In his July 14 New York Times article “Two Classes, Divided by ‘I Do,” Jason DeParle recounted the story of two mothers, one of whom is married and the other is not. The discussion focused on the disparate incomes and opportunities available to their respective children.
While demonstrating that single mothers often face difficult circumstances limiting their ability to give their children the same vacations, or extracurricular activities as two-parent households, the article did not address important factors relating to single mothers in the United States. For instance, no attention is given to: wage inequity between “care” work, typically performed by women and the more male dominated fields of professional work; access to and availability of affordable, quality child care; paid sick leave; or adequate safety net provisions for times of unexpected economic hardship. Also absent from the piece is the significant question of the extent to which a spouse or child’s father can actually decrease family income or at least contribute only a negligible amount. Some other critiques, such as far more significant economic obstacles for children than lack of married parents, can be found here and also here.
The controversy arose again after the publication of “Obama vs. Poverty” by Paul Tough which was the cover story in the August 19, 2012 print edition of the Times Sunday Magazine.
Our Quote of the Day, today, August 20, 2012 comes from a response from the non-profit organization Legal Momentum:
“The male author of the article quotes a male interview subject as stating, “If you don’t have a father figure in your life, you don’t have discipline and structure, and without structure, you don’t have anything. You have chaos.” The article then stated, “This analysis has support from many of the academics who study [poverty],” yet the author never mentioned any contrary points of view – even though many experts disagree strongly.
Half of all U.S. children spend at least some part of their childhood in a single mother family, just as President Obama did. Most of these children are well behaved, do well in school, and grow up to be productive workers, good parents, and upstanding neighbors. It is true, as the article says, that some children in single mother families, like some children in single father families, and some in coupled parent families, will be permanently scarred by the deep poverty that far too many U.S. children experience.
However, the problem is not single motherhood – it is the flawed social policies that allow child poverty to persist in the U.S. at much higher rates than in other high-income countries. In the U.S., poverty rates among children in single parent families, as well as poverty rates among children in coupled parent families, are much higher than the rates of child poverty in other high-income countries.”
- For more: see Legal Momentum’s “Facts About Single Motherhood in the United States – A Snapshot 2012.”