A new policy brief derived from The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Survey of American Family Finances and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics shows exactly how much family really matters when it comes to helping kids out with important life events and transitions on the financial side. There’s really no surprise there.But some of the detailed findings on the trouble single mother families face make for some bleak reading:
Single mothers tend to be younger than two-parent households raising children, and nearly half have never been married. And they are in a more fragile financial state than households with two parents. Two-thirds of single-mother families had income under $40,000 in the previous year, and most have very little money in reserves: About half have virtually no net worth, while three-quarters of two-parent families have positive net worth. Single mothers report owing personal loans to friends and family at a higher rate than two-parent households (19 percent versus 11 percent) and are twice as likely to have past-due bills (26 percent versus 13 percent).
A read through the whole report points to the unavoidable conclusion that a major goal of social policy has to be the formation of two-parent households.This shouldn’t involve—as the occasional dorky pastor type or culture warrior might imagine—giving chastity and abstinence lessons to teens. Such lessons aren’t a bad thing necessarily; it’s just that over the centuries this kind of influence appears to be, well, limited.And on the other side of the divide, this isn’t about birth control either. Short of lacing the tapwater with birth control drugs, we aren’t going to get anywhere on the single parent problem by focusing on this end of the equation. In fact, as birth control (and abortion) became more available, the numbers of single parent households has more than doubled—from the sixties with the pill on up through Roe v. Wade in the 1970s. Availability of birth control to women who want or need it is important for other reasons,