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Kay S. Hymowitz
American Caste « Back to Story

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I don't know what contribution it had to the condition, but the author has completely overlooked the effects of the AFDC programs of the '50's and '60's that prohibited men from being members of the household.
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Has anyone done a similar review of the affects on Germany after losing a generation of men to WWI? The following generation gave us WWII and all that included.
The essential divide--the mental health divide--needs more discussion.

Family dysfunction leads to poverty and other ills. (Remember the affluent George Huguely V, who murdered his college girlfriend.)

We must de-stigmatize psychotherapy and make quality care available to all--through the private sector.
The essential divide--the mental health divide--needs more discussion.

Family dysfunction leads to poverty and other ills. (Remember the affluent George Huguely V, who murdered his college girlfriend.)

We must de-stigmatize psychotherapy and make quality care available to all--through the private sector.
Ms. Hymowitz:

You have written yet ANOTHER article deploring the choice of women who bare children outside of traditional marriage. yet you AGAIN provide no solutions to alleviate the increasing number of poor single mothers.

I also don't agree that marriage makes men more productive. Its actually the reverse. More productive men are more likely to seek out marriage. The same goes for more productive women. Successful people will forgo childbearing until they achieve a level of education and economic level they are comfortable with. These people will also forgo childbearing until they find a person suitable and committed to raising a family. Unmarried men are no more or less productive than married men. There are many unmarried men who are very successful but stay out of the marriage market (see George Clooney & Derek Jeter). Less productive men will always work less and make less money, and most are never suitable for marriage. Many divorced men are so because they were unproductive in their marriage.

The solution to decreasing poverty and increasing marriage is the introduction of alternatives to childbearing: education, and exposure to society and culture outside of the "ghettos" and "low income" environment. Education is so crucial to the pathway for marriage because it (1)helps a person make better decisions, (2)provides vision for a life plan through achievement and (3)provides better economic opportunities and (4)allows for the interaction of productive people. Interaction of productive people is also of key importance because it helps steer women toward marriage minded, productive men. Unfortunately, there seem to be many more productive women than men. The numbers of available, marriage minded men seem to decrease as the amount of similar women increase. Society is paying the cost since women either don't marry & have children or have children with least marriageable men.

The other issue I have with these types of articles is that it always demonizes single mothers. When will we as a society begin to put the onus on the fathers of these children to help provide for and raise their children? First, Ms. Hymowitz mentions how shotgun marriages have produced better results; that's because those were men are usually highly productive, marriage minded and are dedicated to the rearing of their children. They just entered marriage much earlier than what they expected. This is not the case for men who are unproductive and don't have the desire to raise children. In fact, most of these unproductive men don't have the desire to improve their own lifestyle & environment. Don't expect them to do so for a women and child. Second, we wouldn't have as many poor single mothers if fathers had provided necessary support, willingly or by court order. As of 2010, the total US child support in arrears amounted to $110 Billion (source: US Dept of Health & Human Services) $110 BILLION!!!! That's how much support is owed to single mothers and their children. No wonder we have the makings of a "caste" society.
I think if gov't assistance wasn't so readily available, these "single mothers" might think twice about having children (and engaging in activities which lead to it). Economic incentives always trump education on the issue, cultural mores, etc.
I note with interest that Courtland Milloy of the Washington Post has been featuring pieces on the lack of fathers and father parenting in the black community in the DC area. Because of his race and his left of center views, he has a license to discuss these issues without being deemed a racist or right wing demagogue. I don't agree with Milloy on much, but more power to him for raising the issues.

lkensinger's comment below is one of the best I have read on City Journal. The emotional pain young people endure in fractured families is so often ignored. Indeed, it in my view the greatest source of damage of the sexual revolution.

Ash_chit - your points are great for middle class women. All too often young women fall for the jock or popular guy in our overly sexualized society, and don't value a decent guy with a future. Mothers and grandmothers used to play a very important role in imparting this kind of wisdom when it came to marriage and relationships. But I wonder whether women in the lower classes can even appreciate the wisdom you relate. The dire socio-economic straits of many in the lower classes isolate them from people who work in knowledge based industries, and also isolate them from courteous, nice guys who value a future and education.

