February 10, 2014

"How Single Motherhood Hurts Kids"

Kay S. Hymowitz of the Manhattan Institute presents some common sense in the NYT:
How Single Motherhood Hurts Kids 
By KAY S. HYMOWITZ 
The last few weeks have brought an unusual convergence of voices from both the center and the left about a topic that is typically part of conservative rhetorical territory: poverty and single-parent families. Just as some conservatives have started talking seriously about rising inequality and stagnant incomes, some liberals have finally begun to admit that our stubbornly high rates of poverty and social and economic immobility are closely entwined with the rise of single motherhood.

But that’s where agreement ends. Consistent with its belief in self-sufficiency, the right wants to see more married-couple families. For the left, widespread single motherhood is a fact of modern life that has to be met with vigorously expanded government support. Liberals point out, correctly, that poverty rates for single-parent households are lower in most other advanced economies, where the welfare state is more generous.  
That argument ignores a troubling truth: Single-parent families are not the same in the United States as elsewhere. Simply put, unmarried parents here are more likely to enter into parenthood in ways guaranteed to create turmoil in their children’s lives.

Fifty years ago, American liberals noticed that high welfare payments and low public criticism of unmarried parental couples weren't immediately destroying Stockholm, so they figured it would make perfect sense in Milwaukee.
The typical American single mother is younger than her counterpart in other developed nations. She is also more likely to live in a community where single motherhood is the norm rather than an alternative life choice. 
The sociologist Kathryn Edin has shown that unlike their more educated peers, these younger, low-income women tend to stop using contraception several weeks or months after starting a sexual relationship. The pregnancy — not lasting affection and mutual decision-making — that often follows is the impetus for announcing that they are a couple.

Guys, do not trust your girlfriend to take care of the contraception. She has her own agenda.

I wonder what percentage of these "unplanned" pregnancies have to do with women getting tired of dieting to look hot. Okay, I've got a guy interested in me, kind of, but now I'm hungry all the time. If I go off my diet, he'll probably dump me for that skinny skank Amber. But nobody can blame me for eating for two if I'm pregnant. So I'll kill two birds with one stone: I'll permanently reel him in by having him be my babydaddy and I can get off this diet. So stuff happens, you know? The Miracle of Life.
Unsurprisingly, by the time the thrill of sleepless nights and colicky days has worn off, two relative strangers who have drifted into becoming parents together notice they’re just not that into each other. Hence, the high breakup rates among low-income couples: Only a third of unmarried parents are still together by the time their children reach age 5. 
Also complicating low-income single parenthood in America is what the experts call “multipartner fertility.” Both divorced and never-married Americans are more likely to repartner and start “second families” than Europeans, but the trend is far more common among unmarried parents. According to data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study at Princeton and Columbia Universities, over 60 percent of low-income babies will have at least one half sibling when they are born; by the time they are 5, the proportion will have climbed to over 70 percent. 

Obviously, this data should be broken out by race. My guess is, however, that working class whites are slowly drifting toward black norms as criticizing anything associated by disparate impact logic with blackness becomes increasingly unspeakable.
All of this would be of merely passing interest if it weren’t for the evidence that this kind of domestic churn is really bad news for kids. The more “transitions” experienced by a child — the arrival of a stepparent, a parental boyfriend or girlfriend, or a step- or half sibling — the more children are likely to have either emotional or academic problems, or both. (My own research indicates that boys, especially, suffer from these transitions.) 
Part of the problem is that a nonresident father tends to fade out of his children’s lives if there’s a new man in his ex’s house or if he has children with a new partner. For logistical, emotional and financial reasons, his loyalty to his previous children slackens once he has a child with a new girlfriend or wife.

