The Public Interest

The Family Under Fire

Chester Finn

Winter 1978

ONE contemporary clich6 of social policy in the United States is the deterioration of the family. Even the casual newspaper reader can scarcely help detecting that something is amiss when he notes, for example, that the majority of live births in the District of Columbia in 1975 were out of wedlock. In New York City, 33,215 illegitimate children were born in 1976-30 percent of all births that year and three times the number of babies born out of wedlock in 1956. In the Central Harlem Health District, only one infant in four was born to married parents. Moreover, the rising incidence of divorce among ones friends and acquaintances is a regular topic of conversation at upper-middle-class cocktail parties-when, that is, one can find somebody to talk to who is not in the throes of divorce proceedings.

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