Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Single Mothers Become a Norm Michigan Town Leads Crest of Wave of U.S. Single-Parent Families

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Single Mothers Become a Norm Michigan Town Leads Crest of Wave of U.S. Single-Parent Families

Article excerpt

When she got pregnant the first time, at age 15, Rashonda Jackson never considered marriage. Nor did she give much thought to abortion or adoption.

There was never really any doubt about what she would do. With her parents' blessing, and that of her church, Rashonda had a baby boy, Shannon. It was enough to gain her entry into the least exclusive club in Benton Harbor: single motherhood.

This could be the single-parent capital of the United States, a struggling Rust Belt town where an astonishing eight out of every 10 families are headed by a single parent. The vast majority are single mothers, often in their teens or early 20s.

Look around: The first thing you notice in Benton Harbor are the children - hordes of them on every street - riding bicycles, dribbling basketballs, running, shouting, just being kids. Their mothers are often with them. Their fathers, almost never. Fathers - real, live-in fathers - are as scarce as good jobs.

The Census Bureau recently reported a huge increase in the number of U.S. children living with single parents. Nationwide, one out of every four children now live with only one parent; in more than one-third of those families, the parent has never been married.

Detroit, Camden, N.J., and Tuskegee, Ala., were among other cities in which a majority of families were headed by single parents.

Single parenthood is actually growing faster among whites than among minorities, making this one area of American life that is on the road to racial parity. But nationwide, black children are still more than twice as likely as white children to be living with only one parent.

Driving through Benton Harbor, it is easy to see what a pleasant, thriving community it once was. You pass big old wood-frame houses with wraparound porches, neat little parks and tree-lined streets. …

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