Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Those who complain about “income inequality” should not ignore single motherhood

From the Wall Street Journal of all places.

Excerpt:

The two-parent family has declined rapidly in recent decades. In 1960, more than 76% of African-Americans and nearly 97% of whites were born to married couples. Today the percentage is 30% for blacks and 70% for whites. The out-of-wedlock birthrate for Hispanics surpassed 50% in 2006. This trend, coupled with high divorce rates, means that roughly 25% of American children now live in single-parent homes, twice the percentage in Europe (12%). Roughly a third of American children live apart from their fathers.

Does it matter? Yes, it does.

[...]In an essay for the Institute for Family Studies last December, called “Even for Rich Kids, Marriage Matters,” University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox reported that children in high-income households who experienced family breakups don’t fare as well emotionally, psychologically, educationally or, in the end, economically as their two-parent-family peers.

Abuse, behavioral problems and psychological issues of all kinds, such as developmental behavior problems or concentration issues, are less common for children of married couples than for cohabiting or single parents, according to a 2003 Centers for Disease Control study of children’s health. The causal pathways are about as clear as those from smoking to cancer.

More than 20% of children in single-parent families live in poverty long-term, compared with 2% of those raised in two-parent families, according to education-policy analyst Mitch Pearlstein’s 2011 book “From Family Collapse to America’s Decline.” The poverty rate would be 25% lower if today’s family structure resembled that of 1970, according to the 2009 report “Creating an Opportunity Society” from Brookings Institution analysts Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill. A 2006 article in the journal Demography by Penn State sociologist Molly Martin estimates that 41% of the economic inequality created between 1976-2000 was the result of changed family structure.

Earlier this year, a team of researchers led by Harvard economist Raj Chetty reported that communities with a high percentage of single-parent families are less likely to experience upward mobility. The researchers’ report—”Where Is the Land of Opportunity?”—received considerable media attention. Yet mainstream news outlets tended to ignore the study’s message about family structure, focusing instead on variables with far less statistical impact, such as residential segregation.

So where does single motherhood by choice come from? The libertarian Cato Institute explains:

[T]he evidence of a link between the availability of welfare and out-of-wedlock births is overwhelming. There have been 13 major studies of the relationship between the availability of welfare benefits and out-of-wedlock birth. Of these, 11 found a statistically significant correlation. Among the best of these studies is the work done by June O’Neill for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Holding constant a wide range of variables, including income, education, and urban vs. suburban setting, the study found that a 50 percent increase in the value of AFDC and foodstamp payments led to a 43 percent increase in the number of out-of-wedlock births.(7) Likewise, research by Shelley Lundberg and Robert Plotnick of the University of Washington showed that an increase in welfare benefits of $200 per month per family increased the rate of out-of-wedlock births among teenagers by 150 percent.(8)

The same results can be seen from welfare systems in other countries. For example, a recent study of the impact of Canada’s social-welfare system on family structure concluded that “providing additional benefits to single parents encourages births of children to unwed women.”(9)

[...]Until teenage girls, particularly those living in relative poverty, can be made to see real consequences from pregnancy, it will be impossible to gain control over the problem of out-of- wedlock births. By disguising those consequences, welfare makes it easier for these girls to make the decisions that will lead to unwed motherhood.

So, if the Democrats opposed income inequality, they would oppose single motherhood by choice, and they would oppose the welfare that causes single motherhood by choice.

But of course the Democrats oppose none of those things, and they have worked to undermine the 1996 Welfare Reform bill while at the same time expanding the welfare payments that make single motherhood easier.

Filed under: News, , , , ,

Why is the Latino poverty rate going up?

From the Heritage Foundation.

Excerpt:

It has been reported recently that the poverty rate among Latinos has reached 28 percent.

The number, based on a new poverty measure by the Obama Administration, should be interpreted with caution, as explained here and here. However, the overall point that more American Latino families, and Americans in general, are struggling to achieve self-sufficiency is troubling.

What’s not mentioned in news reports, however, is the greatest driver of child poverty in the U.S. today: unwed childbearing. Among Latinos, unmarried parent families are roughly three times as likely to be poor as married families. Tragically, over half of Latino children born today are born outside of marriage. The rate has increased from less than 40 percent in the 1990s to more than half—nearly 53 percent—today.

These facts are rarely mentioned, and few attempts made to address the matter. Instead, big government proponents clamor that the antidote to poverty is greater government welfare spending. Unfortunately, these programs do not help people overcome poverty. Today, the U.S. spends roughly five times the amount necessary to pull every poor person out of poverty, and welfare is the fastest-growing part of government spending, exceeding even the cost of defense spending. However, poverty rates have not declined.

While welfare can provide temporary relief to those who have no other options, the vast majority of welfare programs are based on promoting government dependence rather than self-reliance. To pave the way to upward mobility, anti-poverty efforts should address the causes of poverty, such as family breakdown, not simply transfer material goods. Institutions of civil society—faith-based and community-based—are better suited to address the complexities of poverty, having a greater ability to reach individuals on a personal level.

