Abandoning children

The intellectual consensus seems to be that having children is miserable business. This consensus is built on shoddy thinking and shoddier statistics. The latest example is brought to us by Why Have Kids? author Jessica Valenti, who notes that in the wake of Nebraska’s “safe haven” law allowing parents and caregivers to abandon children without prosecution, 36 children of various ages were abandoned over a four month period. Valenti writes:

“What happened in Nebraska raises the question: If there were no consequences, how many of us would give up our kids?”

What happened in Nebraska doesn’t raise the question, it answers it. Using U.S. Census Bureau data, we can determine that when Nebraska parents have the opportunity to give up their children with no consequences, less than 0.02 percent of them choose to do so.

That’s a drastic overestimate, because several of those abandoning children, as it turns out, were not parents, but caregivers overwhelmed by the children they were responsible for. The estimate also doesn’t account for the fact that some parents abandoned more than one child (one father reportedly left nine children), or the fact that some came from out of state. Factoring those elements in, it’s probably closer to the truth to say that less than 0.01 percent of parents abandoned their children during this experiment. That’s terribly high, but it hardly supports Valenti’s implied claim, which is that great swaths of parents don’t want their children.

Not that the data matter, because the way the game works, when one writes about families and children in popular literature, is to nestle bold assertions amongst seemingly substantiating numbers. The real shame is that editors who should know better run this kind of stuff seemingly without question, even as it becomes increasingly unoriginal by dint of sheer repetition.


  1. Pingback: Instapundit » Blog Archive » SHOCKING DISCOVERY: Parents actually want their kids. “Not that the data matter, because the way th…

  2. Micha Elyi

    Jessica Valenti’s hopeless innumeracy just makes her a typical feminist. Arianna Huffington pointed out the difficulty feminists have comprehending numbers in her 1972 book, The Female Woman. And in ’72, feminism’s Gloria leader loathed the thought of raising kids. Forty years and nothing’s changed.

  3. Roxeanne de Luca

    Well, about 25% of pregnancies end in abortion, so that answers part of Ms. Valenti’s question. The other part was answered here, and points out that once parents meet their babies, they don’t want to give them up.

    What a fool that woman is.

  4. Brian

    The sad thing is that “feminists” have persuaded too many women to give up having children, in favor of some dull drone of a “career” and they realize too late what they’ve missed. They become sad, bitter cogs in the wheel instead of having children. There is no love that can replace raising your own children.

  5. Jennifer

    @Brian- I agree and am quite sad for those that waited too long to have their own child.

    As I love that I have been a stay home mom for 24 years. Being a mom has increased my life and filled it with contentment,joy, peace, and the rewards afforded beginning my family at 21. Now in my mid forties I look to a future filled with grandkids. My youngest turns 18 in a year(the oldest is 23) and I will be able to date my husband once again for the next fifty years.

    The question has never been why have kids in my world. Instead it has been wow, look at what we have accomplished while raising the next generation!

    Mom to US soldier, Fireman, ER tech, and college student.

  6. Jimbo

    http://www.datechguyblog.com/ indicated that “about 25% of pregnancies end in abortion.” At this point I believe you, but I can’t share this with my students until I can provide academic citations. Not a ridiculous request, but standard academic procedure, you understand. Cheers mate!

  7. Abel Winn

    I would submit that in many ways having kids is a miserable business, but it has a lot of offsetting benefits as well. Parenthood is not for those who want a stable emotional life; it’s for those who can handle swinging from elation to fury and back again on an hourly basis.

  8. kalashnikat

    Abel Winn, if you’re that out of control with your children, then, as they say…

    U R doin it rong.

    If you’re swinging between elation and fury,
    You may already be a Manic Depressive.

    Seek help.

    Our kids are our favorite friends…

  9. Beth

    I know! Let’s all compete to see who can be the most outraged! The winner is clearly the best parent!

    Parenting is hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s also the most important and best thing I’ve ever done. Anything worth doing is hard. But if we can support each other through the hardness, maybe we’ll all do a little better at it.

    Why are parents so competitive and critical of each other?

  10. Abel Winn

    Kalashnikat, that was a bit of hyperbole in my earlier comment. I just meant that the negatives of parenting are very real, but so are the positives.

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  12. Joseph Drbohlav

    My youngest son earned his private pilot’s license last year as a 17 year old. I had the priviledge of sitting next to him as he piloted me around in a Cessna. I’ve been a professional for 25 years but I must say that nothing has come close to the pride and joy of flying with my son and sharing in his accomplishments. For me, absolutely nothing comes close to the joy of being a dad. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!!

  13. Jeni Ley

    I’ve decided not to have children and the reason being I just can’t see the point. Pregnancy seriously messes up your body internally as well as externally and I don’t want the stress or the expense. Interestingly I speak with many parents and most say of course they wouldn’t be without their children now, but if they had the choice again they wouldn’t have any.

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