Maybe single women (and men) are not getting married because of the difficulty of divorce.
Here's an interesting Wall St. Journal article:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303734204577469112170373628.html
You are misusing the term "negative feedback loop." Used correctly, it means "self-correcting". Example: when it gets cold, your thermostat kicks on the heat. A "positive feedback loop" means the opposite. Example: a badly-wired thermostat that kicks the heat on when temperature rises, and turns on the AC when temperature falls.

Neither term has anything to do with desirability of outcome.
What about mothers who have no choice but to go it alone? My co-worker's daughter's father died of colon cancer, and her daughter was only 4 at the time.

The leading cause of death for poor men is bad health.
What we are seeing today is what we will get tomorrow. I know this because but recently I spent time door belling in a depressed neighborhood where some residents lived and owned homes most of their lives. The vast majority however were on some type of government subsistence and have been so most if not all of their lives. What they want is more of the same so when they vote (and they do vote) it will be for whom ever they think will provide the welfare state. In other words they "Vote for a Living".
Guest of a guest June 11, 2012 at 9:41 PM
Strange that a fellow of the Manhattan Institute mainly ignores the economics involved. Yes, the sexual revolution happened. But you also have to remember deindustrialization, which happened in an atmosphere with a weak social safety net (if you're working class, that is) that was made weaker throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Also combine that with the class balkanization of schooling that maroons high concentrations of children coming from households flirting with poverty.

The problem is jobs, the lack of them, and the low pay that the working class makes. These people are making economic decisions in a social environment. It may be the case that marriage is long-lasting and economic fruitful if you're upper middle class and have a set pathway to being a high five or low six figure household. But if you're making $20,000 in a community where everyone is making the same and chronic economic distress feeds into social ills and rives the vast majority of marriages asunder, it no longer appears wise to get married when you've had your kid at age 17 or even age 21. You have a trajectory to try to stick to if you want to get into the middle class; that includes education. If the unreliable father of your child shows up, he shows up. If he supports the baby, he supports it. But Murray's complaint is that broader social pressures are weak to force these marriages. And, in my experience, women tend to prioritize things like having a child, getting a stable job, and getting married. It can't all be their fault that men aren't showing up for them.

Social pressures are still pretty strong on women to get married--witness all this hectoring, but also witness the bridal industrial complex and dozens of movies that condition this. In contrast, social pressures are quite weak on men to get jobs to support their household obligations. The popular representation of this is the stoner or shiftless layabout--who makes money how, exactly? But honestly, when you think about this archetype, how much money is he making at the job he doesn't really care about? Is it more than his potential marriage partner? How does he feel that he struggles to make $10-15 an hour without benefits? Does he feel like the head of a household who can support a child and a wife? Or does he decide to give up on the whole frustrating and emasculating enterprise?

The weird thing is that the author picks up on the research finding that marriage helps men focus and solidifies their resolve in a turbulent economic maelstrom. But what kind of single mother rationally decides to invest more time and energy hectoring her potential husband into being there for the kids and reliably putting down roots in the relationship and food on the table? How many hours in the day is there for such a woman to make enough money to live on for herself and her kids, and is it worth the frustration and uncertain reward that this guy will hang around, invest in himself, and become a valued member of this fledgling family? It's not like jobs are growing on trees these days and he can easily build up his confidence and economic worth by getting a job with decent pay. That's something that he either has to decide he wants to devote all his energies to (and face rejection, humiliation, and emasculation at home) or withdraw into the informal economy and try to eke out some sort of money and belonging with a brotherhood of like-minded and like-monied men who are searching for something to pay them and make them feel valued in society.
(wrapped in quotation characers, because previous post ignored tags)
Comments:
"Under such circumstances the feedeback [sic] loop may be partially illusory, since the causative factor includes a significant genetic factor rather than behavioral alone."
The unemployed or underpaid are consigned as unemployable. One's genetics do not impose "tracking" upon one's career compensation.

