The importance of the traditional family for income mobility

Michael Barone writes about a new report on the family by Nick Schultz of the American Enterprise Institute.


[I]t is an uncomfortable truth that children of divorce and children with unmarried parents tend to do much worse in life than children of two-parent families.

(I’ll leave aside the sensitive issue of children of same-sex marriages, since these haven’t existed in a non-stigmatized atmosphere long enough to produce measurable results.)

As Schulz points out, that uncomfortable truth is not controversial among social scientists. It is affirmed by undoubted liberals such as Harvard’s David Ellwood and Christopher Jencks.

Growing up outside a two-parent family means not just lower incomes and less social mobility, Schulz argues.

It also reduces human capital — “the knowledge, education, habits, will power — all the internal stuff that is largely intangible a person has that helps produce an income.”

While children are born with certain innate capacities, those capacities can be broadened or narrowed by their upbringing.

The numbers indicate that single or divorced parents — however caring and dedicated — are unable, on average, to broaden those capacities as much as married parents can.

These differences have sharp implications for upward mobility.

Schulz points to an Economic Mobility Project analysis showing that, among children who start off in the bottom third of the income distribution, only 26% with divorced parents move up, compared to 42% born to unmarried mothers (who may marry later, of course) and 50% who grow up with two married parents.

All this matters more than it used to because two-parent families are much more uncommon than they used to be. In 1960 about three-fourths of Americans 18 and over were married. In 2011, less than half were.

Now, you might say to yourself “what exactly have the secular left down to improve the income mobility of the poor by promoting marriage?” And the answer would be that the left promotes premarital sex for people who are not even ready for marriage, made contraceptives taxpayer-funded, subsidized the largest provider of abortions with hundreds of millions of dollars, promoted the first redefinition of marriage through their feminism and trial lawyer lobbying groups, and now redefined marriage to mean either no biological father or no biological mother. Barack Obama himself has praised every other kind of non-traditional family arrangement as being equal to the traditional family. That’s the sort of nonsense that passes for wisdom on the morally relativistic left. They just don’t like the idea that there are moral rules that apply to sexual activity.

The left isn’t really interested in income mobility. They talk about it as if it’s a problem, but their “solutions” to the problem actually make the problem worse.

3 thoughts on “The importance of the traditional family for income mobility”

  1. This data is (repeatedly) so damning. You might also note that the left’s policies encourage single motherhood through various welfare programs that ‘replace’ a father with the government, though that horse is so dead there’s barely a carcass left.

    Why this information is not more widely known—I know why, but regular citizens ought to do a better job of disseminating it so people understand the ramifications.


    1. It’s just like with Obamacare. The keeps talking and talking about the middle class and income inequality that people sort of assume that whatever they do makes those things better. And the the doctors disappear and the health plans get dropped. One can only hope that people will turn off the TV before the next election and hit the books.


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