Americans saw repeated footage of President Barack Obama’s extraordinary family during Monday’s ceremonial inauguration. Political differences aside, all should feel joy and national pride upon seeing such love, commitment and family cohesion in the White House.
The president’s family provides a stark contrast to the sad state of too many other American families.
All first ladies take up a cause, and Michelle Obama used her husband’s first term to emphasise the need for better nutrition among our youth. It’s a fine concern, but the continued decline of the family — the institution most important to the American way of life — has become a concern so critical that it threatens nearly all functions of society.
A comprehensive report on the front page of Monday’s Gazette, crafted by the nonprofit I-News Network with contributions from The Gazette’s Barbara Cotter, paints an alarming picture. Researching government data, reporters found that single parenthood increased steadily from 1960 to 2010 (the last year of available data) statewide and nationally. The single-parent family has become more common among all races, but the problem is greater among blacks and Latinos. Single parents, mostly women, head more than 50 percent of black families in Colorado with small children. They head 25 percent of white homes and 35 percent of Latino households.
Nationally, unwed mothers birth 29 percent of white babies. Among Latinos the number rises to 53 percent and to a startling 73 percent among blacks.
Some single-parent households produce law-abiding, productive, taxpaying individuals. Most do not. I-News found that kids brought up in fatherless homes are four times more likely to live in poverty than their peers who live in two-parent homes. A variety of studies tell us single-parent children are less likely to graduate high school or attend college.
Statistical correlation indicates that children raised in single-parent homes land themselves in prison at a much higher rate than their peers in double-parent homes. About one in 20 black Colorado men lived in incarceration in 2010. The number was one in 50 for Latino men and one in 150 among white men. Nationally, one of 33 black men, one of 83 Latino men and one of 150 white men live behind bars.
Some politicians, mostly conservatives, blame structural flaws in welfare for harming disadvantaged families.
“Most states operate in a way so that the more children you have out of wedlock, the more money you get,” said former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown, R-Colo., as quoted by I-News.
Other politicians, mostly liberals, blame welfare reforms that were encouraged by Republicans in the 1990s and signed into law by former Democratic President Bill Clinton.
The reforms, says former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, put “a lot of people who were receiving government assistance off into kind of a never-never land, which also then increased the number of disadvantaged that previously had been receiving assistance.”
We know this much for sure. Continued rise in single-parent homes stands to result in more incarceration, more poverty, more dependence and less per-capita production. The trend cannot bode well for the social and economic future of our republic.
If The Gazette knew of a simple solution, we would advocate it here. It is too complex for any standard right vs. left solution. Only outstanding public and private-sector leadership will help solve this problem.
President Obama made clear Monday that his belief that government can be part of the solution to a litany of economic and social ills that hold our country back. If that’s true, the president and first lady should use their positions to figure out the dilemma of diminishing double-parent homes — in the least partisan, most apolitical manner possible — and begin resolving it. We want Barack and Michelle Obama’s loving family to represent the norm, not the exception.