New girlfriends/wives show remarkably little female solidarity toward the idea of their man turning over a big chunk of his paycheck to ex-girlfriends/wives.
Nor is it likely, from the overlooked child’s point of view, that a mother’s new boyfriend or husband can fill the gap. There’s substantial research showing that stepfathers are sometimes worse than none at all. 
These realities help explain the meager results of government marriage promotion programs. It doesn’t make much sense to encourage, much less pressure, a couple with no shared history, interests or deep affection to marry. At any rate, given the prevalence of multipartner fertility it’s not clear, as one scholar asked in a paper, “who should marry whom.” 
But those same realities raise serious doubts about the accept-and-prop-up response to single-parent families. Increasing government largess could actually incentivize, or at least enable, parental choices that everyone admits are damaging to kids.

Universal pre-K, for example, offers a sort of taxpayer-subsidized nap time for welfare moms to rest up so they can hit the clubs harder in the evening and create more little net tax consumers / Democratic voters.
So where does that leave us, policy-wise? Liberal critics of marriage promotion are probably correct that there are only limited steps government can take to change the way low-income couples meet and mate. But that doesn’t mean the status quo is the way things have to be. Not so long ago, the rise of teenage motherhood seemed unstoppable. Instead, over the past two decades adolescent births have declined to record lows.

And abortion rates have dropped as well.
Researchers believe the decline was caused by a combination of better contraceptive use and delayed sexual activity. Both were grounded in a growing consensus — including by the policy makers, educators, the public and teenagers themselves — that having a baby when you are 16 is just a really bad idea.

As I've been saying for years, you can see just in reading government statistical reports that the government is out to get teen pregnancy (even if the teen is a married 19-year-old high school graduate) but is completely neutral on post-teen out-of-wedlock births.
It’s not impossible that Americans could reach a similarly robust consensus about having children outside of a committed relationship, which in the United States, at least, tends to mean marriage. But despite the growing list of center-left writers willing to admit that single motherhood is complicit in our high levels of poverty and inequality, that consensus still seems a long way off.

Single motherhood generates Democratic votes, now and in the next generation. See "Life of Julia."
Kay S. Hymowitz, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor at City Journal, is the author of “Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age.”

36 comments:

Thursday said...

The thing to do is eliminate all welfare programs, and replace them with substantial cash payments to low IQ women for not getting pregnant. Substantial. And doled out weekly.

Have a child out of wedlock? Well, fuck you. Put it up for adoption and no money for you ever again.

Anonymous said...

"Fifty years ago, American liberals noticed that high welfare payments and low public criticism of unmarried parental couples weren't immediately destroying Stockholm, so they figured it would make perfect sense in Milwaukee."

Steve, do you have any links that discuss / demonstrate that mid-twentieth century U.S. welfare policy was influenced by European models?

sunbeam said...

I wonder what it means that this is being published in the NY Times.

Just wonder... seems kind of like a marketing campaign to "catapult the propaganda," as one of our illustrious former Presidents put it.

Interesting. Personally I don't think the people who run this country are a monolithic bloc.

(ethnically, geographically, what have you, though due to the current FIRE composition of the US economy NY is an outlier in influence)

Wonder if we are seeing the
beginning of a debate to define the "elite consensus." (That term was used by a guest columnist on Joe Bageant's old site, and I like it)

Anonymous said...

"Universal pre-K, for example, offers a sort of taxpayer-subsidized nap time for welfare moms to rest up so they can hit the clubs harder in the evening" Or new immigrant parents can work extra shifts in food prep and providing wealthy people child care. Universal Pre K also will provide lots of meaningful first jobs to graduates of expensive liberal arts schools that could lead to government pensions and health insurance. In NYC city child care is a cottage industry bringing business skills to the middle class, can't have that when you can employ the children of the rich.

Somewhat unrelated but kind of amusing thought process:

Rochelle Riley: Boarding schools for Detroit? Why not?

http://www.freep.com/article/20140209/COL10/302090060/detroit-education-boarding-schools-excellent-schools

Anonymous said...

"..any links that discuss / demonstrate that mid-twentieth century U.S. welfare policy was influenced by European models?"

well I can recall the consensus that the European welfare state being held up as a model that we should emulate...

Anonymous said...

The life of Shondrekia.

Anonymous said...

