News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: What About those 1-Parent Families?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

What About those 1-Parent Families?

Many people on the right are blaming one-parent families for poverty in the US. Consider the following information:

As this study shows, there are numerous factors affecting children in twoparent and one-parent families. These factors are magnified in one-parent homes, but if a parent is relatively well-adjusted and not epxeriencing other stress and difficulties, a child from this one-parent family is certainly no less capable of functioning on a high level in society.

Again, please note that I am not in any way advocating the one-parent family as an ideal. It certainly is not, and I can attest to that from my own experience. On the other hand, given the obstacles and other factors involved, children from these families should not be stigmatized as though they were somehow defective.

In my own case, while I have had difficulties to overcome I see those that I have met and overcome as achievements and not simply the result of luck. Adversity builds character.

The point is that single-parent families happen for a reason, often economic reasons. On the other hand, if you can't see that the "family unit" experiences problems, no matter how non-dysfunctional, then God bless you, for there are many family situations that simply create numerous difficulties for children--no matter the class or economic strata they come from.

You might find the following data from the Left Business Observer interesting:

* Single-mother families are worse off than two-parent families in all LIS countries, but their incomes vary widely, according to Yin-Ling Irene Wong, Irwin Garfinkel, and Sara McLanahan. In Sweden and Norway, single-mother families have incomes 85% those of two-parent families; Britain, France, and Germany, 74%; and Australia, Canada, and the U.S., 56%. (At 54%, the U.S. figure was the worst.) Unfortunately, this is early-1980s data, but the clustering probably hasn't changed much. Contrary to the usual idiotic caricatures, 71% of U.S. single mothers are in the paid labor force, the third-highest of the eight; Sweden and Norway outscore the U.S., with other countries lagging well behind. While U.S. single mothers earn wages roughly comparable to those ea rned in other LIS countries, most countries' transfer systems do a better job bringing them above poverty. For lone moms, then, work effort has little to do with economic well-being.

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