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Marriage in America: The Frayed Knot
May 25, 2007 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Marriage in America: The Frayed Knot. "As the divorce rate plummets at the top of American society and rises at the bottom, the widening “marriage gap” is breeding inequality."
posted by chunking express (133 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
And then the bartender says to the piece of rope: "So are you Married?"...
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:08 AM on May 25, 2007 [5 favorites]


If Jesus had wanted us to get married He would have done it Himself.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:11 AM on May 25, 2007 [9 favorites]


The out-of-wedlock birth rate among women who drop out of high school is 15%. Among African-Americans, it is a staggering 67%.

That is one mind-boggling and disturbing stat.
posted by MarshallPoe at 8:13 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Now, having posted the comment about out-of-wedlock birthrates for Afro-Americans, we areleft to wonder: is this so because they are black (a genetic thing), because of years of egration and discrimination? or just what? Is the stat mind-b ogging because illegitiamate children represent immoral behavior or, finally, because it speaks to poverty issue? In sum, posting this sort of comment helps a wee bit but leaves much that remains to be answered.
posted by Postroad at 8:20 AM on May 25, 2007


Someone turn on the Tufte signal so he can kick the ass of whoever designed those graphs with the subtly different blue lines.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:21 AM on May 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


I thought it was a pretty interesting article. There are all sorts of stats that make the article read like it was written by some covert puritan element inside the economist. Shame they don't have sources for the studies. Some of the stats are pretty surprising -- the one on co-habitation before marriage for example -- others, not so much.
posted by chunking express at 8:25 AM on May 25, 2007


It's important to note that between 35 and 40% of women with out of wedlock children don't receive regular child support payments. Black and Hispanic women are less likely than this to have support orders or receive any child support at all.*
posted by The Straightener at 8:29 AM on May 25, 2007


This article has been prepackaged to appeal to people like me, who are socially liberal but concerned about inequality. It's about saying: your values conflict, and these statistic prove it. There's a correlation/causation problem here: poor education correlate with failed marriages, as the studies show. However, the causal mechanism may be different from simple ignorance: since being poorly educated means that you will experience more periods of joblessness, and be forced into the temporary, often migratory job market, it forces you to constantly confront separation, uncertainty, and untenable resource constraints.

So, okay: we need more education for everybody... but if the problem isn't the absolute level of education, but your education level compared to your competitors in the market, somebody will still end up working temporary jobs and undergoing financial hardships that break up relationships, and they'll be the person with the worst relative education, even if that's a Master's degree to everyone else's PhD.

Moreover, the article's payoff is this weird support for government programs that push religious training in marriage-maintenance strategies like good communication. In other words, the solution to high school dropouts is public funding for values training in a religious framework?!?

I have problems with that, since it's not at all responsive to the difficulties described, which aren't lack of religious education but formal education. You'd think they'd notice the conclusions of their own study, unless they're really just packaging an argument to persuade social liberals like me, not really trying to solve the problem.

More calculus, less Christ.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:32 AM on May 25, 2007 [6 favorites]


Her budget for boosting marriage is tiny: $100m a year, or about what the Defence Department spends every two hours.


!!!

Scott Stanley's theory behind the cohabitation-before-marriage-thing is interesting, I'd love to see if he's actually put the theory into practise. It surprises me that co-habitated couples break up so frequently.

I just moved in with my bf. I expect to marry him someday. He expects to do the same. I don't think I would've moved in with him unless this was clear.

I guess others see it differently. Maybe that's why some people call it "shackin' up." And maybe it's also why when my bf finds out one of my idiosyncrosies, I can say things like "THIS IS WHAT MARRIAGE IS LIKE!" without him freaking out.
posted by Menomena at 8:35 AM on May 25, 2007


Postroad. I don't know why it is, but it is prima facie evidence of a disaster within the African American community. The magnitude of said disaster as reflected in this stat is so great that I thought it deserved to be highlighted among all the stats in article. Really, 67%. If you put this figure in the context of all the other disturbing stats about AA poverty, educational attainment, crime/incarceration rates, etc. it becomes all the more disturbing. It's part of a pattern, and one that really needs to be changed. Just how to do this, I don't know. But I just ain't happy about it.
posted by MarshallPoe at 8:38 AM on May 25, 2007


I don't see what's so 'disturbing' about it. There's no reason to think that single mothers can't do a good job raising children. It may be helpful to have two incomes supporting a child, but that's what child support is for.
posted by delmoi at 8:43 AM on May 25, 2007


delmoi, one big point raised in the article is that it's much harder to raise children as a single parent. The stats they present on that topic are a bit depressing.
posted by chunking express at 8:47 AM on May 25, 2007


So, both education and contraception help to make Americans richer, with more stable marriages.

I'm so glad our government sees this, and has so highly prioritized the education of our children, and provides so many programs to help them learn about effective family planning!
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:47 AM on May 25, 2007 [8 favorites]


For me, this was the most surprising stat in the article:

Research also suggests that middle- and working-class parents approach child-rearing in different ways. Professional parents shuttle their kids from choir practice to baseball camp and check that they are doing their homework. They also talk to them more. One study found that a college professor's kids hear an average of 2,150 words per hour in the first years of life. Working-class children hear 1,250 and those in welfare families only 620.

I understand the reasons, but wow.
posted by tippiedog at 8:49 AM on May 25, 2007 [4 favorites]


There's no reason to think that single mothers can't do a good job raising children.

Sure, it's definitely possible to do a good job raising a child as a single mother, but in addition to being single, they're also poor. It's possible to be a good poor single mother, but it's also incredibly difficult.
posted by drezdn at 8:49 AM on May 25, 2007


I can say things like "THIS IS WHAT MARRIAGE IS LIKE!" without him freaking out.

Yeah, that'll work. Nobody gets freaked out when someone says "THIS IS WHAT MARRIAGE IS LIKE!"
posted by The World Famous at 8:50 AM on May 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


I've been saying for years that 50% (or more) of the US's problems could be solved by simply making college free. It would also more-or-less permanently cement a liberal party's place in power (whether that's the Democrats would remain to be seen).
posted by DU at 8:50 AM on May 25, 2007


One study found that a college professor's kids hear an average of 2,150 words per hour in the first years of life. Working-class children hear 1,250 and those in welfare families only 620.

Here's an interesting device to help with this...
posted by drezdn at 8:51 AM on May 25, 2007


I have problems with that, since it's not at all responsive to the difficulties described, which aren't lack of religious education but formal education.

Agreed. The African American community is intensely religious. I've watched clients struggle on more than one occasion (three, to be exact) with a teenager daughter's unwanted pregnancy that will strain the family's finances to the breaking point. As a caseworker, I bring up the option to terminate and leave it at that. They're well aware of that option, but struggle to get some peace with it because of the conflict with the church.

It's a coin toss; sometimes the reality of the situation wins out, sometimes the dogma wins out. I assure the client that it won't be her last chance, that if she waits until she's ready she'll bring a much happier baby into the world. If she still wants it, that's the client's choice and you try to juggle the budget to make it work and make sure all the entitlements are in place when the baby gets there.

That's where I'm at with one client who didn't want to, "kill her blessing." Tough stuff. Of course, there's the poor decision making behind it, having unprotected sex with a father who will likely not be there or provide any monetary support. Most of my clients are chronic poor decision makers.

But it's hardest working with the teenage boys who make babies and then look you right in the eye and tell you they don't give a fuck about that bitch, don't ever want to see the kid and warn that the mother best not come around here looking for money. Since throttling the client to death isn't exactly an option, I just leave that one well enough alone. It's too late at that point. That's way beyond my capacity to impact in any way.
posted by The Straightener at 8:53 AM on May 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


Postroad. I don't know why it is, but it is prima facie evidence of a disaster within the African American community.

Hmm, I didn't see this comment before I posted mine, but come on. "Disaster"? The only thing it's evidence of is your hysterical and irrational belief having children out of wedlock is somehow "wrong". You don't present any evidence, in fact you don't even bother to actually say that other then make the implication.

Obviously being poor or incarcerated is bad; however, I don't see how out of wedlock births can be "prima-facie" evidence of anything.

In fact, it may explain why there is a correlation between out of wedlock births and all the other bad things that supposedly go along with it. If being black increases your chances of being poor, and being black increases your chances of being born out of wedlock, then there would be a correlation between the two even if there was no causal relationship.

