you think is larger? Out all of these moms, 11.4% are never-marrieds; 18.9% are married homemakers. When I was a undergraduate almost 20 years ago, I read that the number was close to 20%. It hasn't changed. The American family is becoming de-institutionalized: absent social pressures and economic incentives to conform to the traditional ideal, people are pursuing personal preferences. Behavior is now reflecting individual personalities more, so the future is likely to be a real mix of arrangements, but many people, like my wife who is a homemaker, will choose a traditional (and societally constructive) lifestyle because it suits them. Of course, I'd prefer to see a traditionalist revival, but I'm not that optimistic.