In Coming Apart (Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, New York 2012, 2013), Charles Murray suggests that a new lower class has developed over the last 50 years due to a decline in marriage, industriousness, honesty and religiosity, and an increase in isolates (those disconnected from community life). In several of my blogs, I have talked about fair wages for a fair days work and how wages have stagnated for the working class (real income for the bottom 80% rose by 41% while the top 20% rose by 88% between 1979 and 2013). I want to make sure that this hard-working class of people is not unfairly grouped with the new lower class discussed by Murray. Also, this situation is outside the influence of the dream hoarders from the upper middle class that I wrote about in “Fairness Forgotten?”
Single motherhood, unemployment and child poverty contribute to the problems faced by the new lower class. There are currently 10 million single mothers in the United States. There are 9 million unemployed adults of which 373 thousand are not looking for work. There are 13.2 million children living in poverty, that’s about 1 in 5 children. Just to be clear, there are economically successful single mothers, however, children raised by single parents are more likely to be poorer, experience behavior problems, not graduate high school nor attend college than their two-parent counterparts. If nothing is done this predicament will be self-perpetuating.
I think trying to convince adults that they should marry, be more honest, industrious and religious would fail because of ingrained beliefs and established habits and class norms. However, I believe that caring for all children through outstanding public educations and well-funded and staffed after school programs would help meet the unmet needs of these children. In addition, local churches and athletic associations and scouting groups could provide the community life that may be missing for some of these children. There have always been children who were raised in less than perfect homes, but, often, the community acted as an automatic safety net. Why can’t it again? Also, fathers need to know how crucial their involvement is in raising physically and emotionally healthy children.
Murray talks about a government provided basic income for all Americans ages 21 and older by cashing out all income transfer programs like social security and welfare. Murray is a self-professed Libertarian and I don’t know where this idea falls politically. But if it helps the children, I’m for it!