The time around 1995 was an important time in American history. In fact 1995 was the year I personally turned against feminism and thought of myself as supporting patriarchy. I remember that time; I was there. There was the Gingrich revolution; the Congressional elections of November 1994 where Republicans gained 54 seats in the House and 8 in the Senate and took control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1952. I remember the lead up to the 1994 mid-term elections and there was a lot of excitement and energy on the right. I was listening to Rush Limbaugh at the time, newly discovering his radio program, and I remember him again and again mentioning and railing against “out-of-wedlock” births. The term “out-of-wedlock” referring to births was new to me; it was a social problem I was just newly being introduced to shortly before the 1994 elections. I then looked up out-of-wedlock births as a subject of research and was astounded by the graphs showing out-of-wedlock births growing in an exponential fashion. I knew there was “something wrong” going on in the culture after that.
Another big issue at that time was crime. Shortly before the 1994 mid-term elections, on September 13, 1994, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (commonly called the Assault Weapons Ban). One of the big selling points was that it would provide 100,000 new cops on the streets.
Tied in with the new focus on out-of-wedlock births and family breakdown, particularly within the black community, there was also a push to “end welfare as we know it” as Clinton put it. There was a program called Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) that gave women an automatic welfare entitlement to support their children if they were single mothers. AFDC was ended by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act signed into law by President Bill Clinton on August 22, 1996. Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) was the program that replaced AFDC. TANF has a lifetime benefit limit of 5 years and places a heavy emphasis on getting recipients into the workforce to avoid long-term government dependency.
In my own life serious concern about family breakdown started around 1995 and that is when I first became aware that things were “going downhill” in the family realm. What I didn’t realize at the time, and indeed have only recently started to discover, is that 1995 represented a major turning point in the health and functioning of the culture overall. It was a time of major deceleration in the rate of deterioration of many important social indicators. The most important indicators showing marked improvement compared to prior trends are the out-of-wedlock birth ratio, the incarceration rate, and women in the workforce; particularly the proportion of married couples with the man as sole breadwinner. In addition crime has also gone down greatly since 1995.
Here is a table showing the dramatic improvement in relative change of many important social indicators. The first period of time is 1981 to 1996. The following period is the most recent 15 years; 1996 to 2011. Social deterioration in relative terms was far worse from 1981 to 1996 than it was from 1996 to 2011.
Definitions: “Illegitimacy Ratio” is the out-of-wedlock birth ratio; the proportion of all births to unmarried women. “Fertility Ratio of Unmarried Women” is the fertility rate of unmarried women divided by the fertility rate of married women 15 to 44 years old. “Women’s LFPR” is the Labor Force Participation Rate of women 25 to 54 years old. “Husband as Sole Breadwinner” is the proportion of all married couples with earnings where only the husband worked. “Incarceration Rate” is the number of people in State or Federal prison per 100,000 total population. “Change 81-96” is the percentage change in the indicator where the 1996 rate is divided by the 1981 rate and the percentage increase or decrease is given. “Change 96-11” is the same thing where the 2011 rate is divided by the 1996 rate. All figures are for the United States total population.
Change in Selected Social Indicators; 1981 to 1996 versus 1996 to 2011
|1981||1996||2011||Change 81-96||Change 96-11|
|Fertility Ratio of Unmarried Women||30.7%||53.2%||54.1%||73%||2%|
|Husband as Sole Breadwinner||26.5%||18.6%||22.6%||-30%||22%|
In 1960 the Illegitimacy Ratio was 5.3% rising to 18.9% in 1981; the peak so far being in 2009 at 41.0%. The Fertility Ratio of Unmarried Women was 13.8% in 1960 rising to 30.7% in 1981; the peak so far being in 2008 at 59.6%. Women’s LFPR was 42.9% in 1960 rising to 65.3% in 1981; the peak so far (probably permanent) being in 1999 at 76.8%. The Husband as Sole Breadwinner was at 38.2% in 1967 falling to 26.5% in 1981; the minimum so far (probably permanent) being in 1996 at 18.6%. The Incarceration Rate was 79 in 1925 (3.8% of prisoners being female). The major increase in the Incarceration Rate started in 1972; the Incarceration Rate being 93 in that year (3.2% of prisoners being female). The Incarceration Rate went from 93 in 1972 to 153 in 1981; the peak Incarceration Rate so far being 506 which was reached in 2008.
The Incarceration Rate overall has fallen modestly since 2008 (from 506 in 2008 to 480 in 2012). When looking at the population most likely to be incarcerated however; men 25 to 29 years old; there has been a dramatic fall in incarceration since 2001, particularly among blacks. Here is a table giving information on incarceration in 5 year increments since 1996 focusing on men 25 to 29 years old:
Definitions: The Incarceration Rates given are the number of people per 100,000 population in State or Federal prison. The first “Total” category is the Incarceration Rate of the total population. The next “Total” category is the Incarceration Rate of all men 25 to 29 years old. The racial categories “White”, “Black”, “Hispanic” give the Incarceration Rates of white, black, or Hispanic men 25 to 29 years old. The “Women” category gives the percentage of all prisoners in State or Federal prison who are women.
Incarceration Rates in State or Federal Prison: 1996 to 2011
|Men 25 to 29 years old|
There have been some major improvements in trend since 1996 on a number of different fundamental social indicators. What is most intriguing to me is the potential for a long term decline in the out-of-wedlock birth ratio some time soon. It turns out a fundamental component of the out-of-wedlock birth ratio; the relative fertility of married women compared to unmarried women; has been flat since 1994. In 1994 married women’s fertility (ages 15 to 44) was 179% of unmarried women’s fertility. This same ratio was at 185% in 2011; a slight improvement over the course of those 17 years. This means the entire increase in the out-of-wedlock birth ratio from 1994 to 2011; going from 32.6% in 1994 to 40.7% in 2011; was due to the decrease in the proportion of married women in the 15 to 44 age group. The proportion of married women among those 15 to 44 years old was 53.5% in 1994 and 44.1% in 2011 (and 71.1% in 1960).
The pattern of married fertility compared to unmarried fertility has been continuous decline from 1960 to 1994 and then an extended period of stabilization from 1994 to 2011. What this indicates is that some forces are pushing comparative married fertility higher and some are pushing it lower and that these conflicting forces have been in approximate equilibrium since 1994. This equilibrium state will not last forever. A long decline in a social indicator followed by stabilization usually means that a sustained rise in the indicator is coming. If comparative married fertility will be rising on a sustained basis in the future then the out-of-wedlock birth ratio overall should be falling on a sustained basis in the future. That would represent a truly profound healing of society. A major reversal in the process of social disintegration.
Here is a graph showing the comparative fertility of married women versus unmarried women in the 15 to 44 age group from 1960 to 2011 in the United States.
The below table gives the underlying data for a few select years to better understand the graph above:
|Mar. Fer.||UnMar. Fer.||Ratio|
The years were chosen because; 1960 is the beginning of the graph, 1994 is the beginning of the stabilization period, 2008 is the minimum for the comparative fertility of married women, and 2011 is the end of the graph. “Mar. Fer.” is Married Fertility, the fertility rate of married women 15 to 44 years old. “UnMar. Fer.” is Unmarried Fertility, the fertility rate of unmarried women 15 to 44 years old. The fertility rate is the number of births per 1,000 women per year. “Ratio” is the married fertility rate divided by the unmarried fertility rate. Data is for the United States all races combined.
Births: Final Data for 2011
Page 44 of 90
Women in the Labor Force: A Databook – 2012
Page 79 of 104
Bureau of Justice Statistics
Publications & Products: Prisoners