Friday, July 27, 2012

Center for Economic and Policy Research publishes extensive critique of blaming single mothers

In response to the front page Sunday NYT piece I critiqued last week, the Center for Economic and Policy Research has published a multi-part analysis of what's wrong with blaming single mothers for income equality.  CEPR's title for the numerous postings by Shawn Fremstad says it all -- Family Structure is Overrated as an Explanation of Inequality. 

Part One criticizes how author Jason DeParle presented the data of respected sociologist Bruce Western in the NYT piece; turns out income insecurity bares more responsibility for inequality than family structure.  Part Two examines the role of gender inequality and poor compensation of child care workers and other paid caregivers.  Part Three refers to the NYT piece as "DeParle's Marriage Plot" and shows how the article overstates the significance of the decision not to marry; all mothers, not just married mothers, are having children at a later age, and married mothers as well as never married mothers have multi-partner fertility because they divorce and remarry.  Part Four reviews evidence that income inequality is a cause, rather than a result, of changes in family structure.  Part Five looks at the claim that children of single mothers have a harder time than children of married mothers moving up on the income scale; Fremstad points to data suggesting this is minimally true if at all, and that children born to unmarried mothers have an easier time climbing the income ladder than those whose mothers are married and then divorce.  (Given the problems associated with high conflict marriages, he also notes that telling women to stay married is not the answer.)

Given that the last post was yesterday, there might be a Part Six and beyond.  I would welcome that.  CEPR is a leading source of analysis about economic issues, including ending poverty and inequality.  I find I can turn to them for real answers when the right-wing pundits (and unfortunately some mainstream media folks like this NYT piece) are trying to distract the public from the policies that would lead to greater economic justice.

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