IN A CLASSROOM in southern England, a group of 17-year-old girls has just learned something extraordinary. The pupils are interviewing a couple, Jane and Graham Marshall, who have been sent to their school by the Students Exploring Marriage Trust, a charity that tries to promote wedlock by providing teenagers with real-life examples. Mr Marshall has mentioned that he has been married to Mrs Marshall for 48 years. “Aww,” say the girls. Then they stop to think, because Jane and Graham do not look terribly old. Hold on, asks one pupil after a few seconds—how old were you when you got married? Nineteen, says Mr Marshall. The pupils gasp. “Whoa!” says one.
It is a long cultural journey from half a century ago to the present. Out of every 1,000 unmarried adult women living in England and Wales in 1970, whether single, divorced or widowed, 60 got hitched. Women married for the first time at a median age of 21, to men who were two years older. One-third of brides under 20 were bounced into marriage, with a baby arriving less than eight months after the wedding. To have a child outside wedlock was almost unthinkable.
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction
it used to be that the high percent of black women with children outside marriage was called some particular fault of e.g. black people, exemplifying their lack of morals or faulty genes or faulty ‘culture’.
Today black and white rates of childbirth outside marriage are nearly the same. Nothing to do with any of the above; it’s economic, and apparently the same in the uk.
The birthrate has dropped steeply for much the same economic reasons.