“The key fact to understand about pregnancies and births to unmarried women in their twenties is that a large portion of them are not intended. Roughly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended.”
Sawhill believes that political conservatives have generally avoided the issue of how to deal with so many single parent families because they believe separating sex from childbearing and marriage is morally wrong or undermines responsible behavior. Sawhill states that political progressives also have avoided this issue because they are overwhelmingly focused on what happens to children once they are born, “ignoring the fact that the circumstances of a child’s birth matter, too.”
Sawhill believes that government has a role to play but that, without more personal responsibility, it will be impossible to turn the tide. “For every child kept out of poverty by the earned income tax credit or some other program, another child is about to be born into poverty because of the wholesale breakdown of the American family.” She states, “To keep pace with this demographic trend, the safety net would have to expand continuously. To reduce poverty we must slow down entries into poverty, not just speed up the exits.” Sawhill states, “[Progressives] are asking voters to support an agenda that is more expensive and less consistent with the American value of self-sufficiency than most American voters will accept.”
Sawhill explains the relative ease of avoiding poverty in America. She states that she has long argued that “To stay out of poverty, individuals need to follow three steps: graduate from high school, work full-time, and wait until after age 21 to get married and have children (in that order)…[I]f people followed these three simple guidelines, only 2 percent would be poor.” [Emphasis mine] These do not seem to be unachievable goals; in fact, they are remarkably straightforward and politically uncontroversial.