Summary:No matter where you stand on the politics of social welfare policy in America, it’s worth contemplating that it’s been shaped by entirely mainstream and deeply sexist antipathy towards men.
Lynn Gassiz-Sax, tackling the persistent notion that race rather than class is the largest determinant of single parenthood says
Jonathan Rauch, at Reason magazine (which, you may note, has a very different political perspective from any blog naming itself for the New Deal), also speaks of a widening marriage gap tied to class.
Some–many–unwed mothers and their children do fine. But the odds are stacked against them. Nearly three-fourths of children in single-parent families will experience poverty by age 11, as against only about a fifth of children in two-parent families. Cohabitation appears to be less stable than marriage, even after other factors are accounted for. Research by the ton finds that children raised in single-parent homes are at greater risk of poverty, school dropout, delinquency, teen pregnancy, and adult joblessness.
All those problems disproportionately affect blacks, but before you decide that race, rather than marriage, is the active ingredient in the witch’s brew, consider a few other points. First, poverty correlates more strongly with a family’s marital status than with its race. According to Census Bureau data, a two-parent black household is more likely to be poor than is a two-parent white household, but both are far less likely to be poor than is a mother-only household of either race. In other words, if you are a baby about to be born, your best odds are to choose married black parents over unmarried white ones.
Second, recent research finds that, dire though the consequences of single parenthood often are for black children, the consequences tend to be even worse for white children.
Rauch sees to a vicious circle, in which the poor are less likely to marry, and single parent families more likely to remain poor. And he sees a rise in fatherless families, not just among black people, but among white people.
But what’s happening that would lead to a rise in fatherless families among the poor. Rauch, being of a libertarian inclination, points a finger, though tentatively, at the structure of welfare.
Source: Noli Irritare Leones
“But what’s happening that would lead to a rise in fatherless families among the poor. Rauch, being of a libertarian inclination, points a finger, though tentatively, at the structure of welfare.”
Startling as it might seem, this is an area where based on the history of welfare policy I actually agree with Rauch! As far back as the whites-only, entirely private-sector “welfare” agencies of the late 19th Century and early 20th, there’s been an extraordinary aversion to providing support for families with a) a even relatively able-bodied man in the house who b) whatever reason isn’t working.
If it wasn’t so fucking appalling some of the stories of Victorian-era bed checks, and the escape hatches and hidey-holes nominally “abandoning” fathers used to avoid them, would be hilarious.
Anyway, while I agree completely that the primary determinant is class, if for no other reason than that better off families are rarely on public or private assistance. But there’s a deeply, well, mainstream sexism-against-men element as well.
The fact remains, however, that while there really are fathers who abandon their families, far more nominally single fathers remain in touch not only with their children but with their partners as well.
The problem of single parenthood are very real. But they’re problems that are exacerbated by deep social bias that I swear boils down to objections to “raising another man’s children.” As if social policy amounted to cuckoldry!
I’d add that in addition to men being obliged to make the appearance of abandoning their families, there’s also the obligation of their partners to decry them up and down in the most inauthentic and consequently hyperbolic tones.
Anyway, the gendered expectation that men are and must be primarily breadwinners, enough so that support for their partners and children should be institutionally withheld should they fail to do so, runs very, very deep.