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Generation Unbound

Drifting into Sex and Parenthood without Marriage

Isabel V. Sawhill (author)

ISBN: 9780815725589

Publication Date: Sep 2014

Format: Hardback

Also available as: Paperback  

Discusses likely causes for recent changes in the family, such as an increase in women's economic opportunities, the declining economic prospects of men, greater access to birth control and abortion, and new social norms that allow young people more choice - but provide less guidance on what it means to be an adult.

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Half of all pregnancies in the United States are either unplanned or unintended. Moreover, while fewer people are getting married, childbearing outside of wedlock is on the rise. These trends suggest that couples who have unplanned children are ambivalent or unenthusiastic about becoming parents, or, at the very least, are unprepared for parenthood. What kind of future does this mean for their kids . . . and for society as a whole?

In Generation Unbound, nationally known budget expert Isabel V. Sawhill presents likely causes for the recent changes in the traditional family structure, such as the increase in women's economic opportunities, declining economic prospects of men, access to birth control and abortion, and new social norms that allow young people more choices - but provide less guidance on what it means to be an adult.

Sawhill reveals an emerging class divide in patterns of marriage and childbearing: at the top of the ladder are "planners," who are marrying and having children only after establishing a career; at the bottom, and increasingly in the middle, are "drifters" who are having children early, outside of marriage, and without the stable support of the second parent.

Sawhill sees merit in the views of those on the political left, who argue for more social support for the drifters, including expanded child care, parental leave, family-friendly workplaces, and financial assistance, and for those on the right who argue for restoring traditional marriage so that children are raised in a stable family. But, she also points out that while collective responses are needed, they alone can't solve the problem. Any such efforts must be combined with the exercise of greater personal responsibility by potential parents themselves.
Language English
Pages 212
Dimensions 229 x 152
Date Published 30 Sep 2014
Publisher Brookings Institution Press
Subject/s Politics & Government   Social classes   Public administration   Sociology   Gender studies: women   Social services & welfare, criminology   Sociology: family & relationships   Feminism & feminist theory  
  • 1. An Introduction
  • 2. Changes in the Family: More Diversity, a Bigger Divide
  • 3. Why We Should Worry: The Consequences of Choices about Marriage and Childbearing
  • 4. A Growing Class Divide: Planners vs. Drifters
  • 5. The Traditionalists vs. the Villagers: Why Government Alone Can't Solve the Marriage Problem
  • 6. Making Better Decisions: The Need to Change the Default
  • 7. Peering into the Future: Less Marriage, Fewer Children?
Isabel V. Sawhill is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at Brookings, where she holds the Cabot Family Chair. She also serves as codirector of the Budgeting for National Priorities project and codirector of the Center on Children and Families. She is the author of Creating an Opportunity Society (Brookings, 2009) and editor of The Future of Children: The Next Generation of Antipoverty Policies (2007), both with Ron Haskins.

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