Single Motherhood and Poverty: A Few More Replies
By Bryan Caplan
Lots of good comments on my critique of Marsh. Some quick replies:
A lot of women either do not know about birth-control or
more commonly do not know how to obtain or use it. Also, some
disastrous education policies have led many people to be more generally
poorly informed about the consequences of sexual activities.
I’m extremely skeptical about this. But even if you’re right, what’s the minimally prudent response to ignorance about birth control? Delay sex until you acquire some more information!
[F]or the same reason we might feel compassion
for someone whose house was destroyed by a tornado despite having taken
reasonable precautions, we might also feel compassion for someone who
thought she was engaging in sexual relations with a responsible person
who turned out to be a jerk despite appearing to be a reliable man.
There’s no certainty. But there are plenty of excellent predictors of reliability: Age, steady job, family, friends, church attendance, etc. And simply delaying pregnancy until marriage sharply reduces the danger of a mistake, because the father is legally on the hook for child support.
[I]t is not that simple to determine whether your potential husband is
reliable. Maybe he’s reliable until the baby is born. Maybe he’s
reliable for 20 years and then leaves you. And it’s hard to get child
support out of poor men.
Don’t blame women for not having perfect foreknowledge of their husband’s future actions.
I’m not insisting on perfect foreknowledge, just common sense. If you insist on marriage prior to pregnancy, you screen out an awful lot of unreliable men. And there are many other excellent ways to filter out cads: Lengthen the courtship, prefer older men, wait for your man to get a steady job, avoid men with questionable family and friends, etc. Even if the marriage eventually ends in divorce, you’ve still greatly mitigated the financial harm to yourself, your kids, and taxpayers.
This is just an issue for the moms, right? Because parental choices
don’t affect how kids turn out? (I’m not being a wiseguy. I seriously
can’t understand Bryan’s diverse posts on kids.)
I’ve said it before, Bob, and I’ll say it again: Parents have clear short-run effects on their kids, but little long-run effect. If you’re raised by a single mom, this is likely to cause you to be a poor child. It is not likely to cause you to grow up to be a poor adult or an absent parent. Then why do income and family structure run in families? For the most part, because of genetics. Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids has plenty of references – see pp.56-8 and 67-71.
And I guess the simple, effective solution to the problem of malnutrition is “Simply eat until you no longer feel hungry” ?
I usually appreciate how thoughtful your posts are, but this really comes across as glib.
If a person had cheap, healthy food right in front of him, “Simply eat until you no longer feel hungry” would indeed be a simple, effective solution to the problem of malnutrition. “Simply use birth control until you find and marry a reliable man” is not glib because:
a. Birth control is cheap and easy to obtain.
b. Sex with birth control, unlike abstinence, does not lead to chronic burning lust.
c. Potentially poor women who delay child-bearing have a high chance of finding a reliable man before becoming infertile.