The Corner

Terrific Op-Ed by Ron Haskins

The Washington Post today has a special section on “Children & Families,” which includes a terrific opinion piece by Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, with the online title, “Three simple rules poor teens should follow to join the middle class.” And the three rules are: “At least finish high school, get a full-time job and wait until age 21 to get married and have children.” Indeed, “of American adults who followed these three simple rules, only about 2 percent are in poverty and nearly 75 percent have joined the middle class.”

Most of the piece is devoted to a discussion of the third rule, which makes perfect sense since it is the one that is the most controversial, even though it shouldn’t be. As Haskins notes, “Children in female-headed families are four or more times as likely as children from married-couple families to live in poverty. In turn, poverty is associated with a wide range of negative outcomes in children, including school dropout and out-of-wedlock births.” Haskins also points out that, while nationally out-of-wedlock birthrates are “soaring,” that is not true across the socioeconomic spectrum: “The marriage culture seems to be alive and well for those with a college degree.”

The piece ends with a discussion of Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign to inform teenagers of the consequences of teen pregnancy and the attack on that campaign by, of all organizations, Planned Parenthood. Haskins skillfully defends Bloomberg, and concludes by urging him to double down: “Bloomberg should next launch a public campaign about the value of marriage to adults, children and society. There will be at least as many critics of this message as the message that young people should avoid teen pregnancy. Good. The bigger the controversy, the more the media will cover the debate, and the more the nation will have the opportunity to reflect on what is at stake. I am confident that most Americans will conclude that organizations like Planned Parenthood have it wrong, and Bloomberg has it right.” 


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