Family breakdown in the United States started sometime before 1870; probably not much before 1870 but definitely before 1870. I can say this with confidence because the first statistics on divorce and women working were collected in 1870 and immediately both of these indicators began to rise meaning both indicators were in the process of rising at the time point of 1870. This then means that the beginning of the rise in these indicators was before 1870; when precisely is not known as data is not available on a nationwide basis before 1870. In 1870 there were 11,000 divorces and 352,000 marriages for a divorce rate of 3.1%. In 1880 there were 20,000 divorces and 453,000 marriages for a divorce rate of 4.4%. In 1870 13.1% of all females over the age of 10 worked; by 1880 this figure had risen to 14.7%.
More detailed information on family indicators starts to become available in 1890; for instance 2.2% of white (native white, both parents native) married women worked in 1890; also in 1890 10.3% of all white women 25 to 54 years old worked (37.3% of black women and 14.9% of all women worked in this age range). Statistics on out-of-wedlock births started to be collected in 1917. In 1917 1.3% of all white births were out-of-wedlock and 12.0% of all black births were out-of-wedlock (2.0% of total births were out-of-wedlock).
So, family indicators in general have been deteriorating continuously since at least 1870. However something interesting happened around 1960; that is that certain central family indicators accelerated sharply in their rate of deterioration. I am focusing here on three indicators of social functioning; the proportion of women 25 to 44 years old who are working, the out-of-wedlock birth ratio or illegitimacy ratio, and the incarceration rate. The illegitimacy ratio took a sharp turn upwards in 1960, the proportion of women 25 to 44 working took a sharp turn upwards in 1964, and the incarceration rate took a sharp turn upwards in 1972. Looking at these social indicators as line graphs these years of sudden acceleration look discontinuous with what came before; the time after the acceleration point is not merely a continuation of the rise that was happening before the acceleration point, some “hidden force” appears to have jolted the curve into a more rapid rise. This indicates a cultural change; some kind of “consensus” having gelled making the behavior under observation more “acceptable” or “cool.”
Even more interesting and important; all of these indicators met a sudden deceleration in their rate of rise even more abrupt than the original acceleration that started about 30 years before. Sudden deceleration hit the proportion of women 25 to 44 working in 1989. Sudden deceleration hit the out-of-wedlock birth ratio in 1994. Sudden deceleration hit the incarceration rate in 1999. These episodes of sudden deceleration again are discontinuous with what came before indicating a new cultural gelling of aversion to the observed indicator.
So each indicator has a specific period of hyper-fast growth preceded by slow steady rise (except for the incarceration rate which was flat before hand) over the prior decades and followed by a sudden flattening of the indicator or sharp slow down in the rate of increase in the indicator. Indeed the proportion of women 25 to 44 working is now apparently in long term absolute decline and the incarceration rate has also clearly declined from its peak. The out-of-wedlock birth ratio is also slightly off its peak and appears to be in a downward trend at the moment.
The period of hyper-fast growth in illegitimacy was from 1960 to 1994 from 5.3% to 32.6%. The period of hyper-fast growth in women 25 to 44 years old working was from 1964 to 1989 from 41.3% to 74.6%. The period of hyper-fast growth in incarceration was from 1972 to 1999 from an incarceration rate of 93 to 476. The incarceration rate is the number of people per 100,000 incarcerated in State or Federal prison.
Looking at these three indicators first there is the sharp slow down in the rate of increase in the indicator and then the absolute peak in the indicator comes followed by long term decline (hopefully). Women 25 to 44 working decelerated in its rate of growth starting in 1989 at 74.6% and then hit its absolute peak in 1997 at 76.9%. In 2012 it was at 74.4%. The incarceration rate decelerated in its rate of increase in 1999 at 476 and then hit its absolute peak in 2008 at 506. In 2012 it was at 480. The out-of-wedlock birth ratio decelerated in its rate of increase in 1994 at 32.6% and then hit its absolute peak (so far) in 2009 at 41.0%. In 2011 it was at 40.7%. Granted this fall in the out-of-wedlock birth ratio from 2009 to 2011 is not very impressive but it does at least fit the pattern already seen in women 25 to 44 working and in the incarceration rate where an absolute peak is seen about 10 years after the rate of growth first sharply decelerates followed by absolute and consistent declines in the indicator afterwards. We will have to see however if the 2009 peak in the out-of-wedlock birth ratio holds.
