Beyond Marriage — 4 Comments

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  3. I think you are arguing, essentially: The “problem of unwed mothers among blacks and Hispanics” is the problem and the solution is for them to get married. That not only defines the problem incorrectly (it’s poverty) and – possibly as a consequence – prescribes the wrong solution. And poverty is a societal problem in so far as society might want to support less advantaged people. I realize that’s sometimes a rather novel concept in the U.S. but, to me at least, it’s one of the essential functions of society: to provide safety nets.

    Linking poverty with the absence of marriage is a tactic used by the (Religious) Wrong. And that this myth has pervaded our public discourse, as indicative by your arguments and Obama’s speech, is another example of their influence. Yet, it is not supported by evidence. The Economic Policy Institute found: “An educational upgrading strategy would have more of a poverty-reducing impact than one focused on changing family structure.” The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found:

    There is, perhaps, no more well established link to economic well-being than educational attainment. In fact, just one year of post-secondary education has been shown to cut the poverty rate of households headed by women of color in half.

    Of course, educating kids (or adults) better costs money (we seem to prefer spending that money on prisoners: $22,650 per inmate vs. $8,984 per pupil). Marriage is a cheaper “solution” because it shifts society’s burden onto the individual. Yet, all the dollars we’re spending on pushing marriage as a “solution” do not show results. As Nancy Polikoff puts it more eloquently (77):

    If lawmakers can be convinced that divorce and childrearing outside marriage cause “crime, drug abuse, education failure, chronic illness, child abuse, domestic violence and poverty,” as the marriage movement claims, they can trumpet marriage as the most effective solution and blame the unmarried, rather than their own laws and policies, for systematic social and economic problems.

    And those “elites” you refer to distinguish themselves from the masses by better education… So does Obama – maybe that’s why he’s not AWOL. Claiming that marriage or more father involvement will solve any of these problems is, frankly, misguided.

  4. [I’m moving this comment from your earlier commentary on marriage]

    I think your response illustrates the divide between elites and the masses, particularly masses of color. For those with the benefits of superior nature and nurture then the freedom to do as one wishes can be exercised properly. I remember the Murphy Brown brouhaha. But Murphy Brown and all those single moms in Sweden and Germany and other western countries can expect that their environments won’t undermine the well being of the children. In the US we have an increasingly serious societal problem of unwed mothers among blacks and Hispanics.

    It’s also worth drawing the distinction between matrimony and setting up a dual parent household. They are not the same. Being pro family is not the same as pro marriage.

    Did you read any news articles on the father’s day sermon that Obama gave today in the black church, reminiscent of the Bill Cosby pronouncements? . When I made my previous comment I had not seen this report.

    While I support the Cosby/Obama argument I remain very pessimistic that even if some deadbeat fathers were shamed back into helping to raise–support–their kids we’d achieve solutions to what you call societal problems. Would that the pathology that pervades hip hop culture could be reversed. More education, more resources, just won’t do it.

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