About the Boys

 

shutterstock_21324538“It’s about what these women will let guys get away with.” You may not expect to hear commentary like that at your garden variety think tank panel discussion, but it got pretty lively at the American Enterprise Institute discussion on the topic “Do Healthy Families Affect the Wealth of States?”

Megan McArdle of Bloomberg View is author of the above comment. The question at hand was: Why are so many young women (64 percent of moms under the age of 30) having children out of wedlock? The class divide in America is nowhere as wide as on the matter of marriage. College educated men and women are sticking with the traditional order of marriage first, children after. Not only that, but they are far less likely to divorce than their parents’ generation. Those with only some college or less, by contrast, are much less likely to marry before having children, and much more likely to divorce if they do marry.

McArdle was answering her own question in a sense. She noted that many who had studied the retreat from marriage among the uneducated propose the “working class men are garbage” thesis. According to this view, lots of young men are unemployed and playing video games all day. Why would a young woman want to marry such a loser? She’d just be getting another kid.

But as McArdle observes, someone is enabling that behavior on the part of the young men. Someone is putting a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, and paying the electricity bill so that the game console stays on. Is it his parents? Or is it a young woman? If she has a child (possibly his child), she is eligible for a whole panoply of government assistance, including TANF, food stamps, WIC, housing assistance, low income home energy assistance, and much more. Thirty years ago, in Losing Ground, Charles Murray wondered whether the welfare state was enabling the sort of behavior that isn’t good for people – like having children out of wedlock.

The question still stands. In the interim, Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed a welfare reform bill that was successful in reducing welfare dependency to some degree and certainly contributed to a drop in childhood poverty. Two disheartening things have happened since: 1) the Obama administration unilaterally vitiated the work requirements in the welfare law through regulation; and 2) the secular trend toward unwed parenthood continued unabated.

Is it the lack of jobs for high school graduates that has made young men less “marriageable” or is it the retreat from marriage that makes kids who grow up in unstable homes less able to take advantage of job opportunities? Chicken? Egg?

Most of the panel members agreed that causation is probably a two-way street. What is not in doubt is the association of intact families with greater wealth, employment, security, and all-around high functioning. A study by W. Bradford Wilcox, Joseph Price, and Robert I. Lerman found that states with higher than average percentages of married parents were associated with higher median incomes, lower levels of child poverty, greater social mobility, and higher male labor force participation rates, among other measures of success, than states with higher levels of unwed parenting.

Life ain’t fair, and cannot be made perfectly fair. But it almost seems a conspiracy of silence among the college educated to keep from the working class the key secret to their success. Particularly in families with college-educated couples who don’t divorce (the vast majority), children are given security, stability, money, time, a kin network, and a thousand other advantages. The children of single parents, by contrast (and yes, many do fine) are much more likely to suffer from feelings of abandonment, to live in poverty, to cope with emotional tumult in their mother’s life (most live with mom), to be sexually abused, to be forced to adapt to a blended family, and so on. Also, as David Autor and Melanie Wasserman suggest in their report Wayward Sons for The Third Way: “A growing body of evidence … indicates that the absence of stable fathers from children’s lives has particularly significant adverse consequences for boys’ psychosocial development and educational achievement.”

There may be lots of reasons, starting with their parents, why many young, high school graduate males are unemployed and playing video games. But if young women consider them unfit husbands, they ought also to be unfit fathers, right? Unless, the state is the father. Over to you, Charles Murray.

Published in Domestic Policy, Marriage
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 95 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Have you played video games recently? It’s asking a lot to have the willpower to turn them off. :)

    • #1
  2. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    Mona, is there any research in to the rate of violence among those who divorce, or children of divorce, versus the opposite?

    • #2
  3. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    A modest proposal:

    Income in America peaked for high school graduate males in the 1970’s – every statistic concerning lower income women and children’s lifestyle preferences since is predicated on that fact. I propose we on the right give up our pedantic opposition to real increases in the minimum wage [as opposed to the plethora of handouts we now have] and in return demand personal responsibility for those receiving those handouts. The first step would be to demand that those disorganized enough to require public assistance are too disorganized to have another child in the interim and should have to use Norplant.

