Monday, April 15, 2013

Lower Class Men, Spiraling Downward

Robert Samuelson has a nice summary of the dismal numbers for work, wages and family life among working class Americans:
In 1980, about 18 percent of births were to unmarried women; by 2009, the proportion was 41 percent. Among whites, the increase was from 11 percent to 36 percent; among African Americans, from 56 percent to 72 percent; among Hispanics, from 37 percent (1990) to 53 percent. Or look at the share of children living with two parents. Since 1970, that’s dropped from 82 percent to 63 percent. Among whites, the decline is from 87 percent to 73 percent; among African Americans, from 57 percent to 31 percent; among Hispanics, from 78 percent to 57 percent.
And marriage rates are falling partly because working-class men are less desirable partners:
From 1979 to 2010, inflation-adjusted hourly wages for men age 25 to 39 with only a high school diploma fell 20 percent, while the wages of similar women rose 1 percent. Among those with some college (but no bachelor’s degree), women’s wages were up 8 percent; men’s were down 8 percent. As important, fewer men and more women proportionally have jobs. From 1979 to 2007 — prior to the recession — the share of male high school graduates with jobs fell 9 percentage points; job-holding by similar women rose 9 percentage points. For those with some college, men were down 6 percentage points, women up by 12 percentage points.

Women have adjusted better than men to an economy with more office work and less factory, construction and transportation activity. Economists David Autor and Melanie Wasserman fear these changes are now feeding on themselves. On average, children in single-parent homes do worse — have lower grades, do more drugs, have higher arrest rates — than similar children raised by two parents, who can devote more money and time to their offspring. Boys seem especially at risk because they often lack “a positive or stable same-sex role model,” say Autor and Wasserman. So boys will do less well in school and less well (later) in the labor market. They will then be less appealing as husbands.
If anybody has a serious plan for getting us out of this vicious cycle, I'm all ears.


Miri boheme said...

It is very offensive to me and to a lot of other single parents to CONTINUALLY have to hear about how much less of a chance our children have simply because they are not being raised in a two-parent household. Although most of these arguments are based on statistics, these are highly suspect and have been renounced by many researchers. There are so many factors involved that it is very difficult to reach those kinds of conclusions. My family is perfect AS IS. Me and my son. That is enough. He has as much of a chance as anyone else at a good education, happiness, and fulfillment in his life. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous. Lord, I am so so so tired of being confronted with this on a daily basis. The bigotry is astounding.

John said...

Well, obviously the strong correlation between single parenthood and childhood problems might not be strictly causal. Surely part of it is that in America today, both single parenthood and childhood turmoil are more common among the poor. Educated single mothers do much better, although not as well as couples.

But from the point of view of public policy, there is no way to get into the details and see which mothers are going a great job. There are only these big, scary numbers. Boys who don't live with their fathers are much, much more likely to drop out of school and get into legal trouble. They don't live with their fathers largely because their mothers don't want the fathers around. I think this is a very troublesome situation. Miri, how do you feel about it? Quite apart from the judgement it seems to pass on single mothers, which I agree is neither helpful nor necessarily accurate, there are the numbers. What do you think causes them? Why do you think the percentage of children in single-parent homes is rising? Does that worry you?