Marriage has become a luxury rather than a necessity for many U.S. women, according to a new study which found that more than half of births under 30 are to single mothers. Liberals blame a lack of marriageable men while conservatives say it's the fault of the sexual revolution and government benefits that favor single parents, but both agree that marriage just ain't what it used to be.

The New York Times asked a number of single mothers in Lorain, a small Ohio town, why they hadn't married the fathers of their children, and received a variety of answers that show both sides have a point. Young mothers are no longer afraid of the stigma of divorce or living "in sin," and they see marriage as an aspirational goal: they have no time to deal with deadbeat husbands if they don't have to. Take 27-year-old Amber Strader, a bartender who never even considered marrying the father of her first child because living with him was "like living with another kid," nor the father of her second, who she is still dating. "Most of my friends say it's just a piece of paper, and it doesn't work out anyway," she said. "We support ourselves. We support our kids," said another young single mother who added that she no longer thought women had to rely on men. Others said that if they got married their official household income would rise, costing them government benefits like food stamps and child care.

College graduates, however, still tend to marry before having children, further cementing the idea of marriage as a luxury that most can't afford. "Family life is no longer about playing the social role of father or husband or wife, it's more about individual satisfaction and self-development," said Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University. This might be a problem, as research has shown that children without married parents have a better chance of being poor, failing in school, or having emotional and behavioral problems. But as the idea of the traditional marriage continues to crumble, more studies need to be conducted — the single mothers of Lorain sound like they're doing a lot better, both emotionally and financially, than they would be if they were married.

For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage [New York Times]