Brooks or Yglesias?

Who is right?  Brooks or Yglesias?  Is a traditional family structure the key to better outcomes for children or is materiel well being the crucial factor?

It certainly looks like traditional family structures plays a role. Children are best off in a traditional nuclear family at every income level.

Don’t believe it? OK.  But only 6.3  of married families lived in poverty.  This makes sense. When you double the number of potential wage earners in a family you greatly increase the family’s chances of a much higher income.

So should we run around the country with a shotgun forcing poor people to get married?  I say we don’t need to do anything so drastic.  A much better solution would be to just repeatedly inform everyone  about the double benefits for children of a traditional family structure.  Explain that is best if  everything reasonably possible has been done to insure that a child is born into a traditional family structure.  We don’t need to scold anyone.  A dry recitation of the facts about the impact of single parenthood on incomes and childhood outcomes is all that is needed.   Think of it as a public health campaign.

Would it work?  Maybe.  Why not?  We have spent a lot of time informing teenagers about the consequences of teen pregnancy.  The result is a 50% decline in teen pregnancy from 1991  to 2012.

Imagine if 50% more children were born into 2 parent households, 50% of those marriages lasted, and 90% of those households avoided poverty.  If all that happened we would expect to see a decrease of say about 20% in poverty.  That would be huge!

The nice thing is that it is not an either or choice of Brooks or Yglesias.  It is possible to explain and promote the enormous benefits of a traditional family structure while at the same time pushing for more material resources for all family’s living at or near the poverty line.


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