It looks to me like a very definite cultural conservative reaction against social decay has materialized and is having a very powerful positive effect on America’s social indicators. This Cultural Conservative Revival can be placed in 1995 and it is the definitive end of the Feminist Explosion that started in 1960. Projecting forward, depending on what happens with the illegitimacy ratio, Peak Social Dysfunction might be dated at 2010. Going forward the forces of cultural conservatism will only strengthen. What started out as a visceral gut reaction against the social problems feminism causes will develop into anti-feminist ideology and pro-family belief and commitment. This is the mechanism by which the prior created social dysfunction will be reversed. Ultimately this reestablishment of values centered around the purpose of bringing men and women together and providing the best environment for children will reestablish patriarchy, Traditional Women’s Rights, and most likely strong adherence to the Christian faith (here in America).
Here are the line graphs for the proportion of women 25 to 44 years old working (1890 to 2012), the out-of-wedlock birth ratio (1917 to 2011), and the incarceration rate (1925 to 2012).
Notes on line graphs:
All graphs refer to the total population; all races combined. The sharp jump in the “Women’s LFPR 25-44 All United States 1890 to 2012” graph from 1950 to 1951 is mostly due to a change in the data source. The data from 1890 to 1950 is based on Decennial Censuses; the data from 1951 to 2012 is year by year based on the Current Population Survey provided by the Bureau for Labor Statistics. The data source used for 1951 to 2012 is all women (all races combined) 25 to 44 unadjusted monthly data where the yearly totals provided the data point. In the above line graph the data used for 1950 is 33.3% and the 1951 data point is 37.4%; producing the big vertical jump. The 1950 Census data point is 33.3%; the 1950 Current Population Survey data point is 36.4%. So the jump of 4.1 percentage points from 1950 to 1951 (33.3% to 37.4%) is mostly due to the change in the data source used (contributing 3.1 percentage points) but is also due to a true increase from 1950 to 1951 (contributing 1.0 percentage points).
The 1890 data point is 15.6%; for 1900 it is 18.1%; for 1920 it is 22.4%; for 1930 it is 25.4%; for 1940 it is 30.5%; for 1950 it is 33.3%. This is the Labor Force Participation Rate of all women 25 to 44 years old given by Decennial Census data. The 1910 data point was discarded due to errors in defining terms.
For the graph “Illegitimacy Ratio All United States 1917-2011” every single year is available. The source is Vital Statistics reports, Natality data, for many different years. The 1917 data point is 2.0%. The 1960 data point (initiation of acceleration) is 5.3%. The 1994 data point (initiation of deceleration) is 32.6%. The 2009 data point, the peak, is 41.0%.
For the graph “Incarceration Rate (State and Federal) United States 1925-2012” every single year is available. The source is the Prisoners Series from the Bureau of Justice Statistics; many different reports. The 1925 data point is 79. The peak before the major rise after 1972 was in 1939 with a data point of 137. World War II and the Vietnam War caused a suppression in the incarceration rate; young men being in the military keeping them out of trouble with the law. The beginning of the big rise in imprisonment was 1972 with a data point of 93; this was the lowest incarceration rate since 1927 with a data point of 91. The incarceration rate went from 137 in 1939 to 98 in 1945 to 119 in 1961 to 93 in 1972 to 476 in 1999 to 506 in 2008 to 480 in 2012.
Marriage is Masculinity and Coverture
Provides historical statistical information on women working by marital status
Sources of Statistical Information:
Vital Statistics of the United States 1940
Page 13 of 656
Vital Statistics of the United States 1960
Page 37 of 288
Births: Final Data for 2011
Page 44 of 90
Employment Status and Work Experience – 1970 Census
Table 5: Marital Status by Labor Force Status, Age, Race, and Sex: 1940 to 1970
Page 76 of 159
Bureau of Labor Statistics – Databases, Tables & Calculators by Subject
Employment – Labor Force Statistics – One Screen Data Search
Bureau of Justice Statistics – Prisoners Series
Prisoners in 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1998, 1999, 2012 – Advance Counts