Avoiding poverty in America is easy: you just have to finish high school, stay out of jail, get married before you have kids, stay married, and work at any job.

You just have to make the right choices, and that would be even easier if the government stopped rewarding people with taxpayer money for making the wrong choices – and then blaming others for their own poor decisions. People choose poverty, and they ought to be held responsible for it. If we really wanted to “help the poor”, then we would be increasing tax breaks for charity, for marrying and for working at any job – no matter how much it pays.

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Obama ends welfare reform and calls for $12.7 trillion of new welfare spending

From the Heritage Foundation explains the 1996 Welfare Reform Act and its detractors.

Excerpt:

Last Thursday, the Obama Administration quietly issued new bureaucratic rules that overturned the popular welfare reform law of 1996. This was an illegal move, and it completely undoes years of progress that helped millions of Americans.

The 1996 reform replaced the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program with a new program called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). At the core of the TANF program were new federal work standards that required able-bodied welfare recipients to work, prepare for work, or at least look for work as a condition for receiving aid. Welfare reform turned “welfare” into “workfare.”

Under the old, pre-reform AFDC program, welfare was a one-way handout: Government mailed checks to recipients who did nothing in return. Reform changed that. The new TANF program was based on fairness and reciprocal responsibility: Taxpayers continued to provide aid, but beneficiaries were required, in exchange, to engage in constructive behavior to increase self-sufficiency and reduce dependence.

The TANF work requirements were not onerous. Under the law, some 40 percent of adult TANF recipients in a state were required to engage in “work activities,” which is defined as unsubsidized employment, subsidized employment, on-the-job training, attending high school or a GED program, vocational education, community service work, job search, or job readiness training. Participation was part-time, 20 hours per week for mothers with children under six and 30 hours for mothers with older children.

[...]As welfare dependence fell and employment increased, child poverty among the affected groups fell dramatically. For a quarter century before the reform, poverty among black children and single mothers had remained frozen at high levels. Immediately after the reform, poverty for both groups experienced dramatic and unprecedented drops, quickly reaching all-time lows.

None of this reduced the left’s antipathy for welfare reform. The left had strongly opposed work requirements in welfare in 1996. When TANF faced reauthorization in 2001, they again aggressively sought to repeal federal work standards; they repeated the attack in 2006. For the most part, they lost those battles. But they were not done.

[...]Having lost repeated legislative battles to abolish workfare, the left has now gone backdoor, using an arcane bureaucratic device called a section 1115 waiver to declare the actual work standards written in the TANF law null and void and grant federal bureaucrats carte blanche authority to devise new replacement standards.

Now that we are in an election year, I expect to see a lot of promises by the Democrats of more and more handouts, bailouts and rewards to all of their various constituencies. And all paid for by the job creators in the private sector, and their hard-working employees. After all, “the private sector is fine” and “if you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen”.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , ,

Two British conservatives to watch: Iain Duncan-Smith and Michael Gove

Here’s an article from the UK Telegraph about Iain Duncan-Smith.

Excerpt:

I’ve known Iain for many years since my days working for Lady Thatcher back when he was party leader. Few British politicians understand the Special Relationship as well as IDS, and he has made a concerted effort to cultivate ties with leaders in the United States, frequently visiting Washington over the past decade both in opposition and in government.

It was refreshing to see a British official showing leadership on an issue that few Washington politicians have seriously addressed since the reforms of the 1990s. His message was a compelling one – that Britain (and for that matter the West as a whole) is facing up to the biggest cultural challenge of the early 21st Century – dealing with “entrenched and intergenerational worklessness and welfare dependency.” In his speech he attacked “an obsession with inputs – with pouring money into social programmes so that governments are seen to be doing something,” a sentiment that tens of millions of Americans would heartily agree with:

So we are now faced with a fundamental challenge. Levels of social breakdown high and rising. Millions of people stuck out of work on benefits. Millions not saving nearly enough for their retirement. And politicians – of all hues – addicted to spending levels as a measurement of success, rather than life change as a measurement of success.

These are areas ripe for reform – but how do you reform when there is no money? The answer – you change the way you reform. Not just cheese-slicing, but recalibrating whole systems so that you change behaviours, and change the culture that allowed spending to get out of control in the first place.

With good reason IDS consistently ranks at the top of ConservativeHome’s poll of cabinet ministers, with an approval rating in the latest survey of 84 per cent. Together with Michael Gove (who currently ranks second), he has been the most consistently impressive minister in Cameron’s government. It is not hard to see why he is so popular with the grassroots. Duncan Smith is a conviction politician offering clear-cut conservative solutions to major problems, emphasising individual responsibility, a strong work ethic, and traditional values as opposed to big government meddling. His welfare reforms are a major step in the right direction, and the most radical since the system’s creation in the 1940s. They deserve widespread support, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Iain Duncan-Smith stands for pro-family policies and welfare reform. What does Michael Gove stand for?