    • #3
  4. James Madison Member
    James Madison
    @JamesMadison

    Very Good Post

    #1 Problem for so many women is 56-58% of college grads are female and that means the pool of those who might coonsidered of similar background (Charles Murray) is not as big.

    Also, many women decide if I am going to raise one child, why raise two?

    Harsh, but true. The definition of the white picket fence is no longer the same. Reality is setting in.

    • #4
  5. Great Ghost of Gödel Inactive
    Great Ghost of Gödel
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    Mike H:Have you played video games recently? It’s asking a lot to have the willpower to turn them off. :)

    My solution: to play games instead of, rather than in addition to, movies and TV.

    I’m being completely serious.

    • #5
  6. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    The class divide in America is nowhere as wide as on the matter of marriage. College educated men and women are sticking with the traditional order of marriage first, children after.

    Yawn … This is news?

    • #6
  7. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    I put a movie on the computer and play the Xbox.  Or a movie on the laptop and play the computer.  Especially for strategy games, there can be plenty of time to watch the movie between moves.

    Doesn’t work as well when I’m working.  I used to put on a movie while I’d grade, but now it just distracts me.

    • #7
  8. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    There is a lack also of affordable housing–housing that is priced within reach of an entry-level job.

    • #8
  9. James Madison Member
    James Madison
    @JamesMadison

    Much of our problem with producing male constributors who can marry and have families is economic – our economic growth rate is in decline and the trends in family formation, child birth and age of marriage reflect this.

    Males are not launching a well because the economic necessity and opportunity are not as compelling.

    • #9
  10. Whiskey Sam Inactive
    Whiskey Sam
    @WhiskeySam

    The growing rate of illegitimacy has gone beyond an inner city problem or solely one arising from poverty.  The stigma is being removed such that middle class women are now deciding they want a baby and go find someone who will help them procreate without any thought of marriage.  I have friends and family who have done this, and this has broadly become something to be celebrated where anyone suggesting that it might not be wise for someone unwilling to commit to a marriage to take on the commitment of rearing a child is frowned upon as bigoted or intolerant.  This is generally not healthy for the child brought up lacking a parent and not healthy for society.

    That the government has replaced the male in the house is unsurprising when males are in a no-win position.  Act like a man, and they are “privileged by the hierarchy”, denigrated as beneficiaries of inherent bias in the system, and demeaned for being too masculine.  Act less like a man, and they are labeled “boys”, irresponsible, and complained about as being unfit for marriage.  Is it any wonder men are rejecting this and opting out?

    • #10
  11. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    James Madison:Very Good Post

    #1 Problem for so many women is 56-58% of college grads are female and that means the pool of those who might coonsidered of similar background (Charles Murray) is not as big.

    Rob Long recently led the discussion on that very problem.

    Mona Charen:

    But as McArdle observes, someone is enabling that behavior on the part of the young men. Someone is putting a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, and paying the electricity bill so that the game console stays on. Is it his parents? Or is it a young woman?

    These are my local observations, for my area. If it’s a white guy, he’s almost always living with Momma. And Momma is single, long divorced, working, middle aged, and wondering why it all went so wrong, while her fully grown son sleeps on her couch, eats up her fridge, and spends what disposable income he has on Cheetos, his pot dealer,  and Xbox points. If Momma re-marries, that usually ends the ride for Slacker Jr.

    If it’s a black guy, he’s more likely to be living with the stereotypical welfare queen. She’s getting WIC, Section 8 housing, and EBT’s, and all the other assorted goodies of the welfare state. They’re not married, and sometimes there’s a rotating cast of baby daddies moving in and out of the house as one guy loses favor with her and another gains it.

    • #11
  12. Goldgeller Member
    Goldgeller
    @Goldgeller

    Mona Charen If she has a child (possibly his child), she is eligible for a whole panoply of government assistance, including TANF, food stamps, WIC, housing assistance, low income home energy assistance, and much more. Thirty years ago, in Losing Ground, Charles Murray wondered whether the welfare state was enabling the sort of behavior that isn’t good for people – like having children out of wedlock.

    I’ve heard a lot of anecdotal evidence working property theft claims. Often, it’s guys living with a woman who has a kid, the woman is claiming a work laptop and some earrings, the guy is claiming tons of videogames and dvds. “Oh, it’s for the kid” “oh she’s gotten me some stuff.” The woman is usually working and picking up some welfare for the kid, the guy is spending it on toys. Happens so often. To the extent the relationship is consistent with the facts and the causal areas are right– the kid is money for the woman, the man bounces from woman to woman till he gets kicked out for being a leech– I think we see how welfare policies like this encourage a lot of destructive behaviors. What’s worse is that the policies tend to punish the transition to work, making it very rational to stay on welfare.

    • #12
  13. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    It’s true that many boys lack good role models, and the other points  discussed. But the two recent (last 20+ years) reasons are:

    1.  In general, Public School Teachers punish boys, not just for normal (i.e., Ritalin) behavior, but in response to Title IX, where “girls rule and boys drool.”

    2. Boys see what happens to men divorcing in Family Court, and want nothing to do with marriage.

    Christina Hoff Sommers wrote in 2000 the book The War Against Boys, and it has only gotten worse since then.

    • #13
  14. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Speaking of baby mommas and the boyfriends that sponge off them

    When she first won the Powerball, Holmes claimed she was using the winnings to move out of an apartment that she shared with seven people and buying a fitting home for her children…

    According to The Spread It on October 23, time has stood still for Holmes, who continues to spend her money bailing her boyfriend out of jail and paying his legal fees, which has so far totaled close to $10 million. She won the Powerball and opted for the lump sum cash payment and after taxes she was awarded $88 million from that winning ticket.

    In just a few days of being North Carolina’s newest millionaire, this mom bailed Lamarr McDow out of jail for $3 million dollars. He was first described as her “roommate,” but later reports indicate that the two are engaged.

    McDow, whose nickname is “Hot Sauce,” was released on bail while in jail for heroin charges. Then he was arrested again for not following a court-ordered curfew along with illegal weapons and drug charges. That cost Holmes another $6 million in bail money.

    According to News Max, Holmes, 31, was also arrested on drug charges when police came to get her boyfriend and smelled marijuana. Three of the kids were at home at the time, but the Family and Children Services didn’t get involved.

    • #14
  15. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    The problem is not men who are self-sufficient and don’t want to commit to marriage and family. The problem is men who leech off of women (either their mom or a series of “girlfriends”). It is exactly how Megan McArdle states, “the women let them get away with it.” The main way this happens is that the women give sex to unworthy men. It used to be that the only way a man could satisfy his libido was to attract a woman that would marry him. That required that he keep and hold a job so he would be seen as a good provider. Now the man can satisfy his libido by a girlfriend that lets him leech AND gives him sex, or he can just use online porn and the occasional casual hook-up.

    Any solution that focuses on turning boys into gentlemen without also focusing on turning women into ladies is doomed to failure.

    • #15
  16. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Whiskey Sam:The growing rate of illegitimacy has gone beyond an inner city problem or solely one arising from poverty. The stigma is being removed such that middle class women are now deciding they want a baby and go find someone who will help them procreate without any thought of marriage. the house is unsurprising when males are in a no-win position.

    My experience has been different. Some of my friends and family members have opted to postpone marriage and children or postponed marriage and opted to have no children, but nobody -and I mean nobody I know – would dream of having an illegitimate child.

    Just not done.

    • #16
  17. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    I once overheard some Boomers talking about this problem in regard to affluence. “They have everything. What do they have to break their necks for?” People who grow up without material want are less likely to pursue it with fervor. When our “poor” are fat, then many wealthier people must be gorging in other ways. And these days middle class families can often afford to hire contractors for the work they once gave sons, thereby failing to engender a “get ‘er done” attitude.

    I’m sure there are all sorts of reasons.

    The “some college” statistic is self-explanatory. Someone who doesn’t finish what he begins when so much money and opportunity on the line isn’t likely to change his ways afterward.

