The Prospects for Children in Single-Parent Family

Print
Friday, 10 January 2014 06:27

Michael Gerson tells readers:

"The tie between single-parent households and poverty is an economic, not a moral, assertion. Poor single parents naturally find it harder to hold full-time jobs and invest in the welfare of their children."

While this is true, it does not follow that the answer is to somehow force couples to stay together in bad and possibly abusive relationships, as Gerson seems to imply. The difficulty faced by children in single-parent families can be seen as a problem of adequate supports in the form of affordable child care or guarantees of paid time off for sick days and family leave. In other countries where such support does exist, children in single-parent families do not face nearly the same handicap as they do in the United States. (See Shawn Fremstad's discussion here and here.)

The other key pillars in Gerson's argument about poverty also don't stand up well to the facts.

"This is a type of poverty that Johnson could not foresee: a decline in blue-collar jobs, rooted in global trends, requiring workers to gain skills that schools could not reliably impart, leaving whole communities economically depressed and isolated, while many children were deprived of economically stable and supportive two-parent families, leading to dangerously stalled social mobility and creating divisions of class that are inconsistent with the American ideal."

Globalization did not just happen. There was a conscious decision to put manufacturing workers in direct competition with low-paid workers in the developing world, while largely protecting highly paid professionals like doctors and lawyers. This had the predicted effect of redistributing income upward. There also is little evidence that technology has had more impact in displacing less educated workers in the last three decades than in prior decades.