One of the most alarming charts from Charles Murray’s Coming Apart — an unparalleled treatise on the decline of white America — traces the increase in non-marital births during the 20th century. Between 1917 and 1965, rates of unwed motherhood in white America were well below 5 percent. Between 1965 and 2010, that figure spiked by over 25 percentage points.

And that’s in white America alone. Including minority groups, the out-of-wedlock birth rate in the United States is now 40 percent, nearly half of all births. Perhaps more than any other cultural developments, unwed motherhood — and absent fatherhood — are having a disastrous economic and cultural impact on the United States.

In Coming Apart, Murray writes about the growing acceptance of single-parenthood households as both normal and good — perhaps even desirable. “For the first time in human history, we now have societies in which a group consisting of a lone woman and her offspring is not considered to be sociologically incomplete — not considered to be illegitimate,” he writes.

Unfortunately, Generation Y (or Millennials) — those Americans in their late teens, 20s, and early 30s — is the primarily culprit for this rise in single motherhood. As a generation, we Gen Y’ers tend to take a lackadaisical approach to relationships, marriage, and childbearing. It’s an approach that is having a seismic impact on American culture today, and will have an even greater impact in future decades as Generation Y gains more clout in the business, cultural, and political worlds.

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