    The delay of marriages into later age is another factor. Young men and women get used to independence. That freedom from sacrifice between family life as a child and family life as an adult wasn’t so long or so powerful in past generations. It also gets them useful to a comfortable budget which children quickly swallow. And how is marriage different from cohabitation when modern ideas of marriage regard require neither children nor marital roles? Getting married used to be a no-brainer. Now it’s only an option… and a daunting, confusing one.

    • #17
  18. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Z in MT: The problem is men who leech off of women (either their mom or a series of “girlfriends”).

    There’s a theme in novels, going back centuries, about a woman choosing a man and then trying to change him into the man she wants him to be. It’s a timeless human temptation.

    While I’m old-fashioned enough to believe that women should have a civilizing effect on men, I would advise any woman against binding herself to a man who is not already respectable and reliable enough to depend on.

    There are cases in which “hitting rock bottom” shocks a person out of a stupor and sets that person right. But there is a mythical quality to the belief. Many other people hit the bottom and stay there. Sometimes it’s because of a personality defect which isn’t quickly changed. Sometimes it’s because starting from nothing is a heck of a lot harder than starting with resources, connections, etc. As any entrepreneur would tell you, “It takes money to make money.”

    • #18
  19. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Men and women have entirely too much discussion about the pros and cons of marriage. My parents knew each other for 90 days and my husband and I knew each other for 7 years yet neither couple had a “discussion” about marriage; we got engaged because we knew we’d found the right person.

    I am truly horrified at the lack of romance and the undue pressure people put upon themselves to marry. If you have to think about it, it’s not right.

    And yes, it is just that simple.

    • #19
  20. Freesmith Inactive
    Freesmith
    @Freesmith

    Women are doing more in today’s world, so men are doing less. What’s surprising about that?

    As soon as women move into an occupation or a field of endeavor it cheapens it for men. It becomes “women’s work.” The deconstructionist Left understands that perfectly: why else do you see the constant push for women in combat, women in the Army Rangers and, soon, women in the Navy Seals. The presence of women is the best way to undermine a manly institution.

    It’s laughable to read middle-class, educated, well-compensated managerial white women whining about the paucity of “real men” and the amount of “slackers” in contemporary society. Women want the jobs men have, but then they want the dispossessed men to act as if they still have them.

    You’ve come a long way, Baby; but for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    • #20
  21. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    The answer to why women are having so many children out of wedlock is very simple.

    “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle”.

    The Single Most Destructive Slogan in Recent Memory

    • #21
  22. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    RushBabe49:The answer to why women are having so many children out of wedlock is very simple.

    “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle”.

    The Single Most Destructive Slogan in Recent Memory

    I don’t blame Gloria Steinem’s slogan in the least because no woman has ever had cooler boyfriends than she did.

    I do blame liberals for welfare aka the idea that having children out of wedlock is an instant paycheck.

    • #22
  23. Funeral Guy Inactive
    Funeral Guy
    @FuneralGuy

    I wonder how much of this is egged on by feminist educators who basically tell young males they are dirt and not as important as the girls in the class.  (Subtly, of course.)   If a boy acts like a boy the answer is to drug him into submission.  The boy then tunes out and abandons school at the first opportunity.  The boy becomes a man and learns a trade as a plumber or an electrician.  The woman who has had her rarified status reinforced all her life looks at such a man as a “loser”.  The man ends up not caring less because there are plenty of bimbos who will service his needs and the rest of the time he has his video games.  Meanwhile, our empowered woman finds that men of her “class” have plenty of sex available because of their success and websites that can land them a “hook-up” with the swipe of a screen.  Feminism coupled with modern technology equals a whole lot of confused and unhappy Millennials out there.

    • #23
  24. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I think breaking “the barriers” was a fun challenge to women, and I predict soon they will realize that it wasn’t all as glamorous as it seemed. Work is work.

    • #24
  25. Cat III Member
    Cat III
    @CatIII

    Vectorman:It’s true that many boys lack good role models, and the other points discussed. But the two recent (last 20+ years) reasons are:

    1. In general, Public School Teachers punish boys, not just for normal (i.e., Ritalin) behavior, but in response to Title IX, where “girls rule and boys drool.”

