Family Talk

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Robert Maranto and Michael Crouch write in the Wall Street Journal:

Suppose a scientific conference on cancer prevention never addressed smoking, on the grounds that in a free society you can’t change private behavior, and anyway, maybe the statistical relationships between smoking and cancer are really caused by some other third variable. Wouldn’t some suspect that the scientists who raised these claims were driven by something—ideology, tobacco money—other than science?

Yet in the current discussions about increased inequality, few researchers, fewer reporters, and no one in the executive branch of government directly addresses what seems to be the strongest statistical correlate of inequality in the United States: the rise of single-parent families during the past half century.

While the Journal authors argue, essentially, that the Left, given its preoccupations, should talk more about single parenthood, Reihan Salam suggests the Right should talk about it less.

Though nonmarital childbearing is a problem, it is but one of several problems facing American children, and it is arguably a smaller problem than the low level of parental employment and union instability. The American family is changing in ways that make talk of “illegitimacy” less convincing [than] it might have been in earlier eras — there is a danger that conservatives who focus on the dangers of non-marital childbearing are preaching to the choir, and alienating Americans for whom union instability and unemployment are serious and pervasive problems. Marriage is vitally important. But conservatives would do well to focus on the virtues of work and family stability just as much, if not more, as they do on the virtues of marriage.  

Maybe so, as long as we also get across the point that marriage does a lot to promote family stability, and for that matter work.