"Similarly talking about enriched environments is a bit of a canard. Very yuppie. Think Socrates. He was able to understand the nature of the human condition without leaving Athens, and the Athens he lived in was quite circumscribed, being no larger than a third rate city today."
Did Socrates parents ply young Socrates with yuppie canards? Or was Socrates willing to open his mind to more than the tea of his social environment? Why do you mention geography? How are you measuring size when modern cities have greater travel speeds?

"End welfare."
Corporate welfare is only one tool of classwar.

Abridged comments:
"Moar religion!" [moral abdication to authority]
"It's teh liberrulz fault!"
You ignored/missed this:
In European countries such as France, Sweden, and the western part of Germany, the comparable percentages were half as large or even less.


"positive feedback loop - the output feeds right back into the inputs."
That describes any feedback. When input is independent of output, there is no feedback.
"A negative feedback loop would be something self-correcting"
I think you're mixing up convergence with feedback.
Negative feedback may cause increased alternation across the "center" value (WP: divergent series) or a "funneling" effect (WP: convergence to a limit).
Positive feedback may "move" by succeedingly smaller increments toward the limit, or may "move" toward infinity by increasing increments.
Anyway, beyond money, math has little relation to politics. (-:

"collectivist administration we now enjoy is the division of American society into antagonistic populations dependent upon one bureaucracy or another"
and liberals are even more antagonistic toward corporate welfare than you are.
. “By age thirty, one-third of American women had spent time as lone mothers,” observed family scholar Andrew Cherlin in his 2009 book The Marriage-Go-Round. “In European countries such as France, Sweden, and the western part of Germany, the comparable percentages were half as large or even less.”
Societal disintegration. The wages of classwar, economic balkanization.

Knowing that women are now expected to be able to raise children on their own, unskilled men lose much of the incentive to work, especially at the sometimes disagreeable jobs that tend to be the ones they can get.
Classwar legally deters them from earning living wage

In fact, scholars consistently find that unmarried men work fewer hours, make less money, and get fewer promotions than married men do.
Discrimination against singles is notorious.

Experts have come to believe that these are not just selection effects...
examined men who’d had “shotgun” marriages and thus probably hadn’t been planning to tie the knot
that's a self-selection effect, not an external selection effect.

Not only do poorer children have fewer “enrichment expenditures”; they also get less parental time and involvement.
Yes, but this must really be unionized teachers' fault. /tea
That’s not an America that anyone finds very attractive
Teas find it irresistibly attractive. Raison d'etre
Perhaps more than a quibble. A woman with a degree in nursing or teaching wasn't "marrying up". With precious few exceptions, nurse or teacher was as high as she could go. When marrying a doctor, the top of one group was marrying the top of another group.

The vast majority of women did not have careers, were not expected to have careers, indeed were shunned by some if they had one, and still managed to marry, up or down. Their jobs just didn't factor into the equation for most couples to be.
Very informative and candid article. Many who champion the "traditional family" believe that it promotes a healthy social mobility because the traditional family (for all its faults) works with human nature to promote the greatest measure of nurture of children from both a male and female perspective.
I assume Joel means a nurturing family, not a "neutering" (sic) one. Although, I suppose neutering would render this whole discussion moot. LOL
Although the article is focused mostly on economic issues, it should be noted that a significant number of children with single mothers are emotionally crippled because without a mate the mother uses the child inappropriatedly to hold herself together emotionally. It's called the "Parentification" of the child and it commonly leads to pathological codependency in adulthood.
Y brandstetter MD June 08, 2012 at 9:45 AM
Dear Kay
1. European women are less likely to be single mothers because they are less likely to be mothers at all. At 1.1 children per woman inclusive of married and immigrant women, single European singles have next to no children.
2. Taking your argument to extreme a pregnant woman would do her impregnator, herself and her baby a favor if she held a shotgun to the man's head on the way to church synagogue or registrar's office. Halleluya
3. Fortunately I live in Israel, where men are strong and women are beautiful - and strong, and our kids are wonderful. Greater halluyah
For the Left, what goes around comes around. We are reaping the results of all the wrong-headed liberal thinking of the past 50 years.
To :Jacqueline June 05, 2012 at 2:02 AM