    2. Boys see what happens to men divorcing in Family Court, and want nothing to do with marriage.

    Christina Hoff Sommers wrote in 2000 the book The War Against Boys, and it has only gotten worse since then.

    Picking up where Sommers’ book left off is Helen Smith’s Men on Strike. Men are dropping out of society. Many want nothing to do with relationships and there’s increasing sentiment that single mothers are especially toxic.

    • #25
  26. Whiskey Sam Inactive
    Whiskey Sam
    @WhiskeySam

    Cat III:

    Vectorman:It’s true that many boys lack good role models, and the other points discussed. But the two recent (last 20+ years) reasons are:

    1. In general, Public School Teachers punish boys, not just for normal (i.e., Ritalin) behavior, but in response to Title IX, where “girls rule and boys drool.”

    2. Boys see what happens to men divorcing in Family Court, and want nothing to do with marriage.

    Christina Hoff Sommers wrote in 2000 the book The War Against Boys, and it has only gotten worse since then.

    Picking up where Sommers’ book left off is Helen Smith’s Men on Strike. Men are dropping out of society. Many want nothing to do with relationships and there’s increasing sentiment that single mothers are especially toxic.

    Many years ago I worked an entry level position in a call center which seemed to have a disproportionate amount of single mothers.  It was one of those jobs that churned people with constant turnover, and the single mothers swarmed to whoever the new young, single guy was.  I got the sense pretty quickly they were looking for the next wallet to support their kid and not someone they actually had something in common with for a relationship.  Several bounced from bad relationship to bad relationship looking for the next stable source of income.  Very depressing place to work.

    • #26
  27. Cat III Member
    Cat III
    @CatIII

    Whiskey Sam:

    Cat III:

    Picking up where Sommers’ book left off is Helen Smith’s Men on Strike. Men are dropping out of society. Many want nothing to do with relationships and there’s increasing sentiment that single mothers are especially toxic.

    Many years ago I worked an entry level position in a call center which seemed to have a disproportionate amount of single mothers. It was one of those jobs that churned people with constant turnover, and the single mothers swarmed to whoever the new young, single guy was. I got the sense pretty quickly they were looking for the next wallet to support their kid and not someone they actually had something in common with for a relationship. Several bounced from bad relationship to bad relationship looking for the next stable source of income. Very depressing place to work.

    I work at a call center now. I haven’t noticed a bunch of single mothers, but I mostly stick to myself. Yesterday a coworker was complaining that her seven-year-old son was expelled from school for playing doctor with a female classmate. I don’t know the details so I can’t say for sure, but I have a sinking feeling that the school administrators are indeed nuts.

    • #27
  28. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Mona,

    So let’s sum up.

    1) Early in the 20th century the nuclear family is lionized. Thus Grandma & Grandpa can be let out on an ice flow to die. After all who wants their outmoded “values”.

    2) From mid-century on the marriage bond was under attack as too sexually repressive. Soon serial divorce became the norm and children were just a burden to be fought over with lawyers. Who needs a good marriage, what you really need is a good lawyer.

    3) In the late 20th century the absolutely fundamental definition of ethical life, that of heterosexual monogamy, is undermined. Now any semblance of society worrying about the family can be completely dispensed with. It’s all just whatever you feel, with whoever you feel, whenever you feel. Consequences are for suckers.

    Yep, it’s those video games alright.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #28
  29. Guruforhire Inactive
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    As one of my last posts on ricochet, I will again make the point everybody wants to avoid, every discussion every time. It’s boring now.

    Men are people. Are you offering a life they want?

    Dalrock had made a great point that women delaying marriage for a decade changes men’s behavior. Nobody makes huge investments which come with huge and escalating search and transaction costs, with minor and largely intangible returns 10-15 years in the future, and comes with a high risk of total devastation.

    • #29
  30. James Madison Member
    James Madison
    @JamesMadison

    Concurr Guru.

    Which is why I wrote, “Males are not launching as well because the economic necessity and opportunity are not as compelling.”

    • #30
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.