"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Decline of Marriage

A sad little article in the Atlantic on the decline of marriage in America's lower classes pins the causation, not on moral decay (the sexual revolution, birth control, etc.), but on economics:

Low-skill men have had a rough two generations. The evaporation of manufacturing work has gutted their main source of employment, while globalization has held down their wages. Marriage has declined the most among men whose wages have declined the most. Here's a remarkable graph from the Hamilton Project comparing change in earnings (the RED LINE) and change in likelihood to be married (the BLUE BARS).
In a dating pool where poor women are more likely to be surrounded by men with low and falling fortunes, more women have ditched a union for good economic reasons: It could be a financial drain. In The Truly Disadvantaged, William Julius Wilson, argued that "high rates of unemployment and incarceration meant that the local dating pool was populated by unmarriageable men--and the result was that women chose to live independently."
There is a common thread between the moral and the economic reasons.   Both are ultimately caused by bad government policies.   In the first category are Roe v. Wade, and the government's support for legal abortion, which eliminates the disincentives for promiscuity and the mirrored incentives for marriage and responsibility.   In the second are the perhaps well-intentioned initiatives of liberals with regard to the minimum wage and environmental regulation and occupational safety regulation (OSHA) and Obamacare and all of the other liberal programs that make it harder and harder to start a manufacturing facility in America (and, of course, also including the high rate of corporate income tax).   I would also add the well-intentioned but boneheaded "war on drugs" that both Democrats and Republicans have long supported, that has resulted in the massive incarceration rates for young poor men, and especially for young black men.  

I don't have a short term answer to this problem.   One long-term answer is certainly a reawakening of faith and an evangelization for marriage and parenting and responsibility as adult Christians.   In terms of government policy, I would focus more on ways to get the American manufacturing sector humming again, including:

  • Eliminating the minimum wage.
  • Repealing Obamacare.
  • Rolling back the regulatory state.
  • Lowering the corporate income tax.
  • Lowering the capital gains and dividend taxes.

To get low-skilled American workers back to work, you have to enact policies that enable investors to get a higher return on their investments in America.   If they can hire workers at lower wages, that increases productivity and profit; if they can earn income without paying an extortionate amount of those earnings to the government in taxes, that increases the incentive to build factories.  

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