You say there aren't enough men for all women to marry? Well, there are enough good, caring, respectful, courteous men for atleast 1/2 of the women who think there aren't enough men. Yes, I am talking about the socially ackward nerds who are ignored by most girls in their teens. These boys actually go to college, get degrees in Math / Engineering / Medicine and make $100,000 a year by the time they are 35. Catch them young (in middle school / high school) and be faithful to them during their ackward years and you will have "married up" and be ready to lead a reasonably comfortable life. Go after the high school jocks and end up with an "Al Bundy" from Married....with children. Well, atleast he is married.
interesting research, these statistics only prove that God's plan for children to be born into two parent families with Mother and Father present and involved, is the best one. Mess with that, and cultural decline will surely result.

Part of the problem, aside from the moral decline, is that so many laws, tax structures, etc, favor the single parent family. Try and get welfare when married. Have welfare and get married, lose the benefits. This tends to encourage the single mum to go it alone. Who needs a man when I've got the government?
I cannot diminish the reality of this social condition, but I am a single Dad, who raised his son in the 2000's and can attest to the reality of the "limiting mobility and increasing inequality." My son is now in his 2nd year of college and doing well and knows the importance of have a neutering family. It's the hardest job you will ever love, being a parent, regardless of the circumstances.
So guys, be a man and step up and do the best you can, or don't do it.
Uhh, actually I think both upper and lower classes are in positive feedback loops, i.e. good input --> good output & bad input --> bad output. What you mean to say, I think, is that the upper class benefits from a virtuous cycle and that the lower class is trapped in a vicious cycle.
I've got one minor, very pedantic quibble in the penultimate paragraph:

"At the bottom is a negative feedback loop, with kids raised by single mothers in unstable, low-investment homes finding themselves unable to adapt to today’s economy and going on to create more unstable, single-mother homes."

That is also a positive feedback loop - the output feeds right back into the inputs. A negative feedback loop would be something self-correcting - that is, if single-parent homes produced children who tended to marry, or the children of married couples produced children who became single parents.
While the author is correct in decrying the development of a caste society, this development is not necessarily something that can be easily changed. Some of the outcomes may not be dependant upon behavior. Rather the behavior may be dependant upon inherited factors which then mediate the behavior. Under such circumstances the feedeback loop may be partially illusory, since the causative factor includes a significant genetic factor rather than behavioral alone.

This has consequences, since while training may change behavior, some elements of a behavior may be more intractable since they are genetically based.

Similarly talking about enriched environments is a bit of a canard. Very yuppie. Think Socrates. He was able to understand the nature of the human condition without leaving Athens, and the Athens he lived in was quite circumscribed, being no larger than a third rate city today.

I see the behavior of the parent expressed in the behavior of the child even when the child is adopted at an early age. Impulsiveness, anger, depression, all likely have some genetic component.
B. Samuel Davis June 05, 2012 at 3:42 PM
So now we have the answer to poverty, the answer to dismal education achievement, the answer to crime, the answer to most major social ills.

In short, we have the cause of major societal ills, and the cure all in one. How wonderful.

And it turns out to be family - heck who would have thought - the institution that the Democratic Party and its media supporters have been working day and night for decades to destroy - this is the answer to ALL OF IT.

You can count on this: these truths will never get into the marketplace of ideas - the corrupt people at Democratic Party central know that keeping people poor, in poverty, unmarried and dependent is and always has been the key to their success - after all those who fit into the poor, uneducated, dependent catagory vote almost 100% Democrat in the mistaken - utterly mistaken belief that Democrats are pro-poor people. And Democrats will not do anything to reduce the numbers of these people - if anything they are working day and night to INCREASE the number of poor and dependent - these people are, after all, the BASE.

So, the conclusions in this article will be resisted at all costs.

So, what we have is an organization - the Democratic Party - dedicated to policies that not only make it easier for women not to get married if they have children, but also discourages fathers from being in the home - I recall the 60's articles about welfare "cheats" - in other words women who collected welfare benefits even though the father was in the home.

