Backing Up the Family Breakdown and Poverty Connection

Interesting Quotes from Sociologists

“Sharply rising rates of divorce, unwed mothers, and runaway fathers do not represent ‘alternative life styles’. They are rather patterns of adult behavior with profoundly negative consequences for children.”

–Elaine Kamarck and William Galston, Putting Children First: A Progressive Family Policy for the 1990’s, a publication of the Democratic Leadership Council

“I know of few other bodies of data in which the weight of the evidence is so decisively on one side of the issue: on the whole, for children, two-parent families are preferable . . .If our prevailing views on family structure hinged solely on scholarly evidence, the current debate would never have arisen in the first place.”

— David Popenoe, former Dean of Social Sciences, Rutgers University

“Children who grow up in a household with only one biological parent are worse off, on average, than children who grow up in a household with both of their biological parents, regardless of the parents’ race or educational background (italics added), regardless of whether the parents are married when the child is born, and regardless of whether the resident parent remarries.”

–Princeton sociologist Sara McLanahan and the University of Wisconsin’s Gary Sandefur

“We know what the cause of poverty is in this country and, like it or not, it’s divorce and non-wedlock childbearing. We know that for every three divorces, one family ends up below the poverty line. The average woman with dependent children who ends up in poverty stays poor for eight months. The federal government pays for part of that, but states pay the balance. Divorce, by itself, is a major economic issue.”

–Sociology professor Steve Nock of the University of Virginia in a New York Times story

Relevant statistics and academic study conclusions (citations available):

• The poverty rate for children living with cohabiting parents is five times that of children with married parents. The poverty rate for children living with single mothers is seven times that of children with married parents.

• The average married father annually contributes about thirty thousand dollars to the welfare of his children. The annual contribution of a non-custodial father averages about three thousand dollars yearly.

• In 1998, 12% of black children with married parents lived in poverty, BUT 55% of black children with single moms lived in poverty.

• Only 6% of births to women above the poverty line are out of wedlock. To contrast, 44% of births to white women under the poverty line are out of wedlock.

• Children who grow up with only one of their biological parents are three times more likely to have a child out of wedlock, 2.5 times more likely to become teenage mothers, and 1.4 times more likely to be out of school and unemployed.

• Daughters of single parents are 164% more likely to have a premarital birth and 92% more likely to have a divorce than daughters of married parents.

• According to a 1994 report in American Economic Review, those who leave welfare because of marriage are the least likely to return.

• “Among married-couple households, the bracket with the largest number of households is $75,000 and over. Among ‘other family groups,’ the bracket with the largest number of households is that under $10,000.”

• Children of two-parent lower income black homes perform better in college than children from single-parent affluent black homes.

• Children who grow up with one parent are twice as likely to drop out of high school than kids with both parents at home.

• Children whose parents are divorced are more likely to exhibit conduct problems, psychological maladjustment, and lower academic achievement.

• Children in two-parent families receive the highest grades in school of any family structure.

• Seventy-two percent of America’s adolescent murderers, 70% of long-term prison inmates, and 60% of rapists come from fatherless homes.

• Boys raised outside of an intact nuclear family are more than twice as likely as other boys to end up in prison, even controlling for a range of social and economic factors.

• Married women are much less likely to be victims of violent crime than unmarried or divorced women. Only 14.4 married women per 1000 are victimized versus 60.6 never-married women per 1000 and 53.6 divorced or separated women per 1000.

• A cohabiting boyfriend is thirty-three times more likely to abuse a child than a married father who lives with the mother.

• A biological father who cohabits with the mother, but is not married to her, is twenty times more likely to abuse his own child than fathers who are married to the mothers of the child.

• Cohabiting women are more likely to suffer severe violence from their partners than are married women.

• Children without resident fathers are more vulnerable to predators, both sexual and physical, outside the family.

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27 thoughts on “Backing Up the Family Breakdown and Poverty Connection

  1. Is this an argument for abortion? Young women who get pregnant outside of marriage are shown by your statistics to be the highest risk of poverty, crime, etc.

    I’m all for taking young women out of poverty.

    Or is there something here that I’m missing that is arguable?

  2. I frankly don’t know what, if any, social pathologies are associated with abortion. I’ve heard those who abort are more likely to physically abuse their kids, but that could be B.S.. I know that on occasions when I’ve testified before legislative committees, I heard testimonies from women who had abortions and it was enough to make you weep. I’m never going to forget the African-American woman who talked about having dreams of her unborn son coming to her and asking her why she killed him.

