Stats to Lie By

Dig: You know how out-of-wedlock birthrates have been soaring over, say, the past 25 years. Common knowledge, right? Well, there's no "parent's married?" question on birth certificates, so how do the brilliant statisticians figure it out? Simple. They look to see if mom and dad's last names are different. If the names are the same, they count the couple as married, if they're different, they count the couple as unmarried unless they've hyphenated the kid's name, in which case, they are counted as married. Never mind the fact that women often keep their own names after tying the knot, or that hyphenation has no connection to marriage. What it boils down to is that while we know how many single moms there are in the country (about 11 million), we have no idea how many out-of-wedlock births there are.Add teens to the mix, and it turns out that every state and federal agency has their own definition of "teenage" -- up to age 17, 18 or 19. So all the comparative statistics are totally screwed up. 18 and 19-year-olds, the vast majority of teen moms, are sometimes counted and sometimes left out of the statistics. Finally, the deciding factor used to determine whether a welfare mom is also a teen mom is to ask whether she had her first child as a teenager. Never mind if she didn't apply for welfare until she was 40.

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