This same organization is supported by a media that is dedicated to the same thing - Murphy Brown and all - and in return for tolerating this as a society what we get is crime, poverty, and we get drugs, we get dismal schools since there is no will to be educated. And lots more since there is a different feel to this type of society.

Now that we have the cause of the social ills - and the cure - the question is whether any of this will get any publicity.

Never happen - since it doesn't play into the Democratic Party's theme that only Government (that big "G") can cure these ills, more government, which of course takes more money - and more liberty - from the citizens. According to Democrats, something as simple as adults getting married and staying together to raise children could never be the reason why we have societal ills.

After all - family - is a REPUBLICAN issue. The Democrats and the news-entertainment media complex supporting the Democrats will do whatever it takes to suppress the conclusions here. We can expect the usual assortment of Democratic tactics, from ignoring it, to assuming that "of course" this can't be true to mockery. And if necessary, the race card - Democrats will somehow find a way to argue that encouraging families to stay together to solve societal ills is racist, or anti-feminist or nativist or not politically correct.

So that the misery will continue - especially in the African American community where the lack of family has simply destroyed everything - causing crime, joblessness, dismal education achievements etc,

Sometimes it seems that thstemsDemocrats - won't stop until they have completely destroyed our society. Here we have the answer to the majority of the major social problems, including the epidemic of violence without end coming out of minority communities, poor education, drugs, crime, child neglect, the whole mushpuca, the statistics are RIGHT HERE, the answer is to encourage families to stay together, for father's to take care of children, probably further studies will find that it's better if grandparents, uncles, aunts cousins are involved as well - IT'S HERE - and I bet anything that the Democrats do whatever it takes to ignore it, or minimize it, or assume it 'can't' be true.

Awful people, just awful.
Ms. Hymowitz has clarified the statistics for us in a way that implicitly refutes common place "social justice" propaganda. In her description of the situation we are reminded of the power of individual choice--and of the imperative that it not be defeated through a host of bureaucratic aids and obstacles.

The aim of the collectivist administration we now enjoy is the division of American society into antagonistic populations dependent upon one bureaucracy or another. Its motive is the removal of power from the citizenry and its concentration in government agencies. The ultimate motivation of those supporting this is unclear, but the culmination of the administration's policies will be tyranny.

I apologize for introducing a political view where no political view is evident, but the object of this sort of analysis must always be political guidance.
The Ramey's are economists. Great Article otherwise.


What to do? End welfare.
"Defenders of the single-mother revolution", whom you touched upon earlier, certainly do find that America attractive. You described them yourself.
AMEN!! I have been arguing this point among my fellow teachers for years and have paid a price for daring to speak the truth. The kids in my lower level classes are casualties of the sexual revolution in which the sexual convenience of adults has taken precedence over the needs of children. For the most part they are sullen, resistant to learning, angry and confused. They express amazement when I tell them I have been married only once to the same man for forty years and that we have a very happy life together. When I tell them about other happily married couples, they tune in acutely. It's the only time I have their full attention. It's hard to describe the look in their eyes. It's like they want to believe but it's so far from their personal experience.

At the end of every school year, when I send my students off into young adulthood, I show a video about a young girl who was neglected during her childhood and how difficult it was for her to enter into society. They are always touched by this girl's story and at that moment are open to "life coaching". So I stick my neck out and explain how EVERY child is precious and deserving of two mature, devoted, committed parents capable of sacrificing their own whims in order to give their child a stable home. I am well aware that most of the kids I am addressing live in homes that are not like this. At first, I was afraid I would hear from angry defensive parents, but that hasn't been the case.

My hope is that this generation recognizes how they have been short-changed and that they will be able to turn this tide.....
Hymowitz leaves out the emotional factor.