Anyway, I'm not saying that having a loving caring father in addition to a loving caring mother wouldn't be a positive for a kid; it seems pretty obvious that it would. What I am saying is that high out of wedlock birth does not axiomatically imply a "disaster", just different cultural priorities.
posted by delmoi at 8:54 AM on May 25, 2007


The World Famous: It was a joke. And he got it.
posted by Menomena at 8:55 AM on May 25, 2007



I'm no sociologist, but having been brought up poor white trash, (and now living as a single parent attending college) I tend to think that the diminishing rates of marriage stem more or less directly from the costs in forming the marriage and then in dissolving said marriage.

Not to mention that any aid an individual may be able to receive will be diminished by being married. This isn't just welfare, WIC, Badgercare, or what have you. Even college financial aid can be based on marital status and can really limit options.

Our welfare and aid system is not designed to aid Families as a unit. It's designed to aid individuals. All of the marriage counseling is useless when it is clear as day that you are better off unmarried if you are poor.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:55 AM on May 25, 2007


delmoi, one big point raised in the article is that it's much harder to raise children as a single parent. The stats they present on that topic are a bit depressing.

The reason it's hard is because of government policy. Change policy, and the problem goes away. There is far more then enough money to make sure that single parents can take care of kids, but the moral police have rigged policy to make it difficult, in order to prevent it.
posted by delmoi at 8:56 AM on May 25, 2007


The book The Corner, offered an interesting view of a poor pregnant woman in high school. From my perspective, if I were poor and pregnant in high school, I'd probably give the child up for adoption or have an abortion, but those out the choices many in the position make, instead they have the children even though their family had trouble just supporting them.

The reasons seem to be that it's common and accepted to have the child without regard to having the means to take care of them. In turn, it continues the circle of poverty as another child is born into a family that will have trouble meeting its needs.
posted by drezdn at 8:57 AM on May 25, 2007


delmoi: did you miss this?
posted by mkb at 9:00 AM on May 25, 2007


is this so because they are black (a genetic thing)

No. (Just to get that one out of the way.)
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 9:04 AM on May 25, 2007


Poor teenage girls have children because they want to own something. They've never owned anything. They want to be mothers, as opposed to nothing; to have some purpose as opposed to none. Many of them don't have father's nor boyfriends who stay with them so their male children become the "little man" of the house and are expected to act as such, helping with sibling care and eventually contributing employment income.

Their kids are their best friends. It's a very different dynamic than the mother-child relationship that an adult mother has. If you ever have the unlikely opportunity to spend time in an agency that gives parenting classes to welfare mandated young mothers you will see this en masse.
posted by The Straightener at 9:08 AM on May 25, 2007 [6 favorites]


I tend to think that the diminishing rates of marriage stem more or less directly from the costs in forming the marriage

Do you think people take into account the costs of marriage when they decide whether or not to do it? In Wisconsin, it costs $100 for a marriage license. I'm not sure how much it costs for a judge to officiate the ceremony, but you could always get someone else to do it for you.

Thinking ahead to include both the cost of marriage and the potential costs of divorce seems to invoke a level of foresight most people don't seem to bring to affairs of the heart.
posted by drezdn at 9:17 AM on May 25, 2007


With that said, Pogo Fuzzybat, I'll defer to your experiences when it comes to state aid. Is it harder to get aid if you're married?
posted by drezdn at 9:19 AM on May 25, 2007


solved by simply making college free

And just how do you propose to do this? Let me guess, make the government fund it?

And where does government money come from? Oh, that's right: OUT OF MY POCKET!

Screw that. Public schools stink, and the education they provide serve only to undermine capitalism and individual thinking.


There is far more then enough money to make sure that single parents can take care of kids

Same to you. Why should my money be re-distributed to someone who doesn't have enough sense to keep it in their pants?
posted by tadellin at 9:22 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Straightener, your description squares with the stories my wife has told me about her work in a mostly low income high school near Chicago.
posted by drezdn at 9:22 AM on May 25, 2007


delmoi writes "he moral police have rigged policy to make it difficult, in order to prevent it."

Are you suggesting that by requiring an instrinsically harder-to-achieve standard (ideal couple of two parents, all church'n'job and dogooders) they are actually restricing the number of recipients of help , thus increasing or maintaining the conditions leading to disadvantaged, impoverished single parenthood ? All of this while maintainig the high ground of helping the needy do gooders ?

Damn , it sounds so brilliant , unexpensive and fueled on self fulfilling deprecation ( "single parent, I did wrong, I don't deserve help !) it could make some sense.
posted by elpapacito at 9:24 AM on May 25, 2007


Poor teenage girls have children because they want to own something. They've never owned anything.

Along those same lines, it's not necessarily irrational for a poor young woman to chose to have a child, because her prospects don't seem any worse for it. On the other hand, a middle-class young woman's prospects would be very harmed by early childbearing.
posted by footnote at 9:28 AM on May 25, 2007 [4 favorites]


I've been saying for years that 50% (or more) of the US's problems could be solved by simply making college free. It would also more-or-less permanently cement a liberal party's place in power (whether that's the Democrats would remain to be seen).

Screw college, by then the die is already cast. Free preschool is what's needed.
posted by SBMike at 9:28 AM on May 25, 2007 [4 favorites]


When it comes towards paying for others education, people seem to forget that the people helped by it are the people they'll one day be counting on to take care of them in the hospital or nursing home, the people who will be building the roads they drive on, the houses they live, or the cars they drive.
posted by drezdn at 9:31 AM on May 25, 2007


From the article:

Most of the rest goes to groups that try to help couples get along better, some of which are religiously-inspired. The first 124 grants were disbursed only last September, so it is too early to say whether any of this will work.

Or how many will get sued. "Religiously-inspired" federally-funded marriage counseling may or may not be OK, but federally-funded counseling that preaches is definitely not.

For example. That case eventually ended up being tossed out, but not before the group doing the preaching had seen the error of their ways and gotten the Jesus out of their message.

Federally-sponsored marriage counseling, ok, let's give it a whirl. Federally-sponsored religion, no.
posted by gurple at 9:32 AM on May 25, 2007


Thinking ahead to include both the cost of marriage and the potential costs of divorce seems to invoke a level of foresight most people don't seem to bring to affairs of the heart.

I think it's more that they watched their friends and family suffer through expensive divorces and so don't bother getting married to avoid those problems. After a while, it becomes a cultural thing, I'm sure. There are other side effects that make marriage less attractive as well. It's a confluence of factors, but poverty makes any problem larger than it has to be.

As for getting aid while married, well if you're a single parent attending college, there are tons of aid programs. There are fewer if you are married. Not to mention that if you cohabitate many programs will not take the other persons income into consideration, whereas if you are married then the other persons income certainly counts - and will diminish aid availability.

There is a (huge, if you're in it) gap between where economic independence begins and aid ends. It can be tough to bridge that gap, and our welfare system is not designed to facilitate that. Nor is it designed to facilitate families in need. But then again, Sweden also has a falling marriage rate and an excellent welfare system so it may be that the benefits of being married no longer clearly outweigh the costs.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:32 AM on May 25, 2007


SBMike does bring up a good point, by college age, many are well set in their ways. The younger we can help others, the more it'll help, and the cheaper it will be in the long run.
posted by drezdn at 9:33 AM on May 25, 2007


Guys, are we not missing the point?

Maybe people in higher socioeconomic positions (eg. higher education, higher income, etc.) are just more likely to marry someone they're best compatible with and have an easier time staying together? I'm not sure why, but "richer people have more stable marriages" is more plausible to me than "less stable marriages cause poverty".
posted by Firas at 9:33 AM on May 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


I still think tadellin is a performance artist.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:37 AM on May 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Along those same lines, it's not necessarily irrational for a poor young woman to chose to have a child, because her prospects don't seem any worse for it.

But the decision involves considering more than just her own prospects. It is strictly irrational for a poor woman to have a child, I would think, when the child's interests are taken into account. That's assuming that doing so doesn't better her situation (say the money the baby costs and the personal satisfaction it gives her are on par), but the baby has a bad childhood as a result of the social and economic conditions surrounding it.
posted by voltairemodern at 9:37 AM on May 25, 2007


I agree with squeak attack.

The problem could be tackled very effectively with contraception education and cheap contraception. MORE religious indoctrination is not going to work. That's one of the problems in the first place.

Americans have a conflicting duplicitous attitude about sexuality in general. We always have. And many American blacks, being highly religious and poor, this attitude is amplified. So much of the problem is cultural. There is social stigma and serious obstacles to young black women perusing birth control. And for young men there is no accountability to do so. Yet the popular culture is hyper sexualized and the social pressure to marry young is very intense. This is a perfect storm of bad social trends.

Telling kids to wait until marriage to have sex is futile. Giving them incentives to wait to have kids is the key. The problem is in poor communities having kids young is perfectly acceptable. We have to alter this cultural attitude.


I've been saying for years that 50% (or more) of the US's problems could be solved by simply making college free.


