Sunday, July 22, 2012

Why inequality? For starters look at family formation decisions

    Everyone likes to argue that there is some type of conspiracy to increase the level of inequality in American society. The New York Times had a story recently that helped to illustrate just how strongly behavior affects life outcomes.
    The story, entitled “Two Classes, Divided by ‘I Do’,” features two white women with similar backgrounds. Both come from small town, working middle-class families. Both work at the same workplace for somewhat similar pay.
    The difference between them?
    One, Chris Faulkner, chose to finish college, get married and have a family. She takes an annual cruise vacation with her family and she and her husband are able to schedule their time so they can attend all of their children’s school and sporting events.
    The other, Jessica Schairer, chose to go to some fourth-rate college because they “had a spot on the basketball team” (egad!), got involved in a troubled inter-racial relationship that quickly produced one child and then two more, but no marriage or child support, and now struggles to get by on food stamps. So she picked her college based on the fact that it had a “spot” on the basketball team. Then she got pregnant by some bum and dropped out during her first year. She and her paramour discussed marriage, but decided to wait until they could afford a fairy-tale wedding with a big reception. Sounds like a plan!
    Experts vary in their opinion, but most agree anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of the total inequality in America today is because of women choosing to be single parents. And make no mistake, it’s a choice, not a lack of birth control. It’s not like 40 years ago where young women found themselves in a terrible way and made the best of it. Women are perhaps getting pregnant by accident once, but then allowing themselves to get pregnant again, and again, and again, just as Jessica Schairer did.
    We live in a politically correct society where people are taught not to make value judgments, and that to consider the race of a prospective marriage or sex partner is an act of immorality. But the fact is that as a white mother choosing to have three black kids out of wedlock Ms. Schairer has put herself in a place where it’s going to be difficult to find a mate. Her odds of finding a white husband are going to be exponentially more difficult and the demand for marriageable black men is so high that she's going to have difficulty with that option, too. In other words, her chances of finding a mate are very slim. That's the reality of race in America, and society does a terrible wrong when it hides this fact from young women.
    While the experts attribute 20 to 40 percent of the inequality in America to single parenthood, I suspect they are considering current family income and wealth alone. I don’t think they consider the cascade effect, where children of single-parent families receive less parental input than those from two-parent families, as the Times article explains. The Faulkner children take part in lots of sports and other activities, and the parents are always on hand to participate. Ms. Schairer’s children are limited to one extra-curricular activity a year and Ms. Schairer is often absent. It’s just common sense that two incomes are better than one and four hands are better than two.
    Even though Mrs. Faulkner and Ms. Schairer have similar jobs – Mrs. Faulkner is the director of a child-care center and she hired and later promoted Ms. Schairer to be assistant director – the article fails to provide one bit of information that might be helpful: the ACT or SAT scores of the women. While the correlation isn’t exact, these scores can be used to get a pretty good idea of the test-taker’s IQ. I suspect part of Ms. Schairer's problem may be low IQ in relation to Mrs. Faulkner: She may not be smart enough to foresee the consequences of her actions.
    In 1994 Charles Murray and Richard Hernstein infuriated the nation and world by suggesting that IQ might have something to do with lifetime success in their book, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (A Free Press Paperbacks Book), which was widely denounced by liberals who had never read the tome. Since they had never read it they were later able to breathlessly report the same findings in a more sympathetic manner as amazing discoveries, such as when The Washington Post reported on the surprising Pew Trust report that found that "Many in U.S. slip from middle class, study finds." Needless to say, neither the Pew report nor the Washington Post story credit Hernsteirn, Murray or the Bell Curve.
    Charles Murray has taken a smart pill, in that he realizes that any analysis that includes all Americans is simply too controversial to be be discussed by our hyper-politically correct society. So his new book is entitled Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.
    As you might expect, Murray finds that the state of white America is dreadful. For the smartest, most educated Americans, things are great, because they are living life just as their parents and grandparents did. They are getting married, having kids and for the most part not divorcing, just as their parents and grandparents did. For the dullest whites, the fabric of society is completely shredded, with most children being born out of wedlock. This fray has slowly been making it's way up the IQ ladder. Apparently a large segment of society requires moral absolutes to make good life choices when it comes to sex and reproduction, and today's moral relativism has translated into societal decay.
    The real inequality that matters in American society isn't that we have a few ultra-rich people floating around. It's that we have lots of families living pretty good, traditional-family middle- or upper-middle-class lifestyles while others are wallowing in single-parent poverty. And this inequality is one based largely on family formation choices.
    The New York Times article said America is becoming “Two Classes, Divided by ‘I Do’ ” and it is, but the article could just as well have been entitled, “Two Classes, Divided by ‘IQ’.”

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