Children badly brought up--through neglect/abuse by one or the other or both parents--are more likely to lack the ability to
(1) be chaste; (2) use birth control effectively; (3) pursue education/training; (4) pick romantic/sexual partners well; (5) weather the storms of a long-term relationship; and (6) parent their own eventual children well.
Why would a woman choose to have a child alone? If a responsible man -- respectful, courteous, loving and kind -- asked her to marry him and have children together, would she refuse? Though well-written, I think this story clearly is missing the true "root" of the problem. Knowing that there are many wonderful men -- this is not directed at you -- but, generally, there are not many fish in the sea worth catching. Women used to compete for men -- now they don't want one. From a sociology standpoint, one must question why.

Men who are like men, are not worthwhile. Men are selfish and violent. On the other hand, men who are godly and have truly noble, virtuous, pure and honorable motives and attributes are irresistible.
That anyone could argue with the conclusions of this article, and others like it, shows the intractability of the liberal mind set. For years I have made the comment, only half-jokingly, that I would love to slap the "feminazis" heads around backwards! Please, "ladies" do NOT help us any more! America has very nearly been ruined beyond all hope by liberal logic in its refusal to see what is right in front of its own nose.
If Charles Murray thinks disindustrialization has helped ruin family structure, we might take a harder look not at families, but at industry. You'd probably find that even in the heyday of steel, the proportion of Americans (and actual heads of household) working in the steel and energy intensive industries was very small. Or that the proportion of Americans was much higher in construction, whose vocations such as ditch digging were decidedly demeaning and hostile to family building even in the good old days. Those who built America were often transient and single men. Effective unemployment was higher than we would like to admit, and economic cycles were more rooted in the harsh economic realities of agriculture than today. Urbanization was a great opportunity, but a destroyer of families and extended relationships; witness the migration of southern cotton pickers up north in the 50's (whose scions, Black Americans, contributed more to "single motherhood" longer and more persistently than any other group). On the other hand, even Henry Ford, who sought a relationship between wages and the affordability of cars (remember the famous mantra of his?) relied on temp laborwho most probably crawled back to their parents on the farm when they had had enough of the factory -- and what wages they got.

So the ethos of industrial culture may be a bit overrated, and lack of marriage and other cultural values may count for more than we realize for material well being. One caveat though. I would say with marriage or not, the whole process of divorce, wage garnishment, deadbeat dad lawyering, child care interventionism, and national laws du jour named after Amber or some other missing/abused/underprivileged child,are enough to disabuse anyone of raising a family in the first place, or from having any other ambition to survive.
Abortion is a postive encouragement to this state of affairs, because every demographer will tell you its availibility increases illegimitacy.

How could it not? Can you imagine an easier way for a man to absolve his conscience than to remember it was her choice alone?
Could we be more precise when writing about the "middle class"? It shouldn't just mean people with a middle income: there really is a *class* difference in this country, two classes with different values and outlooks and usually marrying within their class. Talk to the good people who work every day with poor clients and you will learn that the latter just do not look at life the way middle-class people do. Not-so-good people take this fact as a rationale for giving up on the poor. I don't, but neither do I think we serve our society well by pretending that nothing distinguishes a middle class person beyond the thickness of his or her wallet.
This is interesting, but the problem isn't 'single mothers' it's 'single parents'. Or do you think a single father family fairs any better than a single mother one?
Moral decay! Oh my!
How about we interject some more Guaranteed-to-fail heathen approved virtue-blind moral steering incentive via another secular social science experiment turned government program? /s. Since we now believe unquestioningly that our founding father's fought and died to birth a new nation with the determined intent that their deepest underpinning religious beliefs would be outlawed and stricken from every public forum.
So why is this guy writing about the inequality between single mothers and the middle class, when the present day debate is about inequality between the middle class and the 1%? Talk about a red herring.
As usual, Mrs. Hymowitz delivers a well argued and well researched article. Make way for the woman.
Alena Hromádková,Prague June 04, 2012 at 2:50 PM
Perfect description of a socialist society or socialist subculture.God save America.
Murphy Brown was not so right, and Dan Quayle not so wrong, after all.
@Lynn & RBC - A couple of thoughts. If a single woman becomes pregnant - without chosing to, she should either abort (and it's interesting to see the single mother number so high, when we've certainly seen way too many abortions!) or give the child up for adoption. Not nearly enough adoptions going on. The single women seem to think that they'll be the outlier, that continuing poverty won't happen to them. Kind of like the idea that they won't become pregnant in the first place.

