What is government for? What does government do best? What should government actually do?
If you have been paying attention to politics, or you have gotten involved in politics for any amount of time, it probably didn’t take too long before you ran into people who have the “answers” to the problem of poverty, who are going to “fix” poverty or, at least, fix poverty for mid nority groups.
My experience has been no different.
The conclusions you arrive at, or your answers for how to “cure” poverty will most likely ultimately depend on how you answer the three questions above in light of your worldview.
That’s why when I came across an article a little over a week ago run in the Wall Street Journal titled, “The Poverty Cure: Get Married (Black children bear the brunt of single parenthood’s harms.)” I was immediately interested on their take on this dilemma, since I am confronted with the issue almost every year in the Appropriations Committee.
In the piece, William Galston, discusses what he discovered in the academic journal –the Future of Children.
Galston makes an interesting statement upfront, and I would agree an important one:
“Of the many barriers to equal opportunity for African-Americans, differences of family background may well be the most consequential – and the least likely to yield to public policy.”
Most current efforts to solve poverty issues focus on education or lack of economic opportunities. These are definitely contributing factors, but appear, according to this author, not to be the primary factor.
In 1970, we began to see gaps in marriage rates between white women and black women show up and increase. White women that have been married at least once were estimated to be at 95% and black women at 92%
However, by 2012 a large gap between white and black women age 40-44 that had ever been married had grown to 88% and 63% respectively.
Education does make a difference in ever-married rates among black women, with those obtaining bachelor’s degrees having a 71% rate compared to those without at a 56% marriage rate. These are 17% and 31% lower than white women in the respective categories.
What are some of the consequences to these changes in marriage?
Galston goes on to ask us to consider these stats.
A staggering 71% of black children today are born to unmarried women, compared to 29% of white children. Moreover, from birth to 18 years of age, on average seven in 10 white children live with biological parents while black children is only one in three.
This trend is devastating to our culture, and specifically black communities.
Family-structure researchers, McLanahan and Sawhill, state in the Future of Children that “most scholars now agree that children raised by two biological parents in a stable marriage do better than children in other family forms across a wide variety of outcomes.”
This has been commonsense to many of us, but is now being consistently born out in research.
Not surprisingly Galston notes that cohabitation is not a replacement for marriage. Recent studies, show that cohabitations last on average 18 months. By age 12, two thirds of the children born into these relationships will see their parents break up compared to only one in four in married-couple families.
Unfortunately, many on the left are pushing and forcing new definitions of family on society in light of consistent research to the contrary. Instability in the family unit is a huge factor caused by the non-chalant “anything goes” attitude towards marriage and children.
Galston continues to discuss how this instability affects boys and black boys in particular.
He cites a landmark study by David Autor and David Figlio with MIT and Northwestern University showing the gaps in truancy, behavioral problems, graduation rates, and crime of brothers and sisters of an unmarried poorly educated mother.
These researchers have concluded that neighborhoods and schools are less important than the direct effect of family structure itself. Without fathers boys are more likely to have behavioral issues at school compared to their sisters, along with suspensions. These effects are greatly reduced when fathers are in the home.
To put an exclamation point on this, Galston says that “It turns out that boys need fathers as well as mothers even more than girls do, and suffer even more when fathers are absent from their lives.”
Government and education can provide band-aides for the issues relating to poverty and its repeating cycles, but we can’t be under the delusion that government and education can “fix it” or “cure it.”
The question is then, what should government be doing if the main contributor to these disparities is mainly outside the ability for government to help? In particular what should Nebraska, or better yet, Nebraskans do in light of these findings are correct?
We need both mothers and fathers living and working together to raise children. We need churches engaging our families and neighborhoods to strive for this ideal. And, we need to reject the current push to redefine families and marriage, which is contributing to the chaos and instability of the lives of our children.