The Two-Parent Privilege is Real: A review of Melissa Kearney’s important new book.
JUSTIN VASSALLO, 2/02/24, Liberal Patriot)

In her new book, The Two-Parent Privilege: How Americans Stopped Getting Married and Started Falling Behind, economist Melissa S. Kearney takes an unflinching look at how the fragmentation of the ordinary American family is, in fact, both an overlooked dimension and driver of modern inequality. “It is not only that lacking two parents makes it harder for some kids to go to college and lead a comfortable life,” Kearney contends. “In the aggregate, it also undermines social mobility and perpetuates inequality across generations.”

Backed with abundant data, Kearney argues the collapse of marriage as a social institution among lower-income families has compounded the demographic consequences of stagnant wages and the loss of steady employment in many sectors and regions. This phenomenon, she writes, is inextricable from the education gap, the geographic narrowing of economic opportunities, and policy decisions that have reinforced the advantages of the already well-off.

That which is accessible to all is, be definition, not a privilege.


Millennials have found a way to buy houses: Living with mom and dad: More than a fifth of adult millennials chose to live rent-free before buying their own houses, according to real estate data (Julian Mark and Eli Tan, January 1, 2024, Washington Post)

The strategy has gained traction among young adults trying to bridge the gap between sky-high rents and a daunting real estate market. In 2022, the share of first-time buyers who moved directly from a friend’s or family member’s home and into their own hit 27 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors. That’s the highest share since the group started keeping track in 1989. Though that number trended lower this year to 23 percent, it remains elevated, said Jessica Lautz, deputy chief economist and vice president of research at NAR.

For swaths of millennials, hunkering down with family gave them breathing room to save for a home. The trade-off comes down to temporarily relinquishing a measure of independence to achieve a milestone increasingly out of reach for people their age.

Having the aduut kids home was one of the things that made the pandemic so enjoyable.


The Biggest Root Cause of Crime Is Fatherlessness (Jason L. Riley, Dec. 12, 2023, WSJ)

A new academic paper from the Institute for Family Studies doesn’t deny that economic conditions play a role in criminal behavior. And co-authors Rafael Mangual, Brad Wilcox, Joseph Price and Seth Cannon write that “changes in law-enforcement and the prosecution of criminals have also had a hand in the recent uptick in violent crime in American cities.” The paper’s main argument, however, is that family instability may be the biggest factor of all and that it’s not receiving the attention it deserves.

“Cities are safer when two-parent families are dominant and more crime-ridden when family instability is common,” the authors write. Nationwide, the total crime rate is about 48% higher in cities “that have above the median share of single-parent families, compared to cities that have fewer single-parent families.” Even when controlling for variables such as race, income and educational attainment, “the association between family structure and total crime rates, as well as violent crime rates, in cities across the United States remains statistically significant.”

Having a father around, the authors note, is about more than an additional paycheck. Fathers teach their sons responsibility, self-control, how to carry themselves, how to treat women. They tend to be more effective disciplinarians, and their involvement in childrearing is linked to positive outcomes in the academic development of their children, “especially in mathematics and verbal skills.” That finding “has been established for both sons and daughters but, unsurprisingly, it is especially pronounced among boys. The presence of married fathers is also protective against school suspensions and expulsions, as well as the risk of dropping out of high school.”

Between 1960 and 2019, the percentage of babies in the U.S. born to unwed mothers grew from 5% to almost 50%. “Shifts from the late-1960s to the 1990s away from stable families have left some cities, and especially some neighborhoods, vulnerable to higher rates of crime, especially violent crime,” the study concludes. “We need to realign material and cultural incentives in our cities to favor marriage and stable families, not undercut them.”

Morality works.