I've been saying that food should be free. And bicycles. And houses.

But... uh... who is paying for all that? We can't get the tax base to support public high-schools effectively let alone colleges. I suppose we could do it if professors were willing to make under 30K a year and live in campus subsidized housing like monks. Don't imagine that is going to attract many talented profs, though.
posted by tkchrist at 9:40 AM on May 25, 2007


I think it's easier to have a stable marriage when you already have money, or you have a reasonable assumption that you will have more money in the future (upwardly mobile professionals). It's also easier to be married when you have had the opportunity to develop more/better skills in this area by having more/better examples - eventually it's self-perpetuating. No one you know is married, your mom might have been but that ended badly, so on so forth. At least for middle class people, more of us either had parents who stayed together, or if they got divorced, they remarried into a better relationship, or you at least knew people who had a normal marital relationship (grandparents, aunts/uncles, friends' parents).
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:40 AM on May 25, 2007


Also, the urban poor (black) are not the average poor. Most poor people in the USA are rural whites. I imagine the poverty vs. divorce indices include them.
posted by Firas at 9:44 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure why, but "richer people have more stable marriages" is more plausible to me than "less stable marriages cause poverty".

Yep. If money is one of the most common sources of conflict within marriages (and it is), it stands to reason that poorer couples will have less stable marriages.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:47 AM on May 25, 2007


Good to know about money being a prime stressor, Card Cheat. I don't want to emphasize money as an independant variable too much, because I don't think it's just a function of your savings account.. I think what sociologists term SES (socioeconomic status) is relevant, perhaps in the context of self-perpetuating-ness that Medieval Maven brings up. There are cultural attitudes that come along with status & education that affect perceptions on relationships, contraception, dating, marriage, familial support networks... I'm sorry, this has the veneer of bias (poor people have different characters!) but I'm not being judgemental, just saying that growing up in that context would give you a different 'prediction rate' for divorce.
posted by Firas at 9:57 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]



But the decision involves considering more than just her own prospects. It is strictly irrational for a poor woman to have a child, I would think, when the child's interests are taken into account. That's assuming that doing so doesn't better her situation (say the money the baby costs and the personal satisfaction it gives her are on par), but the baby has a bad childhood as a result of the social and economic conditions surrounding it.

The mom had a "bad" (as in poor options) childhood. So she figures its good enough for the kid. And besides people are essentially optimistic (or deluded) they really think things will turn out better. By magic. Even if they don't do anything. Rich and poor. But the wealthier a person is, the more buffer you have to correct bad decisions. You have father to fall so more time to correct a problem. If you're poor it's one bounced check or one DUI away from catastrophe.

There is the cultural framework people hesitate to examine. For instance: My family came here literally with nothing. They had 14 kids. Walked out west. Scratched dirt for 40 years. Or cut sheep herders hair. Made some headway and then lost everything, and I mean everything, in the Depression. But becuase there was an optimistic culture, a cohesive family structure (that did not over-romanticize the institution), a supportive community with high expectations, and a never say die work ethic, that by 1948 my dad was in college (in relative dollar terms college was nearly as expensive then). But there sure as shit was no government support.

So what happened to make today so fucked up?
posted by tkchrist at 9:57 AM on May 25, 2007


I think it's more that they watched their friends and family suffer through expensive divorces and so don't bother getting married to avoid those problems. After a while, it becomes a cultural thing, I'm sure.

I heard a friend of the family say last weekend, "I'm not getting married, even if I have another baby. What's the point? No one even cares anymore, and I don't want to have to give someone half of my stuff when we get divorced."

A lot of the unmarried people I know in their 20s and 30s almost expect to get a divorce, if they get married. Some see it as a part of life, kind of a rite of passage. It makes you wonder where we'll be in thirty or forty years.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 9:58 AM on May 25, 2007


There's no reason to think that single mothers can't do a good job raising children.

Sure there is. It's difficult. The harder something is to accomplish, the fewer people will succeed. And no, the reason it's difficult is not "government policy" — unless you're arguing that "government policy" should provide free housing, day care, food, school, etc.

Being a parent is hard. It's easier when there are two, and it works better when they're husband and wife. It's unfortunate that anytime that fact is pointed out, somebody unable to appreciate nuance interprets it as a condemnation of single, unwed, and gay parents.
posted by cribcage at 10:03 AM on May 25, 2007 [4 favorites]


think what sociologists term SES (socioeconomic status) is relevant, perhaps in the context of self-perpetuating-ness . . . There are cultural attitudes that come along with status & education that affect perceptions on relationships, contraception, dating, marriage, familial support networks...
My own personal observation of poor people where I grew up confirms this. I have a buddy who does mental health care for the state of Tennessee in the area around Murfreesboro, and his experience matches that - and it matches what The Straightener was saying above. The people he works with are not predominately African American, but they are predominately poor, and it's a good month when he's not at his wits' end trying to figure out how to help them.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:04 AM on May 25, 2007


and it works better when they're husband and wife.

Where's that data? Is there some damning scientific comparison of committed hetero vs. homo parenting that I'm unaware of?
posted by gurple at 10:05 AM on May 25, 2007


I note that the folks who are vehemently opposed to spending tax dollars on people get a huge boner spending it via no-bid contracts with Halliburton and when buying some sort of killing machine.

Do you think free college would cost even one week's expenditure in Iraq per year--and that's not counting the huge benefit to society that level of education would bring.
posted by maxwelton at 10:05 AM on May 25, 2007


Thanks for illustrating my point.
posted by cribcage at 10:06 AM on May 25, 2007


Thanks for illustrating my point.

Yeah, you tried to protect yourself from allegations of homophobia by saying that stupid people would call you homophobic. I still want to know what you base your assertion that married heteros make better parents than committed homos on.
posted by gurple at 10:07 AM on May 25, 2007


Education only goes so far. At some point you have to stop rewarding bad decision making.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 10:09 AM on May 25, 2007


So what happened to make today so fucked up?

There's no single answer to that, of course, but for one thing, it's it's a lot harder to move on up these days.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:12 AM on May 25, 2007


Freakonomics: Was Legalized abortion was the single biggest factor in bringing the crime wave of the 1980s to a screeching halt?

If unwanted (teenage) pregnancy rates are compared they are lowest (and also abortion rates are lower) in countries where sex education is comprehensive and includes contraception.
posted by hoskala at 10:15 AM on May 25, 2007


Scott Stanley's theory behind the cohabitation-before-marriage-thing is interesting, I'd love to see if he's actually put the theory into practise. It surprises me that co-habitated couples break up so frequently.

The theory that makes sense to me is that if you're co-habitating in "trial mode" you're less likely to put as much energy into making the kinds of compromises necessary for two people to live together. There's more of a tendency to hang back and evaluate the relationship instead of diving in to make it work. If you're already married, you're more likely to be thinking "How do we resolve our differences?" than "Can we resolve our differences?"

These would, of course, only be statistical differences and you'd find plenty of counter-examples on both sides.
posted by straight at 10:16 AM on May 25, 2007


I wouldn't trust unverified stats reported from the Manhattan Institute, a neo-conservative think tank. It doesn't say, for instance, that in the mid-1990s the CDC stopped using detailed state data in its report on divorce, marriage and out-of-wedlock births due to budget constraints and increasing problems with state-level data (also resulting from budget constraints).
posted by raysmj at 10:16 AM on May 25, 2007


From the American Association of Pediatrics:
A growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with 1 or 2 gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual. Children’s optimal development seems to be influenced more by the nature of the relationships and interactions within the family unit than by the particular structural form it takes.
posted by rtha at 10:17 AM on May 25, 2007


Shame they don't have sources for the studies.

When somebody cites stats without telling me where they come from, I start wondering about them. Who did the study? Did they have an agenda to prove? How was the study constructed? What data did they use, what data did they not use? Did they consider other factors that might explain their conclusion? Did they make it up?

By way of contrast, and on topic to boot, this guy gives you links when he talks about the myths concerning divorce.

However, reading this article, I am drawn to the conclusion that the Economist has actually printed a review of "[a book by] Kay Hymowitz of the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think-tank... Marriage and Caste in America". since we know she works for "a conservative think tank" it is safe to say her works probably present a conservative bias. I could find out more about them at their website or even the wikipedia article about them.

Furthermore, I note that both charts (economists just *love* their charts!) are attributed to sources, and the charts themselves seem to be supporting material for several assertions in the article book review. Perhaps the charts appear in the book? The chart titled "More Education, Less Divorce" was from Stephen Martin of the University of Maryland. It turns out he's an assistant professor of sociology. He's paid to think about this stuff, and has doubtlessly seen the effects of marriage and education upon his students. The chart titled "And fewer single parents" was by "Ellwood and Jencks." They turn out to be David Ellwood and Christopher Jencks, both professors at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and long time collaborators on research of this nature.

