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Sixty-three percent of all births to women under 30 in Lorain County occur outside marriage, according to Child Trends, a research center in Washington. That figure has risen by more than two-thirds over the past two decades, and now surpasses the national figure of 53 percent.
The change has transformed life in Lorain, a ragged industrial town on Lake Erie. Churches perform fewer weddings. Applications for marriage licenses are down by a third. Just a tenth of the students at the local community college are married, but its campus has a bustling day care center.
The New York Times interviewed several dozen people in Lorain about marriage here. What follows are their stories.
Young parents spoke of an economy that was fundamentally different from in their parents’ time, and that required more than a high school education for fathers to be stable breadwinners. They talked of how little they trusted each other to be reliable mates, and of how the government safety net encourages poor parents to stay single.