Marriage, Parenthood, and Public Policy

Ron Haskins of the Brooking Institution has an excellent piece in the Spring 2014 issue of National Affairs. He begins by reviewing the current state of marriage and the rising rate of single parenthood in the United States. Furthermore, he looks at the impact single parenthood has on children, including the increased risk of poverty.

He then looks at the four major policies used to combat this social problem:

  • Reducing non-marital births
  • Boosting marriage
  • Helping young men become more marriageable
  • Helping single mothers improve their and their children’s lives

Haskins provides a balanced overview of the empirical outcomes of these policies, both successes and failures. He concludes,

If we want to address the challenges of income inequality and immobility, we must address one of their main causes — non-marital births and single parenting. Maybe stable, married-couple families will never again be the dominant norm, but if so the children who are raised by such traditional families will continue to have yet another advantage over their peers who have minimal contact with their fathers, live in chaotic households, and are exposed to instability at home as their mothers change partners.

Our society and culture will no doubt continue to change, but our children will continue to pay the price for adult decisions about family composition. Public policies cannot ultimately solve this problem, but those that prove themselves capable of ameliorating some of the damage are surely worth pursuing.

Worth the read.