Government Should Subsidize, Not Tax, Marriage


This article is part of a new Education Next series on the state of the American family. The full series will appear in our Spring 2015 issue to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1965 release of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action” (generally referred to as the Moynihan Report).
Key facts about one-parent families are amply documented elsewhere in this issue of Education Next, which is devoted to reflections on the Moynihan Report. In a rich, diverse set of essays, the scholars report multiple, challenging findings. To mention only a very few:

  • The number of children being raised by single parents has increased dramatically since the report was written in 1965.
  • In the 21st century, the growth rate in births to unmarried mothers has been steeper among whites than among blacks.
  • The percentage of 15-year-olds living with a single parent is 50 percent higher in the United States than in the average industrialized country.
  • Children raised in single-parent families suffer educationally, socially, and economically.

Yet root causes of the growth in single-parent families have yet to be well identified, making it difficult to figure out where to go next. Some authors support new birth-control technologies. Others accept today’s American family as inevitable and search for ways in which preschools, schools, and other public institutions can ameliorate the impact on children. Still others suggest strategies for restoring marriage or at least parental cohabitation.


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