Indiana Black Expo Report: About 80% of Black Babies Are Born to Unwed Moms

Tim Evans, Indianapolis Star, January 24, 2008

About eight in 10 black children in Indiana are born to unwed parents—a start to life that sets them up for problems during adolescence and beyond, according to an Indiana Black Expo report.

Indiana’s black youths fare significantly worse than Hoosier youths in general across 18 indicators of well-being, such as graduation rates and poverty levels, and do worse than black youths in the U.S, according to the report being released Friday.

Tanasha Anders, acting president and chief executive of Indiana Black Expo, said the problem comes down to education—making sure young people finish school and understand the consequences of having a baby.

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The explosion of births to unwed parents is driving many of the state’s social problems, such as increases in poverty and child abuse and the growing cost of public aid, said Bill Stanczykiewicz, president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. He added that the problem is not exclusive to any one race.

Indiana’s out-of-wedlock birthrate is at an all-time high, with unwed mothers accounting for nearly 40 percent of all births, he said. Nationally, about 36 percent of all births are to unwed mothers.

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Another complicating factor is that a growing number of the single-parent births are to young adults, instead of teens, and that requires a new and different kind of message. But finding a way to address the situation is critical, he said.

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The issues that spin out of struggling single-parent families show up throughout the new Black Expo report, including the teen birth rate of 81 per 1,000 for blacks. That is almost twice the state’s overall teen birth rate of 43.5 per 1,000.

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To address the growing out-of-wedlock birthrates, the Black Expo report calls for increasing resources for sex education programs with proven track records and public education campaigns that promote healthy marriage.

Curt Smith, president of the Indiana Family Institute, which advocates for traditional families and values, blames the sexual revolution, no-fault divorce and the more recent discussions about same-sex marriage and other “marriage substitutes.”

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While the battles over social values are being waged in churches and the Statehouse, Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, said young people need accurate and comprehensive education about sex and family planning.

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Cockrum said Indiana is struggling, at least in part, because of the state’s strong conservative bent and a belief that information about sex should be taught by parents.

That philosophy shows up in state requirements for insurers: States such as California, Washington and Wisconsin require insurance companies to provide coverage for contraception; Indiana does not. And Indiana’s Medicaid program—which pays for more than half of all births in the state—does not provide family planning services. At least 25 other states do.

Black Expo’s Anders said officials hope the new report, based on data from 2004-05, will be a call to action for families, civic and faith groups, public agencies and political leaders.

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Indiana comparisons

*Estimate based on 2004 National Center for Education Statistics data and 2004 American Community

Survey population data. Calculation by the Indiana Youth Institute.

**U.S. comparison statistic is for 2005.

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