The New York Times had a story yesterday on the positive trend of fewer black single-parent homes.
The number of black children being raised by two parents appears to be edging higher than at any time in a generation, at nearly 40 percent, according to newly released census data.
Demographers said such a trend might be partly attributable to the growing proportion of immigrants in the nation’s black population. It may have been driven, too, by the values of an emerging black middle class, a trend that could be jeopardized by the current economic meltdown.
This was encouraging news! And as the black middle class expands, this trend should continue, right?
Except that the trend is a lie. Black single-parent homes haven't declined. The Census Bureau just changed the definition of family.
The Census Bureau attributed an indeterminate amount of the increase to revised definitions adopted in 2007, which identify as parents any man and woman living together, whether or not they are married or the child’s biological parents.
You get that? Parents can be two strangers living in the same household. Or a father and his daughter who are raising her children. Or a sister and brother, raising their kids. Or stepparents raising a spouse's children.
Now, I'm all for recognizing the role of stepparents in the family equation. My husband raised my daughter for 10 of the first 12 years of her life before she decided to live with her father. Yet the system didn't even recognize him as any sort of parental figure, even a quasi-parental one. Family law isn't designed to handle the complexities of 21st century parents. In our hearts, though, we always knew my husband was my daughter's other father (my daughter, now 17, acknowledges this, as well).
But having said that, redefining a family isn't going to change the fact that more children are being raised by only one of their parents, and that there are real consequences to that.
James Taranto has a good column on that subject today.
Why not redefine together to mean "on the same planet"? So long as at least one man and one woman live on Earth, whether or not they are married or the child's biological parents, every child is being raised by two (or more) parents, and this will remain true at least until we begin colonizing space. Hey, it takes a village!
Next up, redefining rich, poverty, middle class, and race.