    Setting that aside, I’d argue that my stats are not an argument for abortion because killing innocents is an unacceptable way of solving problems. The better path, morally speaking, would be to encourage a cultur of sex and reproduction within marriage. It’s really not so hard. We had something quite similar a few decades ago.

    And for those who violated it, we had a thing called a shotgun marriage.

  3. Hunter, I was funning you mostly. I pretty strongly agree in the institution of marriage, having been married for 21 years. The reason I was joking was because I don’t know reasonable person (and that includes liberals) who would disagree that marriage is a fine institution and that children from two parent homes have a much greater opportunity for success and mental health.

    So if you perceived that people were anti-marriage I really think you are boxing at shadows or fringe left types.

    Then everyone responds with “aha” as if some great revelation has been achieved or a major argument shot down. So that’s why I was asking if it was an argument for abortion, because I perceive most everyone is for marriage.

    i would add that the poverty level doesn’t speak to marriage so much as it does to the fact that most single mothers have little working skills to make money. A lot of them get pregnant young and end up in a cycle of welfare.

  4. Connie, I was addressing Tlaloc. In an earlier set of comments, I sensed pushback from one of the contestants on my assertions about family breakdown and poverty. Felt the need to establish the connection.

    The original debate was over the death penalty and racism. It spilled into why there are differences between the races in various demographic areas. I eventually contended that the higher degree of family breakdown or non-family formation in the African-American community was a (not the only) reason why large segments of that group continue to fail to thrive. I also claimed we would see the same thing among whites in the same boat.

  5. Connie, I was addressing Tlaloc. In an earlier set of comments, I sensed pushback from one of the contestants on my assertions about family breakdown and poverty. Felt the need to establish the connection.

    Ah. Well I did make a comment that only fringe left types would fail to see the value of families and marriage.

    One aspect to consider is that so many families now days are two incomes, with the wife working. When one is talking non-unionized working class, two incomes is almost a necessity.

    You need to make sure that you aren’t mistaking cause for effect in looking at black poverty.

  6. Thomas Sowell (and others) have convincingly made the case that the War on Poverty absolutely destroyed the black nuclear family among the lower classes and froze many people in a nigh inescapable cycle of poverty.

    Mom has kids out of wedlock. Dad is non-existent. She collects welfare and leads a not very fun life with help from Grandma. Transitional males may visit the household from time to time. Overall, not a very conducive environment for thriving children who will move on to better things.

  7. “Connie, I was addressing Tlaloc. In an earlier set of comments, I sensed pushback from one of the contestants on my assertions about family breakdown and poverty. Felt the need to establish the connection.”

    I’m not sure why you got that sense. I don’t think I ever disputed that a child in a house with two incomes is going to be better off than with only one (assuming that the one income is generally of similar level to each of the two). But that wasn’t what we were debating at all.

    “The original debate was over the death penalty and racism. It spilled into why there are differences between the races in various demographic areas. I eventually contended that the higher degree of family breakdown or non-family formation in the African-American community was a (not the only) reason why large segments of that group continue to fail to thrive. I also claimed we would see the same thing among whites in the same boat.”

    I’m glad you did eventually remember what we were actually discussing.

  8. “Thomas Sowell (and others) have convincingly made the case that the War on Poverty absolutely destroyed the black nuclear family among the lower classes and froze many people in a nigh inescapable cycle of poverty.”

    Sowell is an economist and not a sociologist. He is also a ridiculously right wing partisan who is feted by people like the AEI and a member of the Hoover Institute. Could you find a person less credible to criticize liberal policies on race? Maybe David duke, but even that’s a close call.

  9. Thomas Sowell is perfectly credible. Certainly as credible as Paul Krugman.

    My contentions via the sociological stats were not limited to the question of two incomes versus one. You are once again purposefully reading the statements made in the light most favorable to your desired case.

  10. “Thomas Sowell is perfectly credible.”

    Let me repeat: Hudson Institute. AEI.

    “My contentions via the sociological stats were not limited to the question of two incomes versus one.”

    Meaning?

  11. Let me repeat: Hudson Institute. AEI.

    You left out Stanford, UCLA, Brandeis and Cornell, not to mention numerous other bona fides.