I have the sneaky feeling that if I had the time and energy to read everything by Ms. Hymnowitz and Professors Martin, Ellwood, and Jencks, I would find many of the themes expressed in this thread. And a whole lot more charts. mmCharts.
posted by ilsa at 10:18 AM on May 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


The reason it's hard is because of government policy.

No, the reason it's hard is because single parenthood is hard.

You don't have kids, do you? I didn't understand until I had kids. It's hard enough for two people to parent. I couldn't imagine doing it on my own.

And then you add in the economic factors -- when is a single mother going to get her degree when she's already working a job and raising kids? Some are successful, obviously, but many more aren't.

There's also this problem with African American boys of single mothers. They're raised by single mothers in a culture where being smart and achieving academically is just not gauche for a black man. They have few black male role models.

And honestly, it's beyond a moral issue; it's a sociological problem now. Go into any black community and they'll tell you the loss of middle-class nuclear all-black families has hurt them socially and economically.

No, I don't have piles of charts and graphs to prove it, but they're out there, and someone less lazy than me will come up with them. I have some personal experience with tutoring African American boys a decade ago, but that's probably not relevant. But there is a real problem here, and it's been discussed repeatedly in the media and in the ivory tower.
posted by dw at 10:18 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Delmoi wrote: "Disaster"? The only thing it's evidence of is your hysterical and irrational belief having children out of wedlock is somehow "wrong".

I have to ask: did we read the same article?
posted by MarshallPoe at 10:18 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


From hoverboard's link;

Norman Wells, from the pressure group Family and Youth Concern, said the sex education in schools had cheapened it and reduced it to a "casual recreational activity."

Definitely. I can't tell you how often I ran out of sixth grade sex ed and into the bathroom stall with some chick because the instructor told us to go out and have all of the casual, absolutely consequence-free sex we could, especially while we were still young.

Good times.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:20 AM on May 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


max welton for purposes of THIS thread I see nobody with a boner for Defense expenditures. And though the Iraq war is expensive and horrifically wrong on so many levels cost wise it's a drop in the bucket compared to social welfare expenditures if you factor in Medicare, Social Security etc.

Certainly if we COULD earmark dollar for dollar the same 400 billion the Iraq was has cost us (THAT btw will paid for by your kids not you) could we fund every college in the US for an entire graduation class of four to six years? At the rate professors currently make?

Well. Maybe. I'm not sure. I don't know how much four years of college education cost for the entire country (including Community college and trade school?). I'm betting it's much more than you think.

So you would then argue for a massive cut in defense expenditure and move that money over to Social Welfare. Ok. But you have to understand we are spending FUTURE monies here. We are ready in debt. The system as it si is not sustainable.

Making college free will only add to it. So then we would HAVE to increase taxes to compensate. Which will have to do anyway eventually. I suspect adding massive new programs to the burden of money we have already spent means other programs get cut besides defense. So what are those?

Anyway. The people paying the predominant tax burden in this country are themselves seeing very stagnant real wages - if not a fall in incomes. The largest growth in this country is coming from Hispanics that our stupid government is working to kick out of the country. Where will the tax GROWTH come from? So. Raising there taxes more than will already have to is going to be very very hard.
posted by tkchrist at 10:28 AM on May 25, 2007


tkchrist, the success that your family achieved in their tough times is remarkable, which is why you are so obviously proud of it. Nevertheless, the fact remains that in being remarkable, it means that it doesn't work out that way for most people. I think that was as true then as it is now. The world has always been sufficiently full of raise-the-economic-drawbridge reactionaries and/or trolls like tadellin to make make that so.

Economic mobility is a Sisyphean task. A strong work ethic and optimism may be necessary to make the journey, but they are not sufficient. If you get flattened by the rocks thrown from the high ground by the assholes who think they're under siege, it's back to square one.

on preview, it's also not helping when your government is living beyond its means, but that's another question.
posted by Jakey at 10:36 AM on May 25, 2007


I don't see this as anything new. Poor, uneducated people, especially girls with unhappy home lives, get married younger and younger couples are more likely to get divorced.
posted by fshgrl at 10:37 AM on May 25, 2007


So what happened to make today so fucked up?

Take your pick from any of these lovely choices:

Abortion
Gays
Welfare Mothers
Selfishness
Materialism
Casualness of relationships
The Man
Women not covering up with hijab/burkha
Junk food
ADHD
Reagan
The Moral Majority
The Pill
The Weed
Estrogen-like chemicals in the environment
Rachel Carson
Barbra Streisand
Jane Fonda
Lesbian porn
Five-legged frogs
The internets
Jimmy Carter
Sanford and Son
The cancellation of The Andy Griffith Show
Flag-burning
rap culture
hip-hop culture
rave culture
emo culture
punk culture
grunge culture
shoegazer music
porn music
babymothers
Easy Nevada marriage and divorce
Czechoslovakia's breakup
Fern bars
Wine bars
Dancing at lesbian bars
Atheism
Scientology People who don't like Scientology
Air Supply
5ive
Jelly shoes
The Fox network
Channel Four
Channel five
Chanel No. 5
The Simpsons
Richard Dawkins
Richard Branson
Richard Dawson
Richard Simmons
Richard Roberts
Richard Sexson
Richard on Richards
Kiwi fruit
Fruit Stripe bubblegum
Tattoos
Ugly tattoos
Cristal
Zima
Bartles and James
Gallo
The demise of the lovable town drunk
Circumcision
Formula feeding
Veganism
Pepsi Blue
Middle class educated white people talking about poor minorities as if they know something about that life

I'm sure I left a few out, but just string a few of these together into either a fiery sermon or an academic paper, and you're well on your way to a career showing up on cable news talk shows for money.
posted by dw at 10:37 AM on May 25, 2007 [18 favorites]


So what happened to make today so fucked up?

Take your pick from any of these lovely choices:

Abortion
Gays
Welfare Mothers
Selfishness
Materialism
Casualness of relationships
The Man
Women not covering up with hijab/burkha
Junk food
ADHD
Reagan
The Moral Majority...


"It's the end of the world as we know it/and I feel fine..."
posted by Pastabagel at 10:42 AM on May 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Yeah, you tried to protect yourself from allegations of homophobia by saying that stupid people would call you homophobic. I still want to know what you base your assertion that married heteros make better parents than committed homos on.

It's a baseless assertion. If you wanted to follow this line of speculative reasoning, however, you might consider the possibility that a male child of lesbian parents or a female child of gay male parents will grow up in the abscence of a role-model of their own sex, and will not have an adult example of behavior to witness.

This sounds like a big problem to a certain group of social conservatives, but it's a problem easily mollified by gay parents if they have friends that their kids can observe and learn about adult behavior from. Probably that's something that responsible gay parents should do. But this requirement is never mentioned for any other group besides gays. Personally, I think its important for parents of all types to associate with lots of different kinds of people, so their kids can understand that we live in a diverse society, etc. etc. But the point is almost moot from the beginning. I suppose it could be bad if kids don't learn about expected gender roles because it will be difficult for them to navigate through a society that still values those roles, but you could just as easily argue that those gender roles are largely an artifice and there's no reason we can't envision a different social dynamic.

So in short, cribcage, you're wrong. Unless you meant that "it works better when they're husband and wife" because our society is stupidly determined to make life difficult for gay parents and their children, then you might be right. But there's absolutely nothing about heterosexual parents that naturally makes them better at raising kids, and until some definitive study comes out (in contradiction to the many studies that have already shown no difference in effectiveness or quality) showing otherwise, your comments are needlessly provocative, despite your disclaimers.
posted by SBMike at 10:46 AM on May 25, 2007


tkchrist : So what happened to make today so fucked up?

I've been wondering about that myself. Apathy perhaps? A belief that the world is too big and people can't change it? That we have led such entitled lifestyles that we just can't work hard anymore?

I dunno.
posted by quin at 10:49 AM on May 25, 2007


It is strictly irrational for a poor woman to have a child, I would think, when the child's interests are taken into account. That's assuming that doing so doesn't better her situation (say the money the baby costs and the personal satisfaction it gives her are on par), but the baby has a bad childhood as a result of the social and economic conditions surrounding it.

No one, and I mean zero, people have children because it is economically rational. From an emotional standpoint, however can make perfect sense to have a child that was conceived accidentally, even when abortion is an option. For people from a turbulent, abusive, or violent childhood, a baby provides total unequivocal unconditional love to the mom which she can reciprocate.

