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OUR VIEW: Disturbing trends about SD children

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opinion Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

It's good news and bad news, but mostly bad.

Two items in Tuesday's edition of The Daily Republic outlined growing problems in South Dakota, exacerbated by declining rates of traditional marriage and rising rates of parenthood by singles.

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In one report, we noted that more than a third of South Dakota's jobs are rated as "low-wage" and nearly two-thirds of the state's children live in single-parent households. As a result, the story noted, 42 percent of South Dakota children live in low-income homes, including 18 percent in poverty.

Meanwhile, an Associated Press report that originated in Sioux Falls noted how new figures from the U.S. Census show that South Dakota has a high rate of babies being born to unwed women. According to the report, 37.4 percent of South Dakota births in 2011 were outside wedlock, and the rate continues to climb since the 1940s.

We understand that single-parenting is becoming more common, but that doesn't mean we have to like or condone the trend. At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, we worry that single-parent homes automatically put a child behind the curve, since we believe two-parent homes are best at offering a full and meaningful childhood. We also worry about issues related to nutrition and overall health of a child in poverty.

Two-parent homes simply provide the best opportunity for income, and that means fewer kids who are below the poverty line.

Yes, we know that some single-parent homes have adapted and are making it work. We also know that sometimes -- in sad cases of abuse or neglect -- it may be best for a child to have only one parent.

But statistics are statistics, and they show us that oftentimes, two parents are better than one when it comes to raising children. Even if statistics didn't bear that out, we would stand by that statement.

But alas, there's a nugget of good news hidden deep inside these troubling trends. One contributing factor to the upward trend in single-parenting could be related to the declining rate of abortions in South Dakota. According to a story from the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, our state's abortion rate is half of what it was back in the 1980s.

That really is good news. We'd rather see a child raised lovingly in poverty than a child aborted.

Good for South Dakota. But now, the state needs to work on improving these other disturbing statistics.

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