It’s Not Just The Economy Devastating Working-Class Families

From W. Bradford Wilcox at The Federalist:

The first step required to confront a problem is to get out of denial, and realize that you have a problem. Thanks to the work of scholars like Sara McLanahan, Isabel Sawhill, June Carbone, Naomi Cahn, and Andrew Cherlin, a growing number of family scholars, policymakers, and journalists now realize that we have a family problem in America. It is this: there is a growing marriage divide that leaves millions of men, women, and children in poor and working-class communities without ready access to the stability, emotional security, and financial resources marriage affords.

That this is a problem is no longer debatable. The retreat from marriage in working-class and poor communities across the United States hinders educational and economic opportunity, helps drive the crime rate higher in these communities, and exacts a serious social and emotional toll on children. It also—as Robert Lerman and I argue in a new report, “For Richer, For Poorer”—seems to account for almost one-third of the growth in family income inequality since the late 1970s.

To understand how to fix America’s family problem, we need an accurate diagnosis of it. Here, Andrew Cherlin’s magisterial “Labor’s Love Lost: The Rise and Fall of the Working-Class Family in America” provides a cogent, concise, and largely compelling account of why marriage is floundering in working-class communities, and flourishing in more affluent, college-educated ones. His account shows that conservatives “who insist that family changes are wholly a matter of cultural shifts” are as wrong as progressives who insist that America’s family problem is simply a “matter of economics alone.” Instead, Cherlin deftly points out how shifts in the economy and the culture have together combined to undercut the health of marriage and the stability of family life in working-class communities across the country.

Read more: The Federalist