Monday, July 16, 2012
This New York Times piece, by Jason DeParle, called "Two Classes in America, Divided by 'I Do,'" strikes me not only as a must-read, but as a must-engage and must-take-to-heart. It's not a new observation, i.e., that the less-traditional "lifestyle" choices that are increasingly available when it comes to cohabitation, single parenting, divorce, etc., tend to have worse results for poor people than for the better-off. A bit:
[S]triking changes in family structure have also broadened income gaps and posed new barriers to upward mobility. College-educated Americans like the Faulkners are increasingly likely to marry one another, compounding their growing advantages in pay. Less-educated women like Ms. Schairer, who left college without finishing her degree, are growing less likely to marry at all, raising children on pinched paychecks that come in ones, not twos.
Estimates vary widely, but scholars have said that changes in marriage patterns — as opposed to changes in individual earnings — may account for as much as 40 percent of the growth in certain measures of inequality. Long a nation of economic extremes, the United States is also becoming a society of family haves and family have-nots, with marriage and its rewards evermore confined to the fortunate classes. . . .
It's not just that marriage might be "confined" to the fortunate classes; it's also, it seems, that mobility into those classes (or not) is connected to the decisions that people make -- and that people's parents make -- about marriage and childrearing. The supermarket glossies coo about this or that celebrity having a baby outside of marriage, but "a large body of research shows that [children of single parents] are more likely than similar children with married parents to experience childhood poverty, act up in class, become teenage parents and drop out of school."
Maybe the piece should be called "Dan Quayle was right"? In any event, for the lawyers (and everyone else!): Can can law do, if anything, about the challenges identified in the piece?
UPDATE: An interesting reaction to the DeParle piece, here, at Get Religion.