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Op/ed: The Rise of Single-Parent Homes Is Not a Good Thing

Economist in New Book Argues Policies Should Fight ‘Widening Class Gap in Family Structure’

By Melissa S. Kearney

silhouettes of a family of three with a fourth shadow

A UMD economist's new book outlines how homes with two dedicated parents provide a range of material and other advantages to children.

Illustration by Shutterstock

The plummeting percentage of children who live in two-parent homes has not been widely lamented out of a well-intentioned effort to be inclusive of diverse family arrangements, but the change is reinforcing a growing divide in society, University of Maryland economics Professor Melissa Kearney writes in a new essay in The New York Times.

In her new book released on Monday, “The Two-Parent Privilege: How Americans Stopped Getting Married and Started Falling Behind,” Kearney argues that policymakers, scholars and journalists should take into account the advantages of two-parent households, including higher incomes and more time for nurturing children, and work to improve the well-being of millions of children.

The share of American children living with married parents has dropped considerably: In 2019, only 63% lived with married parents, down from 77% in 1980. Cohabitation hardly makes up for the difference in these figures. Roughly a quarter of children live in a one-parent home, more than in any other country for which data is available. Despite a small rise in two-parent homes since 2012, the overall trend persists.

This is not a positive development. The evidence is overwhelming: Children from single-parent homes have more behavioral problems, are more likely to get in trouble in school or with the law, achieve lower levels of education and tend to earn lower incomes in adulthood. Boys from homes without dads present are particularly prone to getting in trouble in school or with the law.

Read the rest of her essay in The New York Times.



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