As Father’s Day is fast approaching, perhaps it strikes you as odd to put fatherhood at the center of the feminist and the civil rights platforms.
What do fathers have to do with women empowerment and civil rights, particularly within the African American community?
Fatherhood, or rather the lack of it, is the unkept secret behind the poverty that overwhelmingly burdens single mothers, particularly within the African-American community, and is also the leading indicator of juvenile violent crime. If we care about the flourishing of women and children and protecting them from the grips of poverty and crime, we have to care about fathers staying with their families, and these statistics will show you why.
The U.S. Has the Largest Breakdown of the Family in the World
The U.S. has witnessed the increasing breakdown of the traditional two-parent family over the past 30 years. On a global scale, the U.S. has the highest rate of children living in unmarried households. According to a Pew Research study, almost a quarter (23%) of all U.S. children live in a single parent or absent-parent household, which is more than three times the global average (7%). Another Pew study says that this number could be as high as 32%.
23% of U.S. children live in a single parent or absent-parent household—more than three times the global average.
This staggering number is linked to the marriage trends within the U.S., signaling the breakdown of the traditional two-parent family. Not only are Americans getting married less, but, moreover, cohabitation and out-of-wedlock births have grown more commonplace. In 1970, more than 70% of adults aged 18 and older were married. By 2016, the number of married adults within the U.S. had declined to 50%. Out of all unmarried parents, 35% are cohabiting. But the majority of unmarried parents (65%) are going at it alone as single parents.
Why should the increasing number of single/absent parent households concern us? There is a staggering connection between children raised in single-parent homes and their likelihood to live in poverty, particularly when in single-mother homes.
Women Disproportionately Bear the Burden of Single Parenthood
Single parenthood, particularly single motherhood, is one of the chief indicators of poverty. One-fourth of all single-parent families live in poverty, and the burden of poverty is overwhelmingly born by women, particularly African American women. More than one in every five American children (21%) live with a single mom.
And that statistic more than doubles among African-American mothers. Almost half of all black children (47%) live in a single-mother household. This is staggering compared to 23% of all Hispanic children, 13% of all white children, and 7% of all Asian children who live in single-mother families. It’s especially eye-opening when compared to the 4% of children who live with single-fathers across all ethnicities. These statistics indicate that women overwhelmingly bear the burden of single parenthood, particularly within the African-American community.
Single-mother families are most likely to live in poverty.
Moreover, single mothers are significantly more likely to live in poverty than single fathers. 30% of all single mothers live in poverty compared to the 17% of single fathers. In comparison, less than 5% of married families live in poverty. This means that single mothers are almost four times as likely to live in poverty than married mothers and almost twice as likely than single fathers.
30% of all single mothers live in poverty compared to only 8% of married families.
These statistics become even more concerning within the African American community. According to a study by the U.S. Census Bureau, black single mothers are four times as likely to live in poverty than black single fathers and 10 times more likely than black married mothers. If feminism is chiefly concerned with the furtherance of women’s rights and empowerment, these statistics show that encouraging fathers to take care of their families ought to be highly ranked on the feminist platform.
Fatherlessness Increases Child’s Likelihood To Turn to Crime
Fatherlessness doesn’t only burden single-mothers with a greater likelihood of poverty. It's also the chief indicator of children pursuing violent crime. Research has consistently shown the connection between children born into single-parent households, particularly fatherless households, and the rise in violent crime.
A comprehensive study from Heritage Foundation found that over the preceding 30 years, “the rise in violent crime parallels the rise in families abandoned by fathers,” and “high-crime neighborhoods are characterized by a concentration of families abandoned by fathers.” After a state-by-state analysis, the Heritage Foundation concludes that a 10% increase in single-parent homes is associated with a 17% increase in juvenile crime, and the rate of violent teenage crime corresponds with the rate of fathers abandoning their families.
A 10% increase in single-parent homes is associated with a 17% increase in juvenile crime.
Furthermore, the study finds that 90% of children born into a stable two-parent family within high-crime, inner-city neighborhoods avoid crime as opposed to the 10% of children in unstable single-parent homes from these same neighborhoods. If you think that poverty is the main indicator of crime, these statistics say otherwise. Fatherlessness has become the standard in setting our children up for a life of crime.
If these statistics indicate anything, it’s this: Fathers matter. Fathers matter for women’s rights, and fathers matter for civil rights. The family should not be considered a private matter that’s disconnected from political and social consequences.
The increasing trend of fathers abandoning women and children has resulted in the greatest indicators of poverty and violent crime within the U.S., a burden particularly born by African American women. America needs a revitalization of the importance of the two-parent family. As feminists and as civil rights activists, we need to raise our boys to become men who will be loyal to their family, and we need to raise our girls to become strong women who will seek out men who won’t abandon them to our current cycle of poverty among single-mothers.
This Father’s Day, let’s not only celebrate our wonderful fathers, but, moreover, let’s also encourage men to embrace the love and loyalty required of fatherhood for the sake of women and the sake of their children. The future of feminism and civil rights depends on it.