Overlooking Marriage

by Heather Mac Donald

Appearing on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal yesterday, former Michigan governor John Engler purported to cite Ron Haskins on the three crucial steps a young person can take that will virtually guarantee a life free from poverty. In his recent Senate testimony, Haskins listed them:

Complete at least a high school education, work full time, and wait until age 21 and get married before having a baby. 

This is hardly a new concept; Clinton adviser William Galston articulated it in the 1990s. Only problem was, when citing Haskins, Engler left out the most important part of the third step: getting married. Instead, he reduced the advice to merely getting a high-school education, working, and waiting until 21 to have a baby. 

This was a depressing omission whatever its cause. If Engler simply overlooked the marriage part, it shows that conservatives have failed to impress even on mainstream Republicans the crucial importance of marriage to individual life prospects and to civilization itself. If, on the other hand, he censored himself because invoking marriage might be too divisive, we really have a long way to go. The best possible interpretation is that Engler simply assumes that no one would have a baby outside of marriage — an assumption that is wildly naïve today.  

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