++Addition++I'd cued this up but not yet published it ahead of a similar post by Inductivist. So this is complementary to and somewhat overlaps that.
Inductivist's posts on fecundity and marital status among women in the US got me wondering if and how this has changed over time. Citing Roger Scruton's argument that the societal movement away from marriage leads to declining fertility rates that eventually drop society below replacement level, Inductivist turns to the GSS to see whether or not Scruton's assertion that marriage and children travel together is accurate. Not surprisingly, it is.
The question this raises in my mind is to what extent is the drop in US fertility is attributable to a decline in marriage rates? If fertility holds pretty steadily over time among those who are married and the overall decrease comes not from married couples having fewer children but from fewer people getting married, it certainly becomes plausible that protecting the institution of marriage is critical if the US is going to perpetuate itself.
The following graph shows the mean number of children for women aged 30-45 by marital status over the last four decades. To avoid racial confounding a la Charles Murray, only whites are considered:
The percentage of married women dropped continuously over the four decades, while the percentage of divorced and never married women increased, so the decline in marriage is, as Scruton claims, associated with a decline in fertility rates. It's not the entire story, though. Married women have become less fecund over the last couple of generations while never married women have become more so. The gap is still far from closed, but it's narrowing.
With illegitimacy rates around 70% among blacks and 50% among Hispanics, there is ample evidence that in 21st century America, procreation doesn't need marriage. Whether or not the US is able to retain a semblance of its former self if the two become decoupled, however, is another question entirely.