Here’s an article about him in the UK Daily Mail. (H/T Dina)

Excerpt:

One Cabinet minister is increasingly standing apart from the crowd. Yesterday, this newspaper revealed that Education Secretary Michael Gove wants to bring back O-level-style exams.

Although this brave proposal is popular with parents across England, it is not uncontroversial. It takes us back to a system that separated academically gifted children from those with different aptitudes.

But I would argue that the abolition of O-levels in the Eighties was actually an early sign of the culture of dishonesty in our national life.

Britain fell into the grip of a dishonest kindness. We started to hand out good exam results like sweeties — regardless of whether pupils had really learnt anything at school.

We told ourselves that it didn’t matter whether parents spent their time working with their children or just letting them lounge in front of the TV.

We allowed school-leavers to think that a life on benefits was socially acceptable when it’s actually a place where they would easily rot and never fulfil their potential.

The statistics that poured out of the schools system suggested that all was well, however.

Like tractor production data from the old Soviet Union the latest exam grades were always better than last summer’s.

We were told to rejoice but employers and universities saw through the big lie. They complained that the children graduating from Britain’s schools lacked basic literacy and numeracy skills. Britain started sliding down the international league tables that compared the abilities of children in China, Germany, Korea and Britain.

Michael Gove is the first Education Secretary to say that enough is enough. He has said he’s not afraid to preside over a drop in exam grades. They’ll look less good, he concedes, but they’ll be more honest.

The teaching unions that have presided over the ‘All Must Have Prizes’ system will fight him tooth and nail. They want to protect their jobs-for-life regime where bad teachers are rarely sacked but are instead allowed to damage countless pupils’ life chances, year after year.

Gove is undeterred. He’s ready to close down a system where children who can’t manage their times tables are studying for exactly the same exams as those who are on track to study physics at Oxbridge.

[...]The compassionate politician who cares about equality of opportunity won’t accept this status quo, and will point out that the current system is dishonest. It puts children with very different abilities through the same sausage machine and then pretends that those who get ‘F’ or ‘G’ grades have still passed.

Michael Gove wants academically gifted children to be stretched by studying O-levels.

He wants other children to have a more appropriate educational experience, albeit an equally rigorous and demanding one.

This Government’s investment in high-quality apprenticeships and a new generation of technical colleges is early proof that it is serious about restoring the standing of vocational education.

Michael Gove’s specialty is education reform – he wants to stop the left from bashing kids into the same mold, regardless of their individual abilities and aptitudes.

Those are the two guys to watch. They’re not perfect, but they are the two best in the UK, in my opinion.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Santorum campaign relies on donated buses and door-to-door campaigning

From socially liberal Business Week.

Excerpt:

With minimal campaign organization and less funds than his rivals, Santorum has boosted his campaign with the votes of a network of evangelical Christians, anti-abortion rights activists and home-schooling parents who are resisting frontrunner Mitt Romney. In a March 8-11 national Bloomberg Poll, likely voters who described themselves as “born again” or evangelical Christian backed Santorum by 42 percent compared with 28 percent for Romney.

“Romney’s inability to close out the race has given Santorum a golden opportunity to unite social conservatives behind him, and they are getting in line,” said Keith Appell, a Republican public relations executive who works with social conservative groups.

Parents who home school their children are spreading the message on Facebook. Southern Baptist pastors are promoting Santorum’s candidacy to their members. Anti-abortion rights advocates are boarding the “Rick Bus” for multi-state voter mobilization tours.

Two days before Tennessee’s primary, Santorum attended services on March 4 at the Bellevue Baptist Church, a 7,000- member organization in the Memphis suburbs.

[...]Santorum won the state’s primary.

Such efforts are helping the former Pennsylvania senator compensate for a campaign operation that trails Romney in every measure of strength: money, staff, and organization.

Romney raised $63 million for his campaign through January, compared with $7 million by Santorum. Santorum had spent $148,806 on salaries and benefits through January; Romney’s personnel costs have exceeded $4.5 million. Santorum recently opened a national campaign headquarters in Virginia; Romney’s offices near Boston Harbor have been open nearly a year.

He’s tapping into well organized yet loosely affiliated groups of activists whose leaders consider Santorum one of them. “Santorum has piggybacked on the top of other existing grassroots networks,” said Cleta Mitchell, his campaign counsel. “They’re basically activating their networks on his behalf.”

[...]Romney and a political action committee supporting him ran 64 percent of the commercials that aired in Mississippi and Alabama in the month before the primaries, compared to just 15 percent aired by Santorum’s backers, according to data from New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks advertising.

The article tries to paint Santorum as a social conservative, and he is. But he also has a solid economic plan, that’s targeted to the middle class, and especially manufacturing. Basically, Romney is burning through millions and millions of dollars to buy the nomination. But ordinary conservatives, especially social conservatives, like Rick Santorum best.

Rick Santorum

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