My colleagues, Bob Maranto and Michael Crouch, have an oped in the Wall Street Journal today arguing that single parenthood is a major contributor to poverty and inequality and yet receives remarkably little attention from scholars and media elites. They write:
Suppose a scientific conference on cancer prevention never addressed smoking, on the grounds that in a free society you can’t change private behavior, and anyway, maybe the statistical relationships between smoking and cancer are really caused by some other third variable. Wouldn’t some suspect that the scientists who raised these claims were driven by something—ideology, tobacco money—other than science?
Yet in the current discussions about increased inequality, few researchers, fewer reporters, and no one in the executive branch of government directly addresses what seems to be the strongest statistical correlate of inequality in the United States: the rise of single-parent families during the past half century.
Their critique of political science and education researchers’ neglect of this issue is particularly devastating:
In the past four years, our two academic professional organizations—the American Political Science Association and the American Educational Research Association—have each dedicated annual meetings to inequality, with numerous papers and speeches denouncing free markets, the decline of unions, and “neoliberalism” generally as exacerbating economic inequality. Yet our searches of the groups’ conference websites fail to turn up a single paper or panel addressing the effects of family change on inequality.
The piece is certain to generate a variety of strong reactions. It is already the #1 article in today’s WSJ. But just so that you don’t caricature the authors as nanny-state moral police, they understand that the solution has to flow from a gradual and non-coercive national discussion:
The change must come from long-term societal transformation on this subject, led by political, educational and entertainment elites, similar to the decades-long movements against racism, sexism—and smoking. But the first step is to acknowledge the problem.