DYSPEPSIA GENERATION

We have seen the future, and it sucks.

Family-Breakdown Denialists

13th February 2018

Kay Hymowitz speaks truth to glower.

This weekend, in a New York Times op-ed entitled “Single Mothers Are Not the Problem,” three sociologists argue that reducing single motherhood would not significantly lower poverty rates in the United States. If we were really serious about alleviating poverty, they maintain, we would introduce “generous social policies” more in line with those in other rich democracies.

It’s a textbook example of social science as advocacy, which is not to say that the study on which the Times piece was based, due to appear in the prestigious American Journal of Sociology, is fake news. The authors show that as a percentage of all households, single-mother homes have declined since 1980. Those low numbers—in 2013, only 8.8 percent of Americans lived in single-mother homes, down from 10.5 percent in 1980—mean that further reducing such households wouldn’t have much impact on national poverty rates. They also argue that single motherhood is a less useful predictor of poverty than low levels of education, unemployment, and “forming households at young ages.”

But by using the metric of “households,” lead researcher David Brady and his coauthors camouflage the primary reason that family scholars have gotten so hot and bothered about single motherhood: the children. Yes, the percentage of single-mother households has declined; that’s largely an artifact of demographic changes that have increased the overall number of households. Those changes, including mass immigration, later marriage, and more people living alone, are largely irrelevant to the well-being of American children. But during the same decades that the authors show the rate of single-parent households declining, the percentage of children living with a single mother tripled.

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