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FIRST-PERSON: Fatherless homes & poverty

DALLAS (BP)–One of Ronald Reagan’s famous governing precepts was, “Subsidize something and you’ll get more of it.” For decades we have subsidized single motherhood, to the point that, now, more than 40 percent of births in this country are to unmarried women.

Robert Rector, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, is a leading authority on poverty and the U.S. welfare system. He points out that in 1963 when President Lyndon Johnson launched the war on poverty, “7 percent of American children were born outside marriage.”

Today, we’re at the point where, over the next 10 years, we’re set to spend $11 trillion on programs for the poor, most of which will be borrowed from China. The biggest contributing factor to this burgeoning welfare state, Mr. Rector argues, is the failure of poor women to marry.

Mr. Rector writes, “The steady growth of childbearing by single women and the general collapse of marriage, especially among the poor, lie at the heart of the mushrooming welfare state.” In fact, he says, “If poor single mothers were married to the fathers of their children, two-thirds of them would not be poor.”

Well-educated classes marry but the liberals among them don’t lament the loss of marriage in the culture. They should. Of course, these feminists and statists cheer if there’s a small drop in the teen pregnancy rate because they want young women to get educated and have a chance in the world. However, the vast majority of out-of-wedlock births are not to teenagers, but to women in their 20s. Most of these women are poor, or from a disadvantaged group, with low levels of education. They are not well-equipped to raise children without help, which they increasingly get from the government.

Robert Rector says most of these mothers are traditionalists. They see marriage as the goal, but not for now. To them, marriage is either unattainable or sort of a way to cap off a life lived in a different order: first sex, then kids, then, they hope, marriage. They don’t understand that the way they are living is probably not going to get them where they want to be.

We all know of single women in this situation. Their children’s fathers may be in their homes, or out of the picture. They speak as if there’s nothing abnormal about this. The way we do welfare has made it this way. All this assistance provides a financial disincentive for fathers to marry the mothers of their kids. Sometimes they co-habit. But these situations are often fluid and impermanent. It’s hard on women and horrible for men. Men are deprived of a role in life: fatherhood.

Robert Rector says that, tragically, within the bottom one-third of our culture, “we have been conducting an evil experiment.”

“The absence of a husband and father from the home … is a strong contributing factor to failure in school, crime, drug abuse, emotional disturbance, and a host of other social problems,” he writes.

God created man, then woman … and immediately … marriage. He had a good plan. We should stop ruining it.
Penna Dexter is a conservative activist and frequent panelist on the “Point of View” syndicated radio program. Her weekly commentaries air on the Bott and Moody Radio Networks.

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