The desire to have a child is always an emotional one, even when options are available for not having it.

The problem with single motherhood is not the mothers or the babies. The problem is the men.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:49 AM on May 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Jakey,

I do not believe that back then it was so remarkable. It's a matter of expectations.

My dad's family settled in south eastern Idaho after being ravaged by poverty in Europe and brought to the US by the early Mormon church.

My moms side were poor Irish refugees that came from the dust bowl in Kansas where they lost everything. Their car ran out of gas in Soda Springs Idaho on the way out to California. That is where they stayed. With only the clothes on their backs.

These people worked their asses off, sometimes they met with failure. Sometimes not. But there was no expectation that anybody would help them. And no expectation they deserved better. Nor was there an expectation of material wealth. Success was measured very differently back then.

THIS, I think is the essential difference.

The story of families like mine is not unusual in this country.
posted by tkchrist at 10:50 AM on May 25, 2007


Do you think free college would cost even one week's expenditure in Iraq per year--and that's not counting the huge benefit to society that level of education would bring.

The problem with free college isn't that it would be hugely expensive.

It's that it would be a giveaway to the well-off. Already, colleges are full of people from middle-class and better backgrounds, who can mostly afford to send their kids to Big State U. If you make Big State U free, these middle-class and better kids aren't going to stop applying, and they're still going to crowd out poor kids who haven't had access to as full of a range of preperatory experiences and activities. Even if you make UVa free, it's still going to be filled with kids from dual-income families in northern Virginia.

If you want to help folks in this boat, what you want is better primary and secondary education, so that they can secure admission, and colleges with moderate to high tuition coupled with far more extensive financial aid programs, so that families who can afford to pay for college do so while poorer families do not have to.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:54 AM on May 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


MarshallPoe,

If you are interested in seeing even more disturbing evidence of disaster in the black community, check out Walter Williams' archive of columns:

http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/williams.archives.asp

I recommend these in particular:

06/02/04: Three cheers for the Cos
04/28/04 Poor education prognosis
10/22/03 NO excuses
10/29/03 NO Excuses, Part II

Also, I am not surprised the statists have appeared, promising solutions if only taxes were higher and government was bigger.

Take a look at this next column and consider the amenities the students mentioned in Sowell's study had at their disposal.

01/21/04 Black education

And here are a few excerpts from the above columns:

"Today, less than 40 percent of black children live in two-parent families, compared to 70 percent and 80 percent in earlier periods. Illegitimacy, at 70 percent, is unprecedented in black history. Between 1976 and 2000, over 50 percent of all homicides in the United States were committed by blacks, and 94 percent of the time, the victim was black."

"According to National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) findings, only in writing do less than 40 percent of black high school students test "below basic." NAEP defines below basic as being unable to demonstrate even "partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work" at their grade. In math, 70 percent and, in science, 75 percent of black students score below basic."

"What needs to be done to improve black education? Whether it's civil rights organizations, politicians or the education establishment, you'll get answers that cover the gamut from more money for teachers and smaller class sizes to school desegregation and racial preferences in higher education. Despite these claims, there's no evidence whatsoever that these are absolutely necessary requirements for black academic excellence."
posted by BigSky at 10:55 AM on May 25, 2007


So what happened to make today so fucked up?
posted by tkchrist at 12:57 PM on May 25


Back then, even after the roaring 20's, there was no consumer culture. Your family (and many others) went to zero in the depression. People today are tens of thousands of dollars in the negative because they bought things they do not need.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:57 AM on May 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Unless you meant that [gay parenting is hard] then you might be right.

Um...yeah, basically.

Children don't need a mother and father, but that's ideal. Your assertion that a single mother can compensate for a child's absent father by having male friends is, well, ridiculous. Sure, it's a good idea — but that doesn't mean it's equivalent.
posted by cribcage at 11:01 AM on May 25, 2007


I was talking about gay parents actually, not single ones. I don't think you'll find any argument that 2 parents generally do a better job than 1. I was addressing your assertion that straight parenting "works better" than gay parenting and nothing else.
posted by SBMike at 11:04 AM on May 25, 2007


Making college free will only add to it. So then we would HAVE to increase taxes to compensate.

Maybe, but consider the following : private colleges have an obligation toward their students, that of teaching them..one would think. I didn't read any such contract recently, but I guess their actual written obligation is to give a student a seat and a professor yapping and examining. End of story.

But as they need incomes, exactly like every other company, they will solicit left and right. The prestige, the name and whatnot are only brands that once were used to represent the value of the student..if you survived X univ, that meant you maybe weren't immediately good for work, but with additional preparation you were READY and used to learn, learn learn (add practice during the education and it becomes almost perfect). In other words you were an highly polished, valuable cog.

Clearly these universities were selective, in the sense that their process of selection was : either you make it or you don't. Simplistic, didn't have resources such as internet and probably suffered of a bias toward academic achievement , forgetting that one can study all they want , but if the effects aren't felt by most of the population and are somehow good, people will lose interest. But that's another story...

At least in public funded universities, the student did pay only a fraction, maybe the cost of books ...but as they were -mass produced- their cost for private industries was -zilch- zero nada none. Well oiled, more or less rational, and most importantly at almost ZERO COST. Arguably that was excellent for many companies, as the preparation of workforce can make ALL the difference when money and political leverage can't do more.

Other crybabies company complained the students were NOT perfect cogs and they *GASP* wanted to be paid more, for doing what exactly ? Plus all the intellectual stimuli, can't they just get a job and stop complaining ?

Crrrryy me a river, now education is continuing toward something resembling disaster..the effects will be, indeed, felt in idiocracy. Yet all some people care about is how to invest the defence budget, when my concern is WHO will get the money : will the chineses gently build us weapons to dominate the world, pretty please ? We'll pay cash :D ! Screw the students, screw healthcare !
posted by elpapacito at 11:04 AM on May 25, 2007


It is strictly irrational for a poor woman to have a child, I would think, when the child's interests are taken into account. That's assuming that doing so doesn't better her situation (say the money the baby costs and the personal satisfaction it gives her are on par), but the baby has a bad childhood as a result of the social and economic conditions surrounding it.

A solution to this sort of problem was proposed back in 1729.
posted by caddis at 11:05 AM on May 25, 2007


tkchrist has a point. The Western world has really strong 'institutional responsiveness' (ie. the capacity to change your life context by exerting actions to that effect) but this fact sort of allows for an amount of slackerism. You can have spent 20 years of your life in a drugged haze and then change things over. Ironically that allows people to be 35 and nowhere in life (ie. it has an ethic effect).

It's not necessarily better or worse (I mean, is growing up in a culture where you're under so much stress to perform that you hang yourself if you fail a grade any better?), but it is indeed different.

I'm a big fan of nth chances, don't get me wrong (being a slacker myself :) but looking across the range of issues it's easy to see that in America adults are children in a way that they aren't in other cultures.

I'm not sure what any of this has to do with poverty and divorce.
posted by Firas at 11:06 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


tkchrist, whilst specifically not addressing family cohesion and expectations, this paper (pdf) shows that if you start off broke-ass poor, you're most likely gonna end up broke-ass poor. So yes, your story is unusual.
posted by Jakey at 11:07 AM on May 25, 2007


I've been wondering about that myself. Apathy perhaps? A belief that the world is too big and people can't change it? That we have led such entitled lifestyles that we just can't work hard anymore?

I don't work hard. I don't. I have structured my entire working life so I won't have to. I've done it before. I don't like it.

But y'know what that means? I don't have lots of stuff. My wife and I recently intentionally downsized massively. We have structured our business and lives so now our time is valuable. We charge a great deal for our time. Maybe more that the market will bear. We walk where we need to go much of the time instead of sitting in traffic in a $50K dollar car we cant afford like most our peers. We don't buy expensive shit we don't need. We keep our debt low (unless it is a business necessity but then we are shielded) unlike most our peers.

I don't think people are any lazier really. Over Consumption is the ideal and the problem. I think that work has become dreary and unfulfilling, home life no longer a refuge but rather a place to keep score and store all your cool stuff.

You still see people with one tenth our income buying $40K dollar cars. Blinging it up. Going into debt where ever they can because the Credit industry makes it so easy. People want to be like Paris Hilton, etc. Especially poor people. When they can't do this they feel like failures. So they don't try anything else.

It is a material lifestyle that trumps a self determined sustainable future in this country now.
posted by tkchrist at 11:07 AM on May 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Pastabagel writes "No one, and I mean zero, people have children because it is economically rational."

