Married couple household income breakdown

This is the universe, as the Census Bureau likes to say, of all married couples, so these numbers include married people with no kids at home or no kids at all. So this represents about 57 million families.

  • ~20%, or over 11 million families, had household incomes of 100-149k in 2015
  • 9%, or about 5 million families, had household incomes of 150k-200k in 2015
  • ~10%, or slightly under 6 million families had household incomes of 200k or more 2015
  • Less than 15%, about 8 million families, had household incomes of 35k or less in 2015
  • ~35%, or about 20 million families had household incomes of 50k-99k in 2015 with around 55%, or 11 million families, being 50-74k earners
  • ~11%, or around 6 million families, had household incomes of 35-49k

As you can see, nearly 40% of married couples, representing between 21 and 22 million families, have household incomes above 100k, over 1/3, or about 20 million families have household incomes of 50-100k, and around 1/4 or just 14 million families make 50k or less.

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Why teen birth in general has declined so much this decade.

In no particular order, not least because correlations are hard to tease out and frankly, the reasons aren’t all that great from a Christian perspective.

  • Less sex and thus less pregnancy
  • Morning after pill use tripling since 2002
  • Condoms everywhere
  • Less driving

Teens increasingly stay home and look sexy at each other instead of Fast Times at Ridgemont High (which was fairly realistic for the time and correspondingly ugly and depressing).  When they do manage to fornicate, they try really hard to remember to use their STD/birth control and if they forget, they race for the morning after pill.

 

During the 70s and 80s, that was when abortion was the big thing causing (mild) decreases in teen pregnancy, but that hasn’t been a major factor in the recent declines.

 

Why the current unmarried birth rate for black women has declined nearly every year for the last decade.

Massive drop in teen pregnancy each year and small increase in married births some years.

Teen births still represent about 1 in 11 births for non-Hispanic black mothers, which has brought them in most recent full data to about 1 in 8 unmarried births.  The very most recent couple years of data, including the preliminary stuff for 2016 show that the decline in unmarried childbearing has reached into the 20-24 age group.

As far as black birth goes, there’s still some room for teen births to continue their steep decline.  The question after that is whether the increases in unwed childbearing among older mothers (25+) will keep the overall unwed birth percentage around 65% or whether they too will decline.

The black teen pregnancy rate dropped nearly 50% in 5 years.

In 2010 it was just over 15% of all (non-Hispanic) black births. By 2015, the most recent complete data available, it was 8.6%.

There are several reasons this could be the case. It could be people leaving high-crime urban areas, which are where the bulk of black teen pregnancy is concentrated. It could be part of the increase in older, more educated foreign-born and second-generation non-Hispanic black immigrant mothers making up a bigger share of black births. It could be both, or some other factors. It’s not an increase in abortions, though.

For perspective, here’s a chart with rough estimates since 1970 and percent changes.

% teen pregnancy % change
1970 31 N/A
1975 33 2
1980 26.5 -6.5
1985 23 -3
1990 23 0
1995 23 0
2000 21.5 -1.5
2005 17 -4.5
2010 15.2 -1.8
2015 8.6 -6.6

The 1970s were pretty bad, as were the 1980s, but the last decade has seen a significant and major turnaround in teen pregnancy.  Teen pregnancy for black Americans specifically is particularly “bad” because it’s skewed unmarried for much longer than was the case with white teen pregnancies, starting with under 15 pregnancies being mostly unmarried ones in the 1950s when that wasn’t the case with white pregnancies under 15.  In 1966, not long after the famous Moynihan Report, black teen pregnancies to mothers aged 15-19 crossed 50% unmarried.

Through the 1960s and 1970s, teen pregnancy became completely decoupled from marriage for black teen mothers and heavily decoupled for black mothers in their early 20s, culminating in 1978.  Five years after Roe V. Wade, black births to mothers in their early 20s were now majority unwed and teen births were 80-97% unwed, depending on age.  However, teen births were only about 25% of total births, during the 1960s.  The table shows how things shifted after the collapse in married black motherhood during the 1970s and 1980s.

All birth data used for rough percentages comes from Monthly Vital Statistics Reports or National Vital Statistics Reports.

The College Funnel and fertility hysteria on the American right.

The right does a tolerable job beefing about and critiquing the problems with left/liberal hysteria about “too much” fertility. But they conflate two issues into one and thus come out unsuccessful in their rhetorical quest to get married women to pop out more babies.

