By Arnold Kling
I am reading Kay Hymowitz’s book, Marriage and Caste in America. She was cited in the Wall Street Journal.
Americans born into poverty have a long history of moving themselves, or their children, out of it. But the cycle of unwed motherhood typically leads nowhere. As a result, Ms. Hymowitz worries, ours will become a “society that is no longer mobile, where opportunities are going to be denied generation after generation.”
In her book, she cites a paper by David T. Ellwood and Christopher Jencks. Among other things, they write
Even in Sweden, where nonmarital births are almost twice as common as in the United States, most unmarried parents raise their children together. As a result, two-thirds of all Swedish fifteen year olds are expected to live with both of their biological parents – a figure comparable to that in Germany and France.
They define a disrupted family as a family where children are not being raised by their biological parents. Their point is that a Swedish household where the parents technically are not married looks more like a traditional family than a household that includes divorce or is headed by a single mother.
Hymowitz describes an upper class of families where children are deferred until the parents are stable financially, and where the family is dedicated to child-rearing. She describes a lower class of single mothers, who enjoy babies at first but soon lose interest in their development.
She uses a few too many unreliable indicators (magazine stories, cultural icons, etc.) for my taste. But it is an interesting and important thesis.