Maybe in modern industrial societies, but it's definitely a rational economic choice in agrarian societies, and in societies where the social safety net depends on having descendants.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:08 AM on May 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ooops, linky
posted by Jakey at 11:08 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


On preview. Pastabagel already said it!
posted by tkchrist at 11:09 AM on May 25, 2007


....suggesting that social mobility is unusual in the US, tkchrist. Damn that itchy posting finger!
posted by Jakey at 11:10 AM on May 25, 2007


The story of families like mine is not unusual in this country.

And they're not unusual now, either. Countless stories of immigrant families working their butts off to get their children into college. My student worker this semester is Afghani and came over at the end of the Soviet occupation. Her parents are working class, and they're sending all their kids to college.

I think the university media people pull a story like this out every month. Lots about migrant farm workers' kids that attend college through June and pick cherries or apples or grapes July-September.

And here on the West Coast, you see how the Vietnamese have thrived in their second generation, rapidly becoming middle class and moving to the 'burbs.

Meanwhile, black kids idolize rappers and ballers, white kids play XBox on the couch and get high, and both don't seem to motivated to have it better than their parents.

I sound like some cranky arch-conservative telling those whippersnappers to get off my lawn, but I wonder how us Gen Xers are ever going to leave the world better than we found it. Considering the environment, political, and economic pigsty the Boomers are leaving us, it shouldn't be that hard to improve things from that nadir. Maybe it's just overwhelming us.
posted by dw at 11:11 AM on May 25, 2007


I was talking about gay parents actually, not single ones.

I don't see the difference, with regard to your point:

...a male child of lesbian parents or a female child of gay male parents will grow up in the abscence of a role-model of their own sex, and will not have an adult example of behavior to witness. ... [This is] a problem easily mollified by gay parents if they have friends that their kids can observe and learn about adult behavior from.

You're saying that a child raised without a parent of either gender can be raised just as effectively if he's exposed to adults of that gender — but only if the child has two gay parents?
posted by cribcage at 11:13 AM on May 25, 2007


I don't think you'll find any argument that 2 parents generally do a better job than 1.

Uh, what?
posted by dw at 11:15 AM on May 25, 2007


I don't think you'll find any argument that 2 parents generally do a better job than 1.

I get the sense some people didn't read the article? Because it's like one big argument that this is the case. (Whether it's all just biased conservative bullshit is another matter, I suppose.)
posted by chunking express at 11:17 AM on May 25, 2007


I have to ask: did we read the same article? -- MarshallPoe

I was responding to this:

Postroad. I don't know why it is, but it is prima facie evidence of a disaster within the African American community.

So what does the article have to do with it? You said that the statistic was, standing on it's own, evidence of a "disaster" the article, nor anything else, should be needed then to back it up.

I didn't read the article, but what does that have to do with anything? You said your statements stood on your own, and I'm still wondering why you think they're true.
posted by delmoi at 11:21 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


No, that's not what I'm saying. Here's the simple version:

a. 2 parents generally better than 1

b. gay parents equally good at raising kids as straight parents are.

c. if you don't believe b. in spite of the massive evidence in support of it, you will come up with all sorts of bogus reasons to explain why gay people make worse parents.

d. out of all of the bogus arguments (homosexuality is immoral, homosexuality=pedophelia, homosexuals have irresponsible lifestyles) possibly the least bogus is that children need to be able to see how people of both genders behave.

e. I addressed this argument and proposed a solution to this problem (which may not be a problem at all, since I just speculated it and doesn't seem to manifest itself in any studies done on gay parenting.)

Sorry if I was unclear. Looking back, it's not the best way to make my point.

and on preview: to dw and chunking, I think you misread. I meant that its largely consensus that 2 parents generally do a better job than 1. Few would disagree. That's what I meant that "I don't think you'll find any argument."
posted by SBMike at 11:27 AM on May 25, 2007


and on preview: to dw and chunking, I think you misread. I meant that its largely consensus that 2 parents generally do a better job than 1. Few would disagree. That's what I meant that "I don't think you'll find any argument."

Then it should be:
I don't think you'll find any argument that 2 parents DON'T generally do a better job than 1.

"Find any argument" implies "find any argument affirming the following assertion."
posted by dw at 11:32 AM on May 25, 2007


tkchrist : So what happened to make today so f---ed up?

Nothing necessarily happened. Your family's experience was just not representative of the experience of most other familes (going to college in the 1940s? VERY atypical)
posted by deanc at 11:38 AM on May 25, 2007


duly noted dw. I need some caffeine.
posted by SBMike at 11:45 AM on May 25, 2007


Free tuition is not necessarily the answer. Georgia has free college tuition for students with a 3.2 or greater GPA and still ranks 41st in its adolescent birth rate.
posted by Frank Grimes at 11:46 AM on May 25, 2007


Personally I think it's an issue of expectations. Young women from upper-middle class or higher backgrounds are expected to "do something" with themselves. In their class group it's socially shameful to have a child young or marry young because of the percieved loss of opportunities. In the lower classes, the opportunities are just not there, therefore young women aren't wasting any opportunities if they get knocked up early.

Fifteen years ago when I graduated high school we had 17 girls out of a class of 150 that were pregnant or had been pregnant. At our most recent class reunion, only 30 or so of us had yet to have kids. While those of us who were childless typically had better jobs and a better economic standing, our classmates with kids and less "good" jobs saw us as failures. In my hometown and the culture I grew up in, not having kids by the time you're 30 is a sad thing. If college and advanced education are not an option (and for most of my graduating class it wasn't) why put off having kids? Why not have them when you are young enough to keep up with them and enjoy it? If you're going to be lucky to get a factory job, what does it matter if you have a kid at 17?

My point is these girls and boys are not given any better options. The idea that having children and getting married early messes up your life is only valid if you have opportunities to mess up. If life ends at high school, why not get married and start having kids? You're not missing out on anything and you have proof that you're an adult. Unlike those of us who put it off and play around in college for years on end.
posted by teleri025 at 12:00 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Delmoi wrote: I didn't read the article, but what does that have to do with anything?

Tagged as favorite.
posted by MarshallPoe at 12:04 PM on May 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


Just to drag a sort of nature versus nuture viewpoint into the cribcage/SBMike debate:

and it works better when they're husband and wife.

gay parents equally good at raising kids as straight parents are.

It IS better when its husband and wife and its their kid. Until cloning technology becomes viable so that gay couples can have their genetic child, I claim intangible benefits from the genetic connections (esp. buy-in from immediate relatives). This rat-race is going somewhere, after all. And, I claim very scientific and rigourous benefits from a deliberate prenatal environment and breast-feeding (which is an option for lesbian couples).

Now, I don't think there's much difference at all in terms of nuture.
posted by thandal at 12:13 PM on May 25, 2007


I claim intangible benefits from the genetic connections (esp. buy-in from immediate relatives)

I claim intangible benefits from experiencing the loving embrace of the Flying Spaghetti Monster each night between the ages of 3 and 8. Prove me wrong -- oh, wait, you can't, because it's intangible.

Are there studies showing that adopted babies suffer relative to genetic babies, when you control for all of the other factors involved in adoption?
posted by gurple at 12:21 PM on May 25, 2007


dw: A lot of those Vietnamese families on the west coast came to the US broke. But if you ask closely, most of the time you'll find out they sure weren't broke in Vietnam. That is, they were the ones with the money and the businesses. That is especially true of the Vietnamese Chinese families, since when the Communists took power they specifically targeted Chinese people for persecution. But really all the people who had businesses were targeted. For example one of my friend's grandfathers was told: give us all the gold in your jewelry store or we kill you and your family. So that's what he did. Later he fled the country to HK. Another one of my friends from junior high came from vast hereditary wealth. His father was a mathematician by avocation. They converted their cash into gold bars and packed up. When the NVA entered Saigon in 1975, they fled...but his dad grabbed the wrong bag. He grabbed an identical bag full of tennis clothes. They ended up doing okay after quite a bit of struggle and ending up in a beautiful suburban home.

There are similar stories in the Chinese community as well....Elaine Chao for example, who loves to talk about her immigration story. Sure, they didn't speak English when she got here, and sure they didn't have much. Of course her father was a businessman from Shanghai, and her mother a historian. So right there they had advantages. Imagine that you take a newly minted web 2.0 millionaire and his wife, a graduate of Smith College who works for non profits. Then take all their money, and drop them in South Africa. I'd imagine that their kids would eventually do okay. It might be a long trip back up, but they would already know the right moves.

When you have been on top once, you know what the road map to success looks like. There's no guarantees of course. But it's easier to go someplace you've already been.
posted by wuwei at 12:35 PM on May 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


*take AWAY all their money.
posted by wuwei at 12:37 PM on May 25, 2007


Prove me wrong -- oh, wait, you can't, because it's intangible.