    You’re on the wrong blog site to dismiss Sowell out of hand, Tlaloc…this is a ‘road game’ for you. Make a real argument.

  12. “Meaning?”

    Meaning, you got pounded on this one. The statistics offered show beyond doubt that intact families are better for children in a wide variety of ways that go beyond the merely economic. You can pretend not to see the full implications or to be confused by claims clearly made, but it won’t change the end result.

  13. All your sources are unreliable. What else you got?

    Oh, well. I tried. It would be interesting if it weren’t so predictible.

  14. “You left out Stanford, UCLA, Brandeis and Cornell, not to mention numerous other bona fides.”

    where his degrees were in Econ, Econ, and Econ. See my first point. As for his other accolades do any of them come from people more credible than the AEI?

    “You’re on the wrong blog site to dismiss Sowell out of hand, Tlaloc…this is a ‘road game’ for you. Make a real argument.”

    I’m sorry Matt but Hunter’s argument was “Sowell says so!” That might be compelling if the guy wasn’t lauded by people who make a carreer out of not knowing what they are talking about. The AEi is abad joke. What was the last thing they got right? They were the ones really pulling for Chalabi, remember? The guy who suckered us and sold our secrets to the Iranians and then couldn’t get even .2% of the vote in Iraq… remember him? That was their favorite to lead Iraq. The guys are utterly incompetent.

    Putting them down as you biggest selling point is pretty much seppuku.

  15. “Meaning, you got pounded on this one. The statistics offered show beyond doubt that intact families are better for children in a wide variety of ways that go beyond the merely economic.”

    I hardly consider them beyond doubt and most of them say no such thing. The first stat applies equally to remarried parents as to originally married parents. Ditto the second, third, and fourth.

    The fifth stat does actually speak to married BIOLOGICAL parents. However it at best shows a strong correlation and not a causal relationship.

    The sixth is in the same vein as the first through fourth (i.e. reference to marriage but no reference that it must be the childs biological parents who are married).

    The seventh seems just irrelevent.

    The eighth and ninth again says nothing about a traditional family (i.e. married biological parents).

    The tenth is unclear by what it means as far as “both parents” does that refer to biological parents or just having two married adults. Depending on which way it is supposed to be read it may or may not support your contention.

    The eleventh is good for you, but of course there’s a lot more to the issue. Rather than compare children of divorce to children of all married it should be children of divorce to children of dysfunctional married couples. Obvious a couple that wishes to divorce but is forced to stay together is going to be much more likely to be dysfunctional.

    twelve and thirteen again say nothing about biological parents or just married parents.

    fourteen might be good for you but I question how exactly they chose to “control for a range of social and economic factors”

    fifteen and sixteen again don’t distinguish married from married biological parents.

    seventeen actually works against you because the obvious corrolary is that a father who never sees his kids abuses them 0% of the time.

    eighteen and nineteen again don’t distinguish married from married biological parents.

    Notice a pattern? The VAST majority of stats you threw up there say nothing at all about your contention. three and maybe four (depending on how the tenth is to be read) work for your argument out of 19 that you quoted. Not exactly a good ratio, Hunter.

    You have a few decent stats that say married biological parents might be better. Of course I never said anything to the opposite. WHat we argued, and I hate to try and point you back toward the actual argument AGAIN was that welfare causes the break up of the nuclear family.

    I’m still waiting for you to provide a shred of evidence in that regard. I can’t believe it’s so hard for you given that you said the relationship was established beyond any doubt.

  16. “Oh, well. I tried. It would be interesting if it weren’t so predictible.”

    I’m sorry to bore you by asking for someone with credibility. Perhaps next time you can bother to find one. Until such point I’ll just keep boring you by not accepting that econoidiots know sociology better than, well, sociologists.

    Such is life.

  17. I recognize what the original argument was, but in the course of that argument you questioned other assertions, which I chose to answer with a slew of stats painstakingly compiled a couple of years ago.

    On the matter of welfare damaging nuclear families, particularly in the black community, there are many books to make the case. Myron Magnet’s “The Dream and the Nightmare,” Olasky’s “The Tragedy of American Compassion,” and “Losing Ground” by Charles Murray. I imagine there are scores more.