This problem is hard to solve politically but trivial to solve policy wise. If you have a baby outside of wedlock you get no government money, healthcare, etc. Watching a few friends enter poverty would be enough to change norms very quickly.

My suggestion is politically impossible, Thursdays plan is a little harder to implement.

Anonymous said...

Apropos Pre-K, here's Russ Whitehurst's devastating congressional testimony about the federal Pre-K plan.

Rifleman said...

My guess is, however, that working class whites are slowly drifting toward black norms...

Meaning working class White women and girls are working toward giving birth to more and more black children.

I've lived among these people. It's remarkable how many White women and girls are sexually obsessed with black males and have black children. This is increasing.

So when people speak about the behavior of "whites" in this context lets not pretend that blacks aren't involved.

Increasingly births to White females don't involve White children. Maybe because this often happens out of wedlock it is harder to quantify.

Reg Cæsar said...

Steve: Universal pre-K, for example, offers a sort of taxpayer-subsidized nap time for welfare moms to rest up so they can hit the clubs harder in the evening and create more little net tax consumers / Democratic voters.

In other words, "pre-K" really means "pre-r".

Luke Lea said...

sunbeam asks, "Wonder if we are seeing the
beginning of a debate to define the "elite consensus."

My guess is that it is like it was with quantum vs. classical physicists. The quantum guys never convinced the classicals that they were wrong. Instead the classicals died out and were replaced by the new generation.

Can't wait till my generation dies off. Too bad I won't be here to see it.

Education Realist said...

It's not weight, whatever it is. African American girls are overweight long before they get pregnant, and many young Hispanic moms are still quite thin. Not sure about low income whites (not a lot of them in my area).

Also, the big problem with welfare wasn't any comparison with Sweden, but the Cloward Piven strategy of rioting to get more money.

I do think it's economic. Women at the low end of the income scale suffer nothing from having a child, and get more attention. We either do the stick, penalizing them for having a child, or we do the carrot, and pay them for not having children.

We can't possibly make the stick painful enough to discourage childbirth, so we have to go the other way.

The problem is the backlash by elites would be huge.

Anonymous said...

Benefits street - British TeeVee
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benefits_Street

Anonymous said...

Is that how the first Sailer child was produced? I mean I get it you don't actually think like that and it's simply bait for the frustrated virgin demo but honestly what a crappy thing to say.

ben tillman said...

This problem is hard to solve politically but trivial to solve policy wise.

Indeed.

If you have a baby outside of wedlock you get no government money, healthcare, etc. Watching a few friends enter poverty would be enough to change norms very quickly.

The 1996 welfare almost immediately stopped welfare mommas from having a third baby.

Tony said...

"I wonder what percentage of these "unplanned" pregnancies have to do with women getting tired of dieting to look hot. Okay, I've got a guy interested in me, kind of, but now I'm hungry all the time. If I go off my diet, he'll probably dump me for that skinny skank Amber."
Not so Steve. The black male likes em big and chunky.

Crawfurdmuir said...

"Steve, do you have any links that discuss / demonstrate that mid-twentieth century U.S. welfare policy was influenced by European models?"

Certainly the greatest change in U.S. social policy during the latter half of the twentieth century was most profoundly influenced by a Swede - Gunnar Myrdal.

Anonymous said...

"Guys, do not trust your girlfriend to take care of the contraception. She has her own agenda."

Depends what social demo you're in (or more precisely, which one your girlfriend is in). Stories of youngish, white, college-educated women lying about birth control are fairly rare. On the contrary, in my experience, most women in that demo have repeating iPhone alarms to remind themselves of their sterility pill. (Or maybe they just REALLY don't want my beta babies?)

Anonymous said...

