Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Are single parents causing inequality?

The Atlantic has an interesting story whose causal links go something like this:

Single parent households make less money.

This leads to less investment in kid's education which leads to lower levels of human capital which leads to lower income: 

The decline in marriage rates among poorer men and women robs parents of supplemental income, of work-life balance, and of time to prepare a child for school. Single-parenthood and inter-generational poverty feed each other. The marriage gap and the income gap amplify one another.

Better educated, higher-income men and women tend to marry each other which perpetuates the cycle:

The marriage inequality crisis creates a virtuous cycle at the top and a vicious one at the bottom. It pushes educated and non-educated Americans into entirely different worlds.


  1. Interesting new film* may put this observation in a wider context and help explain this further

    *gets great reviews and is on at the Belcourt

  2. I would also like to assess the economic cost of Divorce in this study. (I believe these 2 are related). Although in some senses, in the short run, divorce stimulates the economy (2 houses, 2 christmases, etc.) in the long run I believe that is causing even more damage than the single parenting epidemic.

    My reasoning is that a divorced family probably had provided certain advantages of the 2-parent household up to the divorce, at which point the child or children would have been fairly prepared to develop. However, at this point the educational investment of money and time falls off, which could stunt someone at a crucial point.

  3. Not sure why it used my blogger account, but the comment above was from Devin Kunysz, MW class 9:40 AM.

  4. This is an interest subject. Although I do think that there are other factors contributing to inequality between single parent and married couples, assortive mating is more common today than ever before, especially considering there are more women entering the corporate world and professional programs (law, business, PHD programs) compared to previous generations.

  5. An article I read recently in the NYT may be related to this observation. The article suggests that, following the rational-actor paradigm, children are incentivized to pursue mates that lack resources for future offspring. Why? Because their parents will disapprove and, in an effort to ensure the successful creation of as many grandkids as possible, parents will invest more resources in the child (particularly in the daughter) they are worried won't survive, thrive, and procreate. This causes siblings to compete, but not for mates that can provide for their futures - it is more of a "prodigal son" mentality in which they are competing for whom can most disappoint mom and dad.

    This is a tenuous connection, but perhaps an unintended consequence is that these resource-scarce pairings driven by sibling rivalry for parental resource reallocation are ultimately unsuccessful relationships despite producing offspring - creating more single parent families. As far as I am aware, most single-parent homes are headed by single mothers (80% of 12.9 mill in 2006 according to Wikipedia). The fact is that parental lifespans are finite, as are parental resources, so the value-added of pissing off your parents dries up at some point and single mothers who originally chose mates lacking in resources are deeper in the red with no additional support on the horizon.

    Maybe our parents were right about those loser boyfriends after all?

    NYT article here: