The Fall of Men in the Workplace

Conservatives have long argued that society should encourage stable parental relationships. A recent report by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia concluded that promoting marriage is the best way “to make family life more stable for children whose parents don’t enjoy the benefit of a college education.”

Liberals have tended to argue that the government should focus instead on improving economic opportunities. Jonathan Cowan, the president of Third Way, said the paper underscored that addressing social problems was a means to improve economic opportunities.

“If Democrats have as their goal being the party of the middle class, they have to come to the realization that they’re not going to be able to get there solely through their standard explanations,” said Mr. Cowan, a veteran of the Clinton administration. “We need to ask, ‘How can we get these fathers back involved in their children’s lives?’ ”

That is from a NY Times article (HT: Marginal Revolution) that reviews the evidence on a troubling trend: “The fall of men in the workplace is widely regarded by economists as one of the nation’s most important and puzzling trends.” The article also notes that single mothers are particularly bad at churning out successful men. This in turn makes men less attractive (read: less desirable) and women are therefore more likely to choose a path of single motherdom.

However, as I have written about before, it is a canard to suggest that traditional marriage or that getting “fathers back involved in their children’s lives” is the solution. As I see it, the available evidence shows that stable and nurturing family lives are more important than tradition. This may involve a boy adopted into a stable same-sex relationship, a single mother with a long-term stable boyfriend, or a single mother getting ongoing help from an uncle, cousin, or grandparents. In short, boys, especially at a young age, need long-term, intimate  modeled behavior, which can come from a variety of sources. What are your thoughts?

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