1) Any criminals convicted of non-violent crimes can shorten their incarceration period by undergoing permanent sterilization. Anyone convicted of a violent crime automatically undergoes sterilization.
2) Any person who has been on welfare for two years or more must undergo permanent sterilization in order to enjoy continued support.
3) Any person who goes on welfare surrenders all confidentiality with regards to their reproductive health. If a woman on welfare becomes pregnant, her doctor is legally obligated to inform the government. At this point, the pregnant woman can terminate the pregnancy or or lose welfare benefits for the rest of her life, regardless of how many children she currently has.
4) No one over age 22 whose education is high school diploma or below is eligible for any sort of welfare. (Things like specialized driver's licenses and skilled trades do count as education)
5) A woman who has a child out of wedlock is never eligible for welfare, ever, regardless of how many children she currently has.
6) If a couple divorces while they have a child under the age of 16, they must both pay a divorce tax to compensate society for the resulting likely loss of productivity and the probable increased strain on the law enforcement and welfare systems that results from a child growing up without two parents in the home. In cases of physical abuse, this will not apply.
7) Just as women enjoy the right to terminate their pregnancies, men will now have the right to terminate their paternal responsibilities prior to the birth of the child. If a woman becomes pregnant, she has three months from the onset of pregnancy to convince the father to sign a legal declaration stating that he is the biological father and that he intends to be jointly responsible (with the mother) for the raising of the child until the child turns 18. If the three month period comes and the father has not made such a declaration, then he has absolutely no obligation whatsoever to the child or its mother.

Hunsdon said...

Reg Caeser said: In other words, "pre-K" really means "pre-r".

Hunsdon: I'll have to check, but I think you just won the internets for the whole day.

flambeaux said...

"Boarding schools for Detroit? Why not?"

Welcome to the Ludus Academy of New Detroit.

Old fogey said...

Many thanks to "anonymous" at 2:51 for the link to the Brookings expert's testimony about early childhood education. Pity that he didn't add the obvious though, that such programs belong to the states, not the feds.

Crawfurdmuir said...

Anon. at 8:09PM On 2/10/2014 wrote: " Anyone convicted of a violent crime automatically undergoes sterilization. "

No - neutering. I have often wondered if not only the obvious problem of sexual promiscuity, but also the high rate of violent crime amongst young, low-IQ males, was due to their excessive testosterone combined with lack of self-discipline and forethought. Sterilization by vasectomy leaves the source of testosterone intact, only preventing fertility. We need
to remove not only the fertility but also the testosterone.

In order to stop a tomcat or a male dog from fighting, pissing on things to mark his territory, and impregnating every female he can, we castrate him, and thus render him tractable. These behaviors are clearly paralleled in the behavior of the lumpenprole human male - the appalling numbers of of homicides, the defacing of property with graffiti (much of it gang-related), and the high rate of bastardy. The remedy is equally clear.

Anonymous said...

For me, as a regular Finnish reader, this whole conversation seems very typically American. I was born out of wedlock and so were many of my friends and schoolmates although I attended the best school in my hometown. Still both of my parents were academically educated and had good, steady jobs. I don't think that my mother was especially dependent on welfare; she was quite capable of supporting herself and me with her salary and, as far as I can tell, my father never tried to shirk from his alimony payments. I actually never even thought, that illegitimate birth is something strange and a real social problem, before I started to read these American (and also British) blogs. Clearly there is a huge cultural difference between America (and maybe Anglosphere in general) and , e.g., Nordic countries.

Xenophon Hendrix said...

Reforming the welfare system or underclass culture is hard to do. Would making intrauterine devices simple to get be a partial solution we can actually implement in the near term? By "simple to get" I mean free, that is, paid for by the government, and promoted by social workers and welfare providers -- even high schools, if that is politically possible. By "promoted" I mean to the extent of arranging clinic appointments, reminders, and rides.

The cost of an IUD isn't trivial, but it's cheap compared to the cost of providing transfer payments to support a child. Compared to other contraceptive measures, IUDs cannot be forgotten or stopped on a whim. Removal requires a doctor's appointment.

Anonymous said...

"I actually never even thought, that illegitimate birth is something strange and a real social problem, before I started to read these American (and also British) blogs."