I'm not sure that word means what you think it means.
posted by The World Famous at 12:47 PM on May 25, 2007


Just anuthuh way da man try ta keep uh bruthuh down.

To benefit from the hegemonious system, you must participate. Don't hate. Stop thinking, join a church and the GOP and everything will be fine.
posted by valentinepig at 12:52 PM on May 25, 2007


One study found that a college professor's kids hear an average of 2,150 words per hour in the first years of life. Working-class children hear 1,250 and those in welfare families only 620.

SHUT UP, SPRINGER IS ON!

(That's only 5 words, actually)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:05 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


gurple, i think you are confused as to the meaning of intangible.

on (a very long, damn phone calls!) preview, the world famous beat me to it.
posted by modernnomad at 1:11 PM on May 25, 2007


"Only 4% of the children of mothers with college degrees are born out of wedlock."
This means:
a- Women with college degrees choose less often to have children out of wedlock.
b- Women who have children out of wedlock have less opportunity to get/finish a college degree.
c- More women choose to have children out of wedlock before rather than after finishing their degree.
d- None of the above.
posted by MtDewd at 1:31 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's interesting that, at a time when you're seeing more policy think tank studies of marriage and divorce than ever, that researchers have less (and less reliable) data to work with than ever. A century plus-old marriage question, for instance, was taken out of the US Census short form for 2000.
posted by raysmj at 1:38 PM on May 25, 2007



Or, MtDewd, college-educated women *don't have children at all if they don't marry*-- but I still don't think that 4% is right (and the chart says 10%).

Regarding the African American community, when you have 50%-- that's right, half-- of the young men in some cities either on jail, on probation or on parole, is it surprising that there's little marriage? Until we do something about the racist drug war, it's going to be extremely difficult to change this. Marrying someone who is locked up isn't any help with parenting.

And, the other main policy solution is massive early education, massive free daycare, massive work on creating community connections and all manner of other efforts to rebuild essentially a new extended family which used to be available to help when a parent lost a partner or a couple struggled with child-rearing, etc.

I'm about to write about a bunch of new initiatives to bring what we know about the low levels of language hearing, the impact of trauma on children, the importance of early brain development and effects of community breakdown and pervasive violence together into a cross-systemic effort to make a difference for poor kids. If they work and can be replicated, they could potentially make a huge difference.

And Straightener, I don't think it's fair to say that teen mothers have kids to have soemthing to own-- it's someone to love them.
posted by Maias at 2:01 PM on May 25, 2007


AS for this gay straight parents thing.

Deep down I can't help but think if all things are equal that a child is likely ideally raised by a man and women. And I don't mean this in any moral sense simply it stands to reason given millions of years of evolution. From a biological standpoint.

Maybe. I'm simply speculating.

But the fact is all things are NOT equal. In fact, judging by the state of Foster Care and abuse statistics, most straight people with kids don't really want (or prepare for) children.

Therefor people who actually PREPARE and want a child — and don't rely on it being the cosmic accident of getting accidentally knocked up — should be allowed to have them. There is no WAY it could be any worse that the fucked up things shitty straight parents are allowed to do to their kids.

There may be lifestyle factors that could effect a child raised by gay parents... but isn't THAT more a result of how society views homosexuality more than the intrinsic parental abilities of a gays? I think so.

Still. It's hard for me to say "yeah we are all equal in our abilities to raise children" becuase I'm not 100% certain that is true.

Then again...So what. We have too many kids that don't get the love they need. Gay people are certainly equal in that regard. And that is what is needed now. Kids need to be loved.
posted by tkchrist at 2:42 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


They converted their cash into gold bars and packed up. When the NVA entered Saigon in 1975, they fled...but his dad grabbed the wrong bag. He grabbed an identical bag full of tennis clothes.

Damn those must've been some HEAVY tennis clothes...
posted by ch1x0r at 2:48 PM on May 25, 2007


tkchrist, exactly. Even if in some abstract sense differently-gendered parents raised kids better the fact is that nobody has any business telling gay couples whether or not they can raise a kid especially giving the background of the vast majority of kids being raised by incompetent moms & dads.
posted by Firas at 2:49 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


not sure where that "vast majority" phrase slipped in from, just substitute "many"
posted by Firas at 2:53 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


When you have been on top once, you know what the road map to success looks like. There's no guarantees of course. But it's easier to go someplace you've already been.

OTOH, wuwei, you saw the same thing with European emigration. German woodwrights, Polish watchmakers, Lithuanian merchants, Czech beermakers all coming to America to ply their trade. So, having vocational/education advantages aren't a new thing.

I just remember back to all the Vietnamese kids I went to elementary school with in Oklahoma. Some of them struggled hard through English and making friends. One of my younger brothers went to the birthday party of one Vietnamese kid. He was the only schoolmate to show up.

Through that lens, the success of Southeast Asians I see here in Seattle seems remarkable. I know it's not, that every immigrant group had money, education, or family to draw from when they came over, but when I think of Nguyen who was held back a grade because she was failing miserably in English, and then look at Ly, a kickass web designer I work with... maybe it's subtle discrimination. Maybe it's anecdote overpowering evidence. But 25 years ago, I was surrounded by boat kids dumped in Oklahoma by the government, and now I'm surrounded by thriving Asian-American communities.

And it just makes me sad that, to riff on Manning Marable, Black America remains underdeveloped.
posted by dw at 3:18 PM on May 25, 2007


I tracked down Steven P. Martin's article (pdf), Growing Evidence for a “Divorce Divide”? Education and Marital Dissolution Rates in the U.S. since the 1970s. Martin is a bit more cautious than the authors of the Economist article. He concludes:

This study has demonstrated a divergence in marital dissolution rates that is concurrent with the rise in social inequality in the United States, but I have not identified the causal relationships that might be involved. Further inquiry into the association between inequality and marital instability can have a special bearing on recent policy programs aimed at promoting marriage and discouraging divorce. Many new and proposed policies advocate removing incentives for nonmarital childbearing and divorce in government programs and divorce laws (Bogenscheider 2000), educating couples about the benefits of marriage and costs of divorce (Waite and Gallagher 2000; Waite,
Browning, Gallagher, Luo, and Stanley 2002), and advancing family-oriented values by creating special categories of committed “covenant” marriages (c.f. Sanchez, Nock,
Wright, and Gager 2002). Such programs emphasize individual decisions in marriage and divorce and downplay the causal importance of social and economic circumstances.

A prima facie interpretation of diverging marital dissolution rates would suggest the opposite; that economic circumstances are becoming more important to marriage outcomes and marriage formation, relative to individual decisions. The results of this
study thus lend some support to arguments that improving the circumstances of fragile families is the best way to increase marital stability (c.f. Ooms 1998), and that relatively poor odds of a successful marriage are deterring socioeconomically disadvantaged single mothers from marriage (c.f. Edin 2000). However, the results of this study could also be fully consistent with the theory that college graduates are the vanguard of a cultural shift away from divorce. Hence, we should not draw firm conclusions until we have a better understanding of the association between socioeconomic trends and marital trends.
posted by jonp72 at 4:13 PM on May 25, 2007


Surprised no one's brought up Daniel Patrick Moynihan's most controversial opus.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:57 PM on May 25, 2007


MarshallPoe: you said that the statistic was evidence of a disaster on it's face meaning that the article has no bearing on the nature of your statement. If you looked you'd find pretty compelling sounding statistical arguments against global warming and evolution, and without knowing who wrote the article it's impossible to know if it's from one of these typical conservative trolls who trot out that kind of counterfactual garbage. Why waste my time on it?

But, you said that the stat was evidence of a disaster, and that your statement stood on its own (like, without the article). And yet, you seem completely incapable of even articulating the simplest explanation for your reasoning. I must conclude that you are, in fact, quite dim.

It IS better when its husband and wife and its their kid. Until cloning technology becomes viable so that gay couples can have their genetic child, I claim intangible benefits from the genetic connections

Gay people can have children, just not with their partners. And not only that, recently people were able to convert bone stem-cells into sperm, and so it's likely that women may be able to have children with each other sooner then you might think...
posted by delmoi at 4:58 PM on May 25, 2007


Can I just say that I love the idea that it's only harder to raise a kid by yourself than with a partner is because the government's policies make it harder?

That's so awesome I can hardly stand it. Because now, when my kids are raising a toddleruckus, and my wife wants me to help, I can say "well, you'd better make it to the polls this year, then, because if it weren't for government policies, you wouldn't need my help in the first place."