  18. I’m sorry Matt but Hunter’s argument was “Sowell says so!”

    No it wasn’t. He referenced a very well-known author, who’s thoughts on the subject are readily accessible and then provided an off-the-cuff summary of his work. If you disagree with or unclear about the reference, all you have to do is explain why Sowell is a crank (preferably on grounds other than that he’s an economist) or ask for a more specific citation.

    Sowell is on good terms over here until proven otherwise. Consider where you are, the burden is on you to provide reasons for dismissing well-respected sources.

  19. “I recognize what the original argument was, but in the course of that argument you questioned other assertions, which I chose to answer with a slew of stats painstakingly compiled a couple of years ago.”

    I honestly don’t believe I ever challenged the idea that a kid id generally better off with two parents.

    “On the matter of welfare damaging nuclear families, particularly in the black community, there are many books to make the case. Myron Magnet’s “The Dream and the Nightmare,” Olasky’s “The Tragedy of American Compassion,” and “Losing Ground” by Charles Murray. I imagine there are scores more.”

    Thank you.

  20. Reread that quote. It is absolutely “Sowell says so.” There is not one fact attributed except that Sowell has made a case.

    And in the next paragraph Hunter provides a summary riff. If you had wanted more specifics (Lord, only knows why – Hunter practically wrote a book in the original post), you could have asked…but wait, you didn’t – you just dismissed Sowell out of hand.

    I did explain why he was a crank. He is an economist. That’s the first strike against him since we are discussin is not economic theory but sociology.

    Which makes him exceedingly well qualified to address economic issues, like poverty.

    Second strike because he cannot be trusted to be impartial.

    Give me a break. Anyone with a thought (an economic or sociological theory) is a partisan.

    Lastly he boasts of being associated with a bunch of people who frankly make Bush look a grade A genius in comparison.

    A quick scroll through the list of fellows puts him in good company.

    Strike three. Game set match. The appeal to Authority is overruled on grounds of being laughable.

    Let’s see, you’ve still said nothing about any of Sowell’s actual work – ever. But whatever works for you.

  21. Matt, I have a theory that T-man has a tic requiring him to have the last post in any thread in which he participates. He’ll keep talking whether or not there is anything to say.

  22. “And in the next paragraph Hunter provides a summary riff.”

    again without any sort of stats or attributations which means it was STILL and appeal to authority.

    “Which makes him exceedingly well qualified to address economic issues, like poverty.”

    Not when the issue is poverty and marriage. Or Poverty and Race. Or Poverty and nuclear families. These are sociological issues, not economic ones.

    “Give me a break. Anyone with a thought (an economic or sociological theory) is a partisan.”

    That’s not true and you know it. If the University of Washington does a detailed study thats one thing. If the Cato institute does a study that’s another. It doesn’t mean that Cato is automatically wrong of course, but invoking them as an authority is simply not going to work. Everyone knows they are founded to forward a certain view. That’s partisan.

    “A quick scroll through the list of fellows puts him in good company.”

    Oh yeah. John Yoo, architect of our torture policy and illegal wiretapping policy. Frum who helped get us into Iraq and wrote the phrase “axis of evil.” Lynne Cheney who supports conservative causes while writing lesbian pornography. Gerect who has managed to be completely wrong on basically every aspect of the middle east. Gingrich who was too dumb to figure out that his “allies” had no intetion of reforming anything and was stabbed in the back as soon as he got them into power. Glassman who embaraased himself by predicting a 36,000 Dow in 1999 (the Dow didn’t hit a third of that). Ledeen who was part of the Iran-Contra scandal. John Lott whose gun theories are so bizarre even other gun nuts take issue with them. Murray author of “the Bell Curve.” Perle, another idiot who got us into Iraq. Should I go on?

    What part of this is so hard to accept? The AEI is a bunch of losers. By all means point me at these outstanding accomplishments of theirs that engender such respect in you despite their gratuitous failings.

    “Let’s see, you’ve still said nothing about any of Sowell’s actual work – ever. But whatever works for you.”

    As before it was an appeal to authority, one that lacked any merit. If you want to actually invoke some specific work of his then we can talk about it, but frankly that’s on you not me.

  23. “The AEI is a bunch of losers.”

    I find this amusing from the fellow who is constantly complaining about inadequately backed up statements.

    I still think you’ve got a tic. I’ll keep topping your last post and we’ll see if we can get to 150!

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