The Corner

Let’s Marry!

I love the suggestion Abby Schachter runs with in the Wall Street Journal today: For the second Obama term, Michelle Obama ought to make marriage her cause. 

In trying to make the case to the First Lady, Schachter reminds us:

Today in America, 26% of children are raised by a single parent, including 72% in the black community. Among poor families with children, 71% are headed by single parents, mostly single mothers.

The economics are plainly better for married couples with children—their joint income averages $80,000, while single mothers average $24,000. And getting out of poverty from a single-parent situation isn’t easy. A 2010 Pew report found that “among children who start in the bottom third of the income distribution, only 26% with divorced parents move up to the middle or top third as adults, compared to 50% of children with continuously married parents.”

All policy and worldview differences aside, I’ve long thought that if the Obamas would make marriage — and fatherhood, in a particular way — a priority, they could be a positive force in American culture and lives. As Brad Wilcox and I discussed recently, in particular, the 60 percent of Americans that have a high-school degree but not a college degree aren’t getting married; 44 percent of their children are born out of wedlock. The recent The President’s Marriage Agenda for the Forgotten Sixty Percent” report from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Institute for American Values is aimed directly at the administration on this marriage matter.  

Schachter’s not betting on it. As she points out, the Obama reelection campaign’s infamous Julia never had a husband. But if the president could take a break from demonizing congressional Republicans, he might realize we’re in no financial shape to support a nation of Julias, and it wouldn’t be healthy for anyone, anyway, even if we could. 

The Obama family has been blessed by marriage, two daughters with a father and mother. To share this good in a more proactive way would be a help. As Schachter writes:

Surely the Obamas care about the health and well-being of America’s children as much as they say they do. The president and first lady also no doubt know that their own union is the source of strength and success for each other and their children. If Mr. and Mrs. Obama want to send a valuable message to young people about the benefits of marriage, a good first step would be to move away from a vision of the country with government as paterfamilias.

She quotes from the NRO interview with Wilcox:

The biggest thing that President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama could do is to get behind a public campaign to promote married parenthood, much like the campaign the First Lady has conducted on behalf of healthy eating. The Obamas have gone the distance in their marriage, and they could encourage more of their fellow citizens to follow in their footsteps for the sake of kids across this great country of ours. The president could also support efforts to make federal welfare and tax policy more marriage-friendly.

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