Most Americans support marriage, most Americans want to get married, and most Americans do get married. Why then is the institution atrophying among those with least education and lowest incomes?
A lack of “marriageable” men is a common explanation. It is clear that the labor market prospects of poorly-educated men are dire. But the language itself betrays inherent conservatism. “Marriageability” here means, principally, breadwinning potential. Nobody ever apparently worries about the “marriageability” of a woman: Presumably she just has to be fertile.
If a man can’t earn — and that’s apparently his only authentic contribution — he becomes just another mouth to feed, another child. But men with children are something more than just potential earners: They are fathers. And what many children in our poorest neighborhoods need most of all is more parenting.
The simple, sad truth is that this nation faces a deficit of fathers.
The proportion of children being raised by a single parent has more than doubled in the last four decades. Most black children are now being raised by a single mother. Mass incarceration plays a role here: More than half of black men without a high school degree do some jail time before they turn 30. In short, the nation faces a fathering deficit. By continuing to see the male role in such constricting terms—as breadwinner or nothing—we are inadvertently contributing to the slow death of marriage in our most disadvantaged communities.
Here, the traditional marriage needs to be turned on its head. In many low-income families, it is the mother who has the best chance in the labor market. But this doesn’t make men redundant. It means men need to start doing the “women’s work” of raising kids. Although there is a lingering determinism about parenting and gender roles, recent evidence — in particular from Ohio State University sociologist Douglas B. Downey — suggests that women have no inherent competitive advantage in the parenting stakes.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Suggestion for husbands to raise kids
Here is another article on the decline of marriage. Usually these blame men, but here is a different take. Leftist Richard V. Reeves writes in Atlantic magazine: