If fewer and fewer people hold to a belief in Almighty God, and the decline in the institution of marriage and the traditional family continues, the consequences are obvious. First, we will have a society in which fewer and fewer people see the value in working hard for the sake of working hard. Second, we’ll have fewer people willing to create jobs that employ others – and a society with more and more people who have come to see that coercion of others to get what they want works. Third, this growing class of people will, in turn, expect – nay, demand – that someone (i.e. “the rich”) be forced to take care of them.
While the politically correct don’t want to admit that this is the natural outcome of these trends, it isn’t ignored in the human resource literature. In their Futurework study, Robert Lerman and Stefanie Schmidt stated:
Changing marital and living arrangements could have significant implications for the workforce. Labor force participation rates are much higher and unemployment rates much lower among married than among unmarried men and women. … Never-married men experienced an 8.2 percent unemployment rate, far above the 2.1 percent rate among men who are married and living with a spouse. … The unemployment rate of never-married men is only 5.7 percent among those with children, but over 8 percent among those without children. … To some extent, it is changes in employment opportunities that cause changes in marriage and family formation patterns and not the other way around. However, some of the marital and family changes have other causes and may well lead to worse job market outcomes. (emphasis added)
I want to take a few minutes to address these two key linchpins of American culture. If we don’t address the state of the family and the work ethic of Americans, it will be impossible to halt the unraveling.
Cherishment of the Traditional Family
The May 29, 2011 issue of the Indianapolis Star ran the following story on page A6:
MARRIEDS ARE NOW A MINORITY: Census Says More Households Helmed by Singles and Cohabiters. “In the 2010 Census, married couples represent 48 percent of all households. That’s down from 52 percent in the last Census.”
Social scientists have seen this coming for years. In a November, 2006 study published by the Urban Institute under contract for the US Department of Labor titled: Futurework: Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century, authors Robert Lerman and Stefanie Schmidt reported that: “The rising divorce rate and the growing prevalence of children born to unmarried mothers means that many children live in single-parent families.” Today, these numbers are escalating even further.
Instead of continually creating programs to reduce the stress of being a single (usually female) parent, lawmakers should take to heart what the authors of Futurework stated; that programs “such as flexible time, parental leave, and dependent care assistance, have little impact on parental stress.” Instead, lawmakers must focus on policies that strengthen traditional marriage between a man and a woman.
The issue of marriage does not simply concern itself with the “self actualization” of a man or woman seeking to fulfill their personal desires. The consequences of the death of marriage are most dramatic in the lives of children born outside of marriage. In the accompanying graph, we see that the percentage of children born out of wedlock has skyrocketed from 6.8 percent in 1964 to 40.6 percent in 2008.
Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, in his September, 2010 article titled “Marriage: America’s Greatest Weapon Against Childhood Poverty,” points out that as fathers have disappeared from the home, single moms are left to raise children – often in poverty. He writes:
The rise in out-of-wedlock childbearing and the increase in single parenthood are major causes of high levels of child poverty. Since the early 1960s, single-parent families have roughly tripled as a share of all families with children. As noted, in the U.S. in 2008, single parents were six times more likely to be poor than were married couples.
In an April 4, 2011 speech titled “The State of White America,” noted author and social policy researcher Charles Murray addressed the trends affecting American families. Because some have in the past accused him of racism and condemning non-white minorities, Murray’s speech focused on trends in families for White America only. Murray focused his analysis on non-Hispanic whites ages 30-49, comparing the top 20% of families as measured by income (what he calls the upper middle class) to working class whites whose income puts them in the bottom 30% of income earners. Using census data, he compares the years 1960 and 2010 for these two groups of people.
Murray first made a name for himself with his book, Losing Ground: Social Welfare Policy, 1950 to 1980. In that book, he demonstrated how payments to poor women under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) actually created a financial incentive to get divorced in order to qualify for welfare benefits, and then to never get married. Under the AFDC program and its controversial “man in the house rule,” poor women could only receive welfare payments IF there was no “man in the house.” Instituted in the mid 1960s, at first, this meant getting divorced to qualify for aid. But over time, it led to women not getting married in the first place.
The ability to get divorced to qualify for government assistance was further enhanced in 1969, when California enacted the Family Law Act of 1969, becoming the first state in the nation to allow “no fault” divorces. By 1983, 48 of the 50 states had adopted no fault divorce laws. Combined with the effects of the Man in the House Rule, divorces skyrocketed.
In the accompanying chart, the number of children in divorces peaked in 1980 – but not because the divorce rate fell. Over this time period, fewer people were getting married. By 1990, 26 percent of children were being born to single mothers. In fact, single motherhood was being glorified in Hollywood, leading to the famous interchange between Vice President Dan Quayle and the T.V. character Murphy Brown, when Vice President Quayle attacked a poverty of values that glorified unwed motherhood. He said:
Ultimately however, marriage is a moral issue that requires cultural consensus, and the use of social sanctions. Bearing babies irresponsibly is simply wrong. Failing to support children one has fathered is wrong. We must be unequivocal about this. It doesn’t help matters when prime time TV has Murphy Brown – a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid, professional woman – mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another “lifestyle choice.”
It is time that we as a nation recognize that being married, especially when children are involved, is the best social program there is. No family is perfect, but a mom and a dad are better than a case worker and a politician. We applaud programs that discourage youth from dropping out of schools, yet fail to promote the one thing that will help the most: Maintain and strengthen heterosexual marriages, and delay childbearing until they are married and economically stable.
Support of the Work Ethic
Increasingly, employers are worrying about how they will replace valuable, experienced workers as the Baby Boom generation retires. They recognize that a “brain drain” is beginning to develop, as members of “Generation Y” enter the workforce, yet lack the math, communication and work ethic skills of the Boomer generation. after emerging from a childhood where they weren’t allowed to compete for fear of hurting the losing person’s self-esteem. One observer of this trend noted:
With almost every company expecting to lose a portion of their employee base through retirements, competition among employers is likely to heat up, making talented, and therefore desirable, workers more difficult to recruit and retain and more expensive due to the increased need for their skills. … As Generations X and Y — the ’replacement workers’ — move into the positions vacated by the Boomers, the odds that these new workers will be able to function at the same level as their experienced and knowledgeable predecessors are very low, and succession planning therefore becomes a critical concern.
How does one deal with this issue? One way is to impress upon the Boomer generation the need to volunteer, mentor and coach younger people as they transition into the workforce. Many in the Boomer generation have come to recognize this as a calling, and are responding. The next President of the United States can tap into this reservoir of commitment and dedication to encourage volunteerism to help retrain and retool younger Americans to overcome the challenges of an educational system that has failed to educate their children and grandchildren in the Four Rs: Reading, ‘Riting, ‘Rithmatic, and Reasoning.
We need programs for aging Boomers that can leverage their energy, passion and commitment to restore America to retrain and re-energize Generation Y.
This disconnect is further identified in Charles Murray’s more recent work. As I demonstrated in Table One above, white men looking for work in 1960, be they rich or poor, were nearly equal. Murray noted that 1.5% of white men in the top 20% of earners were unemployed, compared to 2% among the bottom 30%. By 2010, while 5% of white men were unemployed in the top 20%, fully 12% of white men were unemployed among the bottom 30%. Conversely, marriage rates among the more wealthy white men had barely changed. But, among the lower income white men, marriage rates had plummeted from 83% in 1960 to 48% in 2010.
It is time we as a nation recognize that encouraging work for its own sake, that encouraging a sense of pride in a job well done, and a desire to stand on one’s own two feet are needed if we are to regain the economic greatness of America. Sadly, there are those in the liberal left who not only do not recognize the need to do this, but openly advocate for social programs which will make things even worse. In the tenth article in my series of posts on The Unraveling, I will explore how those who have promoted the deconstruction of the American Way of Life are using the tools of social media to pursue their goals. If you have a desire to review the previous posts in this series, click to read the previous posts in this series.
This series is based on an essay that I have written which you can find at www.wisejargon.com/docs/theunraveling.pdf. In that essay I lay out my thoughts as concisely as I can, with a full series of references endnotes (27 for those with a scholarly bent). In this series of posts, I wish to expand on the original essay, and make it easier to digest via social media.
I also wish to invite a discussion on this topic. To do so, please see my posts at DISQUS.
It’s time that all of us work together to reverse course, and restore the American spirit of self-reliance and pride in self-accomplishment exemplified the American spirit.
 Lerman, Robert I and Stefanie R. Schmidt. Futurework: Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century. The Urban Institute , Washington D.C. for the Department of Labor, 2000. Part II Trends in Work and Family, Health Insurance, Pensions, p. 1
 Patrick F. Fagan, et. al. The Annual Report of Family Trends: 2011 The Behaviors of the Family in the Five Institutions of the Family. (Marriage and Religion Research Insitute,2011), p.62. Base data compiled from Statistical Abstracts of the United States, various years.
 Robert Rector: Backgrounder on Poverty and Inequality and Family and Marriage, (Heritage Foundation: 9/16/2010), accessed at http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2010/09/marriage-america-s-greatest-weapon-against-child-poverty#_ftn4 ) on June 13, 2011.
 Patrick F. Fagan, et. al. The Annual Report of Family Trends: 2011 The Behaviors of the Family in the Five Institutions of the Family. (Marriage and Religion Research Insitute,2011), p.130. Base data compiled from Statistical Abstracts of the United States, various years.
 Vice President Dan Qualye: Address to the Commenwealth Club of California May 19, 1992 on Family Values. Accessed at http://www.vicepresidentdanquayle.com/speeches_StandingFirm_CCC_3.html on June 13, 2011
 Sarah Sladek. “Retirement is not the problem.” XYZ University, May 16, 2011. Accessed at http://xyzuniversity.com/2011/05/retirementnottheproblem/ on 6/17/2011.