Jeb Bush said Thursday his views on single parenting had “evolved” since he wrote in 1995 that single parents should face public shaming, but said children of single parents still face a “huge challenge” in life.
“We have a 40-percent plus out of wedlock birthrate and if you think about this from the perspective of children, it puts a huge – it’s a huge challenge for single moms to raise children in the world that we’re in today, and it hurts the prospects, it limits the possibilities of young people being able to live lives or purpose and meaning,” the former Florida governor and 2016 Republican presidential hopeful said Thursday, during his European trip before he announces his run for president.
He continued, “To assume you can have a fatherless society and not have bad outcomes is the wrong approach.”
Bush has taken heat this week for comments he made in his 1995 book that out-of-wedlock births were increasing because single mothers and fathers no longer faced public shaming.
He wrote at the time:
“One of the reasons more young women are giving birth out of wedlock and more young men are walking away from their paternal obligations is that there is no longer a stigma attached to this behavior, no reason to feel shame. Many of these young women and young men look around and see their friends engaged in the same irresponsible conduct. Their parents and neighbors have become ineffective at attaching some sense of ridicule to this behavior. There was a time when neighbors and communities would frown on out-of-wedlock births and when public condemnation was enough of a stimulus for one to be careful.”
Bush argued Thursday that in the two decades since, the country had headed in the wrong direction, with a 40-percent out-of-wedlock birth rate today.
“The country has moved in the wrong direction,” he said. “We have a 40-percent plus out-of-wedlock birthrate and if you think about this from the perspective of children, it puts a huge – it’s a huge challenge for single moms to raise children in the world that we’re in today, and it hurts the prospects, it limits the possibilities of young people being able to live lives or purpose and meaning.”
The rate of children born outside of marriage has increased steadily since 1995, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that out-of-wedlock births have declined 7 percent since the late 2000s. The CDC also found that more out-of-wedlock births were happening intentionally in homes where the mother and father lived together.
Bush is facing increasing pressure from the right in a surprisingly competitive Republican primary field. One critique from the Republican base of primary voters has been that Bush is not conservative enough, when compared against alternatives like former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and many others who are holding steady in early public polling.