Second, according to our mixed race college aged daughter (and teenage son) - who won't even date because of the social problems - according to the current thought: if you date a boy/man at all, you're expected to sleep with him or else you're a tease.

Then: If you do sleep with him, and DO use birth control you're a slut.

Because why would you use birth control if you weren't sleeping with multiple men?
And if the guy is good enough to have sex with then you should want his child, if you "happen" to get pregnant.

Then if you stop dating the first man, the next one you date will definitely expect you to have sex with him because after all, you did with the other guy! And they all talk. Everyone knows.

This is especially true within the African American teen culture in our town. Have sex with one, have sex with all - and if you don't have sex you think you're too good and are obviously just a tease.

What an awful world we've allowed the liberal feminists to create for our daughters (and sons)!

So our daughter continues to not date at all and says she won't until she decides to marry in 5-10 years.
@Lynn Robb - Very few single woman "choose" to get pregnant. Birth control doesn't always work (I am a prize example of this!). Most of these pregnancies are not planned, even married couples experience unplanned children. The issue really comes down to whether the single parents will take responsibility and do what is necessary to raise the child correctly. My parents did (they were never married) but many parents just don't.
For what it is worth, I do not think Fishtown is fictional. Fishtown is actually a section of Philadelphia, northeast of center city near the waterfront near Girard Avenue and Frankford avenue. Definitely a working class neighborhood that was supported by a lots of light to mid-size manufacturers in that area, many of which are now gone.
We keep hearing about the breakdown of the American family from both sides of the aisle, but the only discussion is how to manage its effects not how to stop the trend.

What is missing is a discussion of why single mothers choose to get pregnant if they know they cannot afford to adequately care for a child. The correspondent question is why boys/men choose to father children when they have no intention of forming a family and taking responsibility for it.

We live in an age where it is easy to get birth control. A condom might not be ideal, but it is certainly cheap and far better than nothing. Not to mention "no" has never stopped being an option for women. With the empowerment of women one would have thought self-restraint and the consistent use use of birth control would have increased far more than it has.
jan ten brummelhuis June 04, 2012 at 9:20 AM
I think the analysis is clear. But take also notice of that other fundamental change: the changing spread of American wealth. We see the development of prosperous urban areas like the Bay Area, Seattle, NY and Massachusetts next to totally deprived American regions like parts of the South and the Midwest. Money, adventure, talents tend to cluster! The outcome is a split world, with a lot of hatred coming your/our way. I think the Tea Party is already a foreshadowing of what is to come.
So are we supposed to chill out, man up and marry down to save America?
Thank you for the excellent and informative column. However, similar to Charles Murray, you do not suggest a solution to this very real problem. Any reasonable guess toward a solution is needed, if only to spark discussion. Or is this an intractable problem that 21st century Americans will have to learn to live with?

I am thoroughly frustrated with all politicians who avoid mentioning, let alone trying to solve, what I see to be the structural problems in 21st century America problems that , if not solved, will lead to a radically different society from the one we now participate in. This is but one of the problems. Others have to do with the increasingly racially/religiously diverse population, the shrinking numbers in the working age brackets, and many more.

All politicians blather about are "problems" that are ridiculously easy to solve, given the will. Budget deficits are easily solved by increasing taxes, modifying age qualifications for entitlements, modifying size of entitlements based on income, cost controls on Medicare D drugs, and other budget modifications. The fact is, we know how to solve these problems, but for political reasons we won't.

On the other hand, the really serious problems that threaten society, like the one described in this column, are ignored. Thank you, Ms. Hymowitz, for at least bringing it up.
Add to everything pointed out in this article the following: In female-headed households, boys quickly learn how to manipulate women and get away with it. They learn to flatter, lie, ignore, threaten and bully. These are behaviors that usually will not be tolerated by competent, adult males. These negative behaviors then inform the fatherless boys' adult relationships with women and society's authorities.