The fact is that American white fertility has been clustered around 2-4 children (with 5-6 the acceptable fringe due to Catholic and Mormon influences) since basically we had free black people and free white people (so, since 1870 or so). American black fertility has been more like 2-6 children until the 1970s, when they pretty much went to the same pattern as whites. There were also extended periods where both black and white women had 20% or so rates of no children.

So fixating on 1950s style fertility, with its unusually low rate of childlessness among the women of both races, is historically inaccurate. The excessive and vigorous rhetoric on even the mainstream right regarding family size is not very successful because it’s going up against long-standing American norms about family size being relatively small even when there wasn’t much or any modern birth control.

And it causes the right to make that conflation error I led with. They look at small family sizes through a 1950s, historically wrong lens, and declare, repeatedly, that college education is responsible, whether it’s simply attending at all (non-mainstream right) or liberal indoctrination while attending plus too many people attending (mainstream right).

Which brings us to the College Funnel. The College Funnel is the process by which married childbearing increasingly requires women to climb into the College Funnel and squeeze their way through to a degree. Some, quite a few, fall out at various points, but even that much makes getting married before the kids come a whole lot more likely.

With whites, the College Funnel has clearly increased births for women attending and especially completing college. But the births for white women without college attendance have plunged dramatically. With blacks, the College Funnel is at least partly another way to describe married black birth becoming the province of educated immigrants and/or mixed marriages (racially or ethnically, as in marrying a black immigrant) at higher and higher rates since the 1980s. What you have left over in both white and black cases is a small hard core of annual unwed births that combined were around 400k in 1970 and are now around 900k-1m annually since 1990. Sharp rise, then flattened out.

The College Funnel is fairly raceless, with more racial and ethnic intermarriage, which probably muddies the numbers some too.

So you have this problem where people of a certain level of brains are having the married kids and in the case of whites and Asians, it’s most of their kids on top. You have this different problem where people who might or might not have that level of brains, but don’t get into the College Funnel basically can’t have kids except in a handful of “wheeee feckless pride” areas, mostly urban. And the second problem is real, and worth discussing. But combining it with the college thing and declaring college renders anyone who stands next to one sterile is incorrect and not a solid way to get to solutions to let those second-problem people get to have children, much less children mostly in wedlock, again.

The numbers are from data in the National Center for Health Statistics Vital Statistics Reports’ various pdfs.

ETA 7/14/17: And right after I make this blog post, Ace of Spaces pushes a user comment to the top that is the very hysteria I was lamenting.

Another hidden cost of modern parenting–the Mom Commute

Before I had kids, I used to look around at the fatigued SAHMs and working mothers around me and I thought (if I thought about it at all) that a lot of the things they did were optional and not really necessary to the kid-raising life.

Well, I was wrong.

The Mom commute has a long history in American society, but it wasn’t as broadly required in the first half of the 20th century. And there were still ways to avoid the worst of it in the second half via carpooling and roping in still-available neighbors, relatives and friends. And also, for a short window of time, nannies. During peak working mother, around the late 1980s and early 1990s, the first wave of amnestied Hispanic women made a labor pool for domestic work that included doing a lot of the driving. And contrary to the story about them, during that window of time, the wages they were paid were decent and many received real benefits as well. Minimum wage was very low and so (for that brief window of time), paying twice minimum wage was hard, but not completely brutalizing the old finances and the freshly amnestied immigrants were happy to get comparatively generous wages for the work. Things changed with the dotcom era, of course, but a roughly ten year window of being able to pay generously for childcare and still have a lot of money left over distorted perspective later.

Anyway, while a bit of a digression, the point is that now in the 21st century, all the social bonds and stuff have corroded and the mom commute is pretty much a requirement for all moms, even pretty rural ones. It’s not even about the dreaded activities, it’s that getting your kids around other kids and getting them the educational resources they’re supposed to have, even if they’re public schooled involves a lot of commuting (even if you can pop them on the bus in theory).

This is a pretty major fertility shredder and it’s also a reason a lot of married households want two very comfortable cars. They also need them because the Mom Commute tends to not be in the same directions as the Work Commute. The schools and kid stuff are in one part of the city/metro area/county, but the jobs (including mom’s if she works outside the home too) tend to be somewhere else. That includes teachers, who used to be able to easily work in the district their kids were in and now rarely can.

Giving up the Mom Commute really does mean for most married mothers agreeing to a truly astonishing level of isolation and dependence on mass media and social media for themselves and their children and hard limits on physical activity as well. But you never really hear about it, even though that much driving is health-damaging and poorly compatible with keeping the old figure in tiptop shape.