7 March 2012
Recently, US media have been tripping over their own wires to field a story on a candidate for US President in 2012 who says that lone motherhood is a social problem.
But that’s a reality.
“No matter what the outcome being examined . . . the family structure that produces the best outcomes for children, on average, are two biological parents who remain married.” (Charles Murray, Coming Apart, p. 158) This fact is massively documented. So why is it a huge social offence to say so?
Recently, I’ve been examining Murray’s findings in Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (Crown Forum, 2012), which examines the decay of traditional working-class neighborhoods such as his iconic Fishtown, contrasting it with nearby upper-middle-class Belmont, which is doing mostly just fine by comparison.
The question isn’t why the lone mother lifestyle is bad for kids.
That’s easy: What’s missing is all the adults besides Mom who are not—and cannot be—a permanent part of the kid’s life. Many Fishtown kids grow up half-socialized because Mom can’t do it all on the home front. In normal societies throughout history and across the world, Mom has never been expected to. That’s new, it’s different, and it usually doesn’t work.
No, the critical question is this: Why isn’t the nature of the problem more generally recognized? Why is the solution always assumed to be that government should give lone mothers more money—as if money could replace Grandpa Jack or Aunt Lynda or Cousin Jane (the missing dad’s folks)? Not only is the nature of the problem not recognized, but anyone who even notices it in public is likely to be attacked in both news and entertainment media.
Here is why media can’t talk honestly about the lone motherhood problem:
Whether journalists come from Fishtown or not, they mostly cater to the opinion of people who read—in these times, that’s Belmont. So, they portray the world the way the upper middle class wants to see it. In Belmont, lone motherhood is rare. Murray notes,
My best estimate is that nonmarital births in Belmont as of 2008 were around 6 to 8 percent of all births, whereas in Fishtown they were around 43 to 48 percent of all births. (p. 163)
So most Belmonters don’t know much about the mass lone-mother lifestyle.
It’s easy, when catering to Belmont, to indulge in biting prose against persecutors of lone mothers who bitterly cling to old-fashioned attitudes about women or marriage. Who, after all, identifies with cretins who would persecute a lone mother and her child?
No one. And that’s just the point. Fear of being seen that way makes lone motherhood very difficult to discuss among people who have no idea what Murray is talking about. But the problem for the Fishtown child of a lone mother is the same. The children’s voices are stilled.
To succeed, most journalists and sociology profs must finance living in or near Belmont on incomes much closer to Fishtown’s (Murray, p. 51). So they are not really the best people to go to, in order to discover the truth about Fishtown these days. To understand that, we must listen to the few writers who might need the protection of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
If you have not read it, and are an American citizen, you should read it now. Carefully. It may help you understand why journalists and profs who speak out treasure it so highly. And why the country so much needs to hear from them.
Churches just want your money, that’s all! Or is it?
When Fishtown’s do-gooders just stopped doing good
When Joe Money moved out of Fishtown …
When marriage died in Fishtown