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Tags: brookings | cohabitation | polarization

Santorum: Govt Shouldn't Hinder Working Families

Santorum: Govt Shouldn't Hinder Working Families

By    |   Tuesday, 07 June 2022 10:55 AM EDT

Something very unusual has been happening in America in the last four decades, and it may explain the rise in polarization that now perplexes many.

Almost entirely unnoticed, the way people organize their families has changed with dramatic effect.

Even though the majority of today’s high school students, and unmarried 20- and 30-year-olds, say they want to get married, "who" gets to fulfill these private and personal aspirations is increasingly limited.

In fact, trends show that getting married and having a stable family life is now the growing preserve of the wealthy and educated.

While divorces skyrocketed in the 1980s, particularly among the affluent, this trend is now in reverse.

In fact, while 60% of middle or upper class 18-55 year-olds are married, that figure falls to 40% among the working class, and just 20% for the poor.

Even though the aspiration to establish and enjoy a stable family is high regardless of background, marriage is being replaced for poor and working-class Americans with a mix of cohabitation, divorce, nonmarital childbearing, and single living.

By 2019, the share of babies born outside of marriage to mothers with only a high school degree was almost 60%, compared to 10% for mothers with a four-year degree or more.

This is a problem.

A recent study by Richard Reeves at Brookings looked at the life outcomes of children born in the bottom 20% by income.

The study made a significant finding:

Those children raised by a never-married lone parent had a one-in-two chance of rising out of the bottom quintile by adulthood. Yet, those raised by married parents saw a four-out-of-five chance.

This means that being able to achieve a stable family life is not predicated upon income. Rather, it's the other way round. Benefiting from a stable family life helps you to accumulate financial assets. That makes sense. There is the possibility of dual incomes, one rent or mortgage payment, economies of scale.

And, there is the abundance of social science that says married individuals are happier, healthier, live longer, and are more economically productive than their unmarried counterparts.

And that’s likely because the rich network of relationships that develop in the raising of children and then go on to sustain individuals throughout their lives, personally and professionally, creates social capital.

It's social capital that boosts life chances, not just money.

What we are seeing in America today is a set of people who accumulate both sets of assets: social capital as well as financial capital. While another group of people are unable to acquire either.

There is nothing in, or about, this diversity to celebrate over.

While the personal aspiration to secure a stable family life is almost universal, there is clearly an impediment to everyone being able to achieve their ambitions.

A paper published by Brad Wilcox and the Social Capital Campaign (a group that I advise) highlighted a number of key research findings that tell a story many of us have been banging on for years.

Harvard economist Raj Chetty observes that "the most predictive factor of upward mobility in a community was the share of homes with two parents present in the household."

Or research by Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson who finds that "Family structure is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, predictors of . . .  urban violence across cities in the United States."

These startling academic claims demonstrate that we shouldn’t be casual about the state of the family in America today. At the most, that we should aim to help those who want to fulfil their dreams to form strong families — for all of our sakes.

People want to marry and form strong stable families.

Any number of things can get in the way of people being able to do just that.

Government shouldn’t be one of them.

Federal welfare policies often end up penalizing low-income individuals for marrying.

This week’s report (at page 24) indicates that a single pregnant woman earning $21,000 per year who qualifies for Medicaid/CHIP coverage for her own care and the cost of childbirth, loses that benefit should she marry the father of the child who, say, makes $29,000.

Her attempts to create a secure, stable family, with a combined income of $50,000 spells financial cost and huge uncertainty at a critical time in her life, as well as the child’s and the father’s. It is working-class Americans who bear the brunt of such marriage penalties - for some couples in excess of 30% of income.

This writer is a believer in smaller government, but is an even bigger believer in — that if government is going to get involved it should consistently do things right.

Marriage penalties were removed for upper-income families in 2017.

It’s time to do the same for working class families — now. 

Rick Santorum is a Newsmax contributor. He served as a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2007.

© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

People want to marry and form strong stable families. Any number of things can get in the way of people being able to do just that. Government shouldn’t be one of them.
brookings, cohabitation, polarization
Tuesday, 07 June 2022 10:55 AM
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