Frontier culture was always synthetic

This provided a glue that held the otherwise insane circumstances of frontier life together, but it was a brittle, fragile glue.

McGuffey readers, civic nationalism and the proposition nation are just a few of the synthetic components of this glue.  The original McGuffey readers were meant to educate young children in Scottish Presbyterian Christian faith, but this was rapidly subverted to promote a more generic and secular “civic nationalism” that remains the backbone of the eternal minority party, the Republicans.  Those readers, with their essentially national, limited but accessibly standardized curriculum also presaged the beginnings of credentialism and what progressives eventually snagged and remolded into “meritocracy”.

There’s also the fact that no matter how primitive the living conditions, frontier people were always reliant on what was sometimes very cutting edge and what was also pretty expensive technology to live out there at all.  The money-sink rail system, the agricultural machines, even the coal burnt out on the prairie.

Traditions formed, such as they were, were consumerist with a gloss of patriotism.

 

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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.

Angela Nagle vs. Thermidor, blind squirrel edition

T.W.O., who reads different parts of the reactionary right than I do, mentioned that the “neoreaction” “magazine” “Thermidor” decided to review some very silly book by a left-wing woman about the alt-right. The review is overlong and fretful, but this part was about the only interesting detail:

“In the opening of Rousseau’s pedagogical handbook, Emile, for example, Rousseau takes contemporary women to task for abandoning their motherly duties. He argues that the weakness and fragility of modern man is likely a result of mothers abrogating their duties to their children. He rails against the use of nurse maids and severely reprimands mothers for poisoning their new born children with the sickly air of the metropolis rather than face the horrors of confinement in the boring and uncomfortable countryside. This all sounds like it could easily have been lifted from some Red Pill forum post, but this in Nagle’s interpretation is one of the founders of the Equalitarian Feminist movement.”

Nagle was right, though, unfortunately for the reviewer. The Rousseau model, where the entire burden of motherhood is on individual mothers without the assistance of other women is explicitly one of the germs of expansion of economic and political power for women, particularly married women and married mothers. All those center-left free ranging mothers didn’t burst onto the scene in a vacuum.

Notes For A Data-Driven History of Black Illegitimacy in America, 1917-2015

So a while back I printed up the CDC birth statistics (Vital Statistics) for black illegitimacy since 1917, the earliest numbers they have, as far as I could find.

It doesn’t quite fit any full Narrative about black illegitimacy.  But the long arc of black illegitimacy is one of racism plus modernity.

There have been multiple fluctuations downwards over 100 years, with the most recent improvement in legitimate births happening since 2009.

And there was a decline during the short window of time in which black men had access to free homestead land before the Depression.  There was a further decline as the Great Migration was underway a couple of decades later.

One ongoing pattern is whether teenaged mothers got married.  The point at which fewer than half of teenaged black mothers were able to get married was the point at which illegitimacy started shifting heavily upwards.  This would have been the 50s or so.  And teenaged births being a disproportionate chunk of total births for black women have been a constant.  The most recent numbers from 2015 show that black births are nearly 10% teen, while white births are less than 5% teen.

Even more interestingly, in heavily black (20% or more) urban cities like Chicago and Baltimore, teen births are around 25% of births.  That is something that probably has some strong explanatory value.

 

Urban dads in the 1950s did a surprising amount of childcare.

It looks as though the dad pitching in with the kids and housework is not quite as recent as people, particularly on the right, often claim.  While GI fathers show decent evidence of being hands-off, it appears things had changed for the fathers who came along a decade or so later.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, there were a lot of excited demographers studying the lower age of marriage and relatively higher fertility, and thrilled at the idea that a new pattern of family growth even in urban areas via natural increase might be the new normal.

One of those studies was done in two parts in 1957 and 1961 and it involved over 1100 white collar and blue collar couples in the eight largest major metropolitan areas at the time. It involved white couples who’d had their second child in 1956.  They further narrowed the group with technical requirements beyond the scope of this post, but the upshot was that they got some interesting data that Catholics, Jews and Protestants alike all wanted 2-4 children (90% across the board) and less than 10% wanted 5+.

Another interesting detail of this study is the post title.  Many of the mothers were still housewives, but fully 2/3 of them could count on their husbands to take care of the children as a norm.  Fully 1/3 of these urban women mostly living in apartments could also count on someone who wasn’t their husband (and by definition for the study not one of their own children) to help them around the house as a norm.

If one includes “sometimes”, 85% of the 1100+ wives could expect some recurring level of help with the kids from their husbands.  And including “sometimes”, it was 60% of those wives.  So by 1957, the husband was already viewed as a major source of help by urban wives.

They did a follow-up study covering whether a third (or) child had been born, and I haven’t gotten far into that one yet.  But I found the detail about help that the wife felt she could count on reliably very relevant to 60(!) years later.

Source: Family Growth in Metropolitan America, 1961, Princeton University Press.

The fungibility of frontier females

One of the woes of American women is the influence, not to the good, of frontier culture.  To sprinkle some evolutionary psychology sprinkles on it, on the frontier, women are fungible and men are individual.  Women are not strictly needed to cook, as the camp-style cooking is easy enough to learn and frontier life made hunger-spice the only one really needed.

There was also less opportunity for domestic niceties in setting up a home, since you were talking about stuff like slapped up shacks, lean-tos and dugouts to hold a claim.  They were all meant to be pretty temporary.

Although many frontier women had large families, children’s labor was not as needed either, as during much of the frontier era the homesteaders were on the cutting edge of using as much technology and machinery as possible to minimize how many people they had to share the hoped-for wealth with.  So even in that respect women were more fungible, as plenty of men were bachelor-homesteading.

Frontier culture is anti-domestic, and not terribly encouraging of feminine strengths beyond basic endurance and willingness to do repetitive labor under brutalizing conditions.  And the descendants of frontier culture still treat women as fungible. And this influence has made it much more difficult for women’s strengths and desires to be taken seriously as part of a complete, functional society.