Fathers’ presence can fight poverty

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Your Wednesday Web article “Census: Solo households continue to expand” reports that there are “fewer households made of a married couple with minor children (21 percent, down from 24 percent in 2000).” What makes this statistic particularly important are the companion statistics released recently showing that the overall U.S. nonmarital birth rate is around 41 percent while most strikingly, it is 72 percent among blacks. Given the worldwide trends to cut public expenditures (including health, education and welfare) and also the recently released preliminary report by President Obama’s deficit-reduction commission, it is undeniably clear that these demographic trends are inherently nonsustainable.

The most commonly offered solution for these nonsustainable demographics is reducing poverty. To the contrary, a stronger case could be made that the optimal solution would be to increase the presence of fathers in families. From the perspective of sound social policy, it is clear that father-headed households are better off economically and the children of these families do better on virtually all indices of social and economic outcomes.

“Progressive” ideology notwithstanding, the empirical data suggest that a national family policy centered on bringing fathers back “in from the cold” and into the warmth of an intact family unit would benefit children not only in terms of positive psychosocial outcomes but also in terms of economic outcomes. The better economic outcomes would, at a minimum, be generated by the economies of scale created by family units rather than solo households. Hard economic times (which appear to be continuing) demand a hard look at failed family policies.


Professor of psychology

Florida International University

Miami, Fla.

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