In Which I Offer Unsolicited and Unwelcome Nosy Advice to the Extremely Intelligent and Articulate Ta-Nehisi Coates
Megan McArdle writes:
Megan McArdle: Department of kind of awful statistics: I should probably just shutter the blog and redirect it to Ta-Nehisi Coates, but he keeps coming up with neat stuff. This on black illegitimacy. The stunning statistic that 70% of black babies are born out of wedlock is driven, to be sure, by the fact that many poor black women have a lot of children. But it turns out it is also driven by the fact that married black women have fewer children than married white women.
Ta-Nehisi suggests a reason for this that makes sense to me:
I'm effectively--if not legally--married. Been with the mother of my eight year old son for ten years now. More on this later. (I promise!) But basically when he was born I felt that he was the bond between us. In other words, he literally was the marriage ring. We'd both love to have more kids, but we simply can't afford it. Furthermore, we don't have particularly wealthy parents to fall back on. I think that's the situation a lot of married black folks find themselves in. They simply feel that they can't have more kids.
It's well known that the black middle class has a lot less in the way of assets than whites of similar income levels--hardly surprising, given the legacy of generations of discrimination and poverty. But that also means that things that a lot of white middle class people take for granted--like help with a down-payment on a house when you have your first kid--are less available. Middle class black parents have less in the way of a parental safety net than their white equivalents, so they're less likely to have a second kid.
So even though the statistic is basically correct--as Ta-Nehisi says, "Even if married black parents had kids at the rate that white married parents did (or better yet, Hispanic parents), black babies would still make up a disproportionate share of kids borne out of wedlock"--it's still worth interrogating, because the picture is considerably more complex than is generally implied.
I read this, and I cannot help but be reminded of the low comedy of Genesis 2:18-24:
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the male earth-creature should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto the earth-creature to see what he would call them: and whatsoever the earth-creature called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And the earth-creature gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the earth-creature there was not found an help meet for him.
And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the earth-creature and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from the earth-creature, made he a woman, and brought her unto the the earth-creature.
And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh...
And respond that:
[H]oly Matrimony... is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency... which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly... like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained:
- It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name...
- It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry...
- It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity...
It's none of my business, I know. But I cannot help but think that people should be married and should have weddings, and say: "Propose, Mr. Coates, propose! At the very least it is a great excuse for a party--pot-luck receptions at home are at least as fun as the other kind!..."