The effects of bastardy hit the IQ underclass particularly hard. Because of the greater, uh, vibrancy of the US and the UK as compared to Finland, we have a larger IQ underclass.

jody said...

"New girlfriends/wives show remarkably little female solidarity toward the idea of their man turning over a big chunk of his paycheck to ex-girlfriends/wives."

huzzah!

biology strikes again

countenance said...

Nor is it likely, from the overlooked child’s point of view, that a mother’s new boyfriend or husband can fill the gap. There’s substantial research showing that stepfathers are sometimes worse than none at all.

Stepfathers often murder the mother's infant children, (she'll have sex with him and have his children sooner rather than tending toward another man's kids), lean on the mother to throw out adolescent boys, (eliminating a potential challenge for male leadership in the household), and the mother herself throws out adolescent girls (to eliminate female competition for the man).

The first two have very strong parallels in lion behavior.

Also complicating low-income single parenthood in America is what the experts call “multipartner fertility.”

Translation: All my babydaddys, all my babymammas. Dontravious D'Cornerback has 10 kids by 9 women and each of those 9 women have lots of other kids by lots of other men.

I wonder what percentage of these "unplanned" pregnancies have to do with women getting tired of dieting to look hot.

I wonder what percentage of those "unplanned" pregnancies are just ghetto meal tickets for a government check or suing the father for child support.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:39, I've got two words for you...Bridget Moynihan. She pulled the goalie to get coveted Tom Brady spawn.

NOTA said...

Waldman is exactly right about a couple important parts of the picture:

a. Marriage habits in 2014 vary a great deal by education, intelligence, and social class. Because of that, different outcomes for married and unmarried couples right now reflect both whatever benefits there are to marriage, and also all the stuff that marriage correlates with like having a higher IQ and better judgment and a more functional set of role models in your life. (That's also part of what's going on w.r.t. different relationships between marriage and happiness in other countries; you're not correlating with the same stuff.)

b. Marriage isn't just a relationship between two people in isolation. Instead, it's a *whole set* of social relationships and expectations and assumptions. Part of why marriage is stronger in my social class than at the bottom is because those assumptions are different. How acceptable is it to run out on your wife and kids? How acceptable is it to have a couple kids before you're ready to settle down? A lot of peoples' practical decisionmaking is made on the basis of what their friends will think--far more than is made on the basis of careful planning for the future. (That's why a lot more people have nice cars in their driveway than have enough saved up for retirement.).

Now, it's certainly plausible that marriage has some benefits outside of signaling your adherence to middle class values, and even some benefits that exist when you are living in a subculture that doesn't support or value it. But it seems almost certain that the benefits are a lot less at the bottom than at the top.




Anonymous said...

All of the guys I grew up with who got into trouble later on all had one thing in common. No dads. Either through abandonment or premature deaths.

anon 2 anon said...

To anonymous at 2:34 - if you are capable of understanding why Tom Brady's father is, and ought to be, ashamed of his son, then you have a chance of understanding the world and country you live in. Your use of that stupid "goalie" idiom leads me to believe that you are, and will, remain clueless. If you think, in your little Vonnegut-Carlin-JonStewart-genetic-loser-world, that I am wrong about you (which I hope I am) feel free to point out why you, hypothetically, would not be distressed to find out that your grandchild, like poor Mr Brady's grandchild, doesn't get to have a real father.

Anonymous said...

#7
The guy does have choice in the decision to become a parent. He can use birth control: condom, vasectomy, or abstinence. Seriously, the way people act you'd think we were one of those primitive tribes who haven't discovered what causes babies. If we could make non - support a serious crime (jail time?) men would start clamoring for their own "pill".

RobertW said...

Wait a second. Am I to understand that the NY Times printed a column about single mothers that was anything other than laudatory? I guess Hell really can freeze over.

Marissa said...

. He can use birth control: condom, vasectomy, or abstinence.

Should these be the only choices for the women?

Anonymous said...

Maternal custody is not the worst thing that can happen to a child.

However, it is the worst thing that does happen to most children.

Anonymous age 71