In a related note: did you know that, if during potty training your son takes a huge dump on your bare foot, it's just as easy to clean up you/your son/the rug/the toilet without smearing it around everywhere as it would be if, say, your partner ran in and grabbed your son and handed you some paper towels?

okay, I was just looking for an excuse to mention that my son's a potty-training fiend at 21 months. take that, theory-that-wifi-damages-your-kids'-brains!
posted by davejay at 5:43 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Can I just say that I love the idea that it's only harder to raise a kid by yourself than with a partner is because the government's policies make it harder?

Davejay: I'm talking about people who are more worried about whether or not they'll be able to afford to feed their kids and pay their rent then cleaning up their poop. Your specific examples are annoyances not hardships. It's even easier to raise a kid if you can afford a housekeeper and a nanny, but that doesn't mean it's somehow wrong for people to raise kids without them.

I suppose I should have said government policies are what make it hard not harder. After all, flying first class is harder then flying in a private jet, but that doesn't mean first class fliers are somehow living a difficult life. Anyway, I said in other comments that having a second person to help is better.

unless you're arguing that "government policy" should provide free housing, day care, food, school, etc.

Why not? That's how things were for parents in most civilized countries, and that's how things were in the United States for several decades until just 13 years ago. It was a hell of a lot cheaper then the Iraq War, that's for sure.
posted by delmoi at 7:06 PM on May 25, 2007



If the government provided free daycare and healthcare (and didn't lock up so many people for nonviolent crime-- from whence a lot of money could be taken to fund said daycare and healthcare), the disadvantages of single parenting would be dramatically reduced.

The fact is, it's better to have more people when you are raising children-- for most of our evolutionary history, there were not two parents, but two parents, and a zillion aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc so that if those parents were unable to deal, someone else was.

And no, this didn't mean that "women didn't work"-- it meant that women worked with kids nearby, basically. What's unhealthy is lone humans trying to rear children without a social safety net and in an environment where commerce comes first period-- not single parents, gay parents, lack of marriage, etc.

the problem is lack of support for parenting, period. the u.s. is the most family-unfriendly country in the developed world and we do not care about kids at all. we pretend we do and talk all about it-- but when you look at spending and services and infant mortality and inequality and health, we're crap.
posted by Maias at 7:54 PM on May 25, 2007


OK, looking back to the original article, The Economist has fudged the direction of the causal arrow.

You have two variables: "stable marriages" and "family incomes". They're related, in various complicated ways.

The Economist article wants you to focus on the fact that higher income correlates with more marital success.

They seem to want everybody to ignore the other direction of the causal arrow: if you have more money, there is less stress on your marriage. Most marriages break up because the couple is fighting about money. High-income couples have stable marriages,
poor couples can't make a go of it.

Want to defend "traditional family values"? Then fight to raise wages in this country. And keep the low-wage Republicans out of your government.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 8:07 PM on May 25, 2007


Reading all of this makes me glad I'm a geek who can't get a date to save his life.
posted by Talez at 8:15 PM on May 25, 2007


unless you're arguing that "government policy" should provide free housing, day care, food, school, etc.

Yes, the government should pay to feed and shelter the poor. It's 2007. The frontier has closed. Grow up.

Sombody said free daycare and healthcare. That's aiming low.

Here's some math for you. If the government pays $10 a day to feed the poorest 15% of the American population, it would only cost about $165 billion.

The national median rent is $604. There are 12.2 million single parent households in the US, in which nearly 31% of all US children live. The government could pay the rent for all 12.2 million households for the entire year for a paltry $89 billion.

Add the two together and you get $254 billion to feed 45 million Americans and shelter 12.2 million single parents and their kids.

The US will spend $261 billion to pay the interest on the national debt.

Including the Iraq war, the US will spend $717 billion on defense.

Cut defense by 35% and it's all paid for. No taxes raised, no medicare cut. Just let money for equipment we will never ever use.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:43 PM on May 25, 2007


I've been saying for years that 50% (or more) of the US's problems could be solved by simply making college free.

Would making college free let you take a damn economics course so that you could see that you can't make college free?
posted by oaf at 9:10 PM on May 25, 2007


Would making college free let you take a damn economics course so that you could see that you can't make college free?

You must have taken different economics classes than I did. None of mine discussed the cost of government subsidized higher education. I would think that would be more the topic of an advanced political science class.
posted by The World Famous at 9:56 PM on May 25, 2007


I found this point in the original article surprising and interesting: ... the divorce rate among college-educated women has plummeted. Of those who first tied the knot between 1975 and 1979, 29% were divorced within ten years. Among those who first married between 1990 and 1994, only 16.5% were.

Why would this have changed?

jonp72 quotes Steven Martin: A prima facie interpretation of diverging marital dissolution rates would suggest the opposite; that economic circumstances are becoming more important to marriage outcomes and marriage formation, relative to individual decisions. The results of this study thus lend some support to arguments that improving the circumstances of fragile families is the best way to increase marital stability (c.f. Ooms 1998), and that relatively poor odds of a successful marriage are deterring socioeconomically disadvantaged single mothers from marriage (c.f. Edin 2000).

Right. In When Work Disappears, William Julius Wilson suggests that the social breakdown in inner-city black neighborhoods has been due to concentrated unemployment, not poverty per se. In a neighborhood where 80% of young men are unemployed, and have little or no prospect of employment, why would a young woman get married?

tkchrist: [comparing his immigrant family with today's society] So what happened to make today so fucked up?

Generally speaking, immigrants work really hard. Often coming from much poorer societies, they're willing to maintain a low standard of living, sacrificing short-term consumption for long-term investment. (A friend once described his strategy for buying a house as, "Live in a hovel for ten years, then pay cash.")

I wouldn't say that the American work ethic has weakened--Americans still work relatively long hours compared to Europeans, for example--but the household savings rate has certainly declined, suggesting a decreased willingness to defer gratification to the future. Given the sheer amount of advertising people are exposed to, perhaps this isn't surprising.

Another important factor is that wages for unskilled labor have declined. It's much more difficult today to support yourself and a family if you're an unskilled worker, no matter how hard you work.
posted by russilwvong at 12:11 AM on May 26, 2007


I found this point in the original article surprising and interesting: ... the divorce rate among college-educated women has plummeted. Of those who first tied the knot between 1975 and 1979, 29% were divorced within ten years. Among those who first married between 1990 and 1994, only 16.5% were.

Why would this have changed?


Can't readily find the stats, but average age of first marriage in the US has risen by 3-5 years over that time frame, which means (in theory) people are more mature.

I've also seen the argument that cohabitation leading to a higher rate of divorce can be partially explained by conservative religious types not doing the "starter marriage" thing and being in a community that values marriage-for-life, but that contradicts other studies that show Christians have the same rate of divorce as non-Christians.
posted by dw at 9:33 AM on May 26, 2007


I've been saying for years that 50% (or more) of the US's problems could be solved by simply making college free.

Would making college free let you take a damn economics course so that you could see that you can't make college free?

The "lets make college free" argument really irritates me. There is no one who "can't afford collage", thanks to the student loan program. Sure, you have to take debt but nothing is stopping you from going, and if you get a job consummate with your degree after school you should have no trouble paying them off. That's what I do. If I'd done well in high school I wouldn't even have that debt.

Besides, if everyone got to go to an expensive college (rather then, say, a community college) the degree itself would basically be worthless. It would essentially just be extending high school.

If you want to argue that people who study hard and do well in high school should go for free, well they basically can.
posted by delmoi at 11:37 AM on May 26, 2007


d. out of all of the bogus arguments (homosexuality is immoral, homosexuality=pedophelia, homosexuals have irresponsible lifestyles) possibly the least bogus is that children need to be able to see how people of both genders behave.

I dunno. It may be the least offensive argument, but it seems equally bogus to me as all the others. What is it, exactly, that you're supposed to learn from a "gender role model"? How to tie a tie? How to walk in high heels? Those aren't really the important things in life. The individual characteristics of the parents are so much more important than gender, as anyone who has an asshole parent/s can tell you.
posted by footnote at 1:57 PM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Delmoi, there are many, many people who can't afford college even with the student loan programs. They don't pay for books and supplies, for one. If you don't have a certain amount of cultural capital, you don't know even know what your options are because you don't even know how to find out.

If you look at poor kids attending college, the challenges they face are enormous and financial aid doesn't even begin to address most of them.
posted by Maias at 4:13 PM on May 26, 2007


You must have taken different economics classes than I did.

TINSTAAFL, in case you don't get why college can't be completely free.
posted by oaf at 10:59 PM on May 28, 2007


If put into the context of everything else in the world that has changed, relatively speaking marriage hasn't changed all that much. We should be happy that the idea of marriage is still the same in essence, and not evolved into something different, like polygamy.
posted by a_s_m at 3:28 AM on June 11, 2007


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