Missing fathers are at the core of a ‘vicious cycle’ of poverty

by Grace

Missing fathers are both a cause and an effect of poverty

The decline of two-parent households may be a significant reason for the divergent fortunes of male workers, whose earnings generally declined in recent decades, and female workers, whose earnings generally increased, a prominent labor economist argues in a new survey of existing research.

MIT professor David H. Autor examined the poverty of single-parent families for Third Way, a center-left policy research organization.

In this telling, the economic struggles of male workers are both a cause and an effect of the breakdown of traditional households. Men who are less successful are less attractive as partners, so some women are choosing to raise children by themselves, in turn often producing sons who are less successful and attractive as partners.

“A vicious cycle may ensue,” wrote Professor Autor and his co-author, Melanie Wasserman, a graduate student, “with the poor economic prospects of less educated males creating differentially large disadvantages for their sons, thus potentially reinforcing the development of the gender gap in the next generation.”

Encourage marriage or pump up the economy?  Is it a chicken or egg scenario?

Conservatives have long argued that society should encourage stable parental relationships. A recent report by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia concluded that promoting marriage is the best way “to make family life more stable for children whose parents don’t enjoy the benefit of a college education.”

Liberals have tended to argue that the government should focus instead on improving economic opportunities. Jonathan Cowan, the president of Third Way, said the paper underscored that addressing social problems was a means to improve economic opportunities.

Here’s an idea.

Instead of making marriage more attractive, he said, it might be better for society to help make men more attractive.

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The chance of a child ending up poor declines by 82 percent when raised in a two-parent family.

Although correlation does not imply causation, there’s no doubt that a caring father adds tremendous value to a child’s upbringing.

According to the U.S. census, the poverty rate for single parents with children in the U.S. in 2009 was 37.1 percent. For married families the rate was only 6.8 percent. The chance of a child ending up poor declines by 82 percent when raised in a two-parent family. As the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector reports, “Some of this difference in poverty is due to the fact that single parents tend to have less education than married couples.” Even adjusting for that factor “the married poverty rate will still be more than 75 percent lower.”

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Fathers have been disappearing from homes across America over the last 50 years.

… Fifteen million U.S. children, or 1 in 3, live without a father, and nearly 5 million live without a mother. In 1960, just 11 percent of American children lived in homes without fathers.

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America is awash in poverty, crime, drugs and other problems, but more than perhaps anything else, it all comes down to this, said Vincent DiCaro, vice president of the National Fatherhood Initiative: Deal with absent fathers, and the rest follows.

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