Melissa Kearney’s new book, “The Two-Parent Privilege,” is an attempt to explain the importance of marriage to her fellow liberal intellectuals. Sadly, she has her work cut out.
The author is an MIT-trained economist, and as the book jacket explains, she makes “a provocative, data-driven case for marriage by showing how the institution’s decline has led to a host of economic woes—problems that have fractured American society and rendered vulnerable populations even more vulnerable.” Her argument is solid, and she makes it using minimal academic jargon in an impressively brisk 200 pages.
I’m not sure how “provocative” it is, however. When Ms. Kearney writes that “the absence of a father from a child’s home appears to have direct effects on children’s outcomes—and not only because of the loss of parental income,” or that we need to “restore and foster a norm of two-parent homes for children,” it not only makes perfect sense to me but also sounds very familiar. Then again, I’m not the reader she’s targeting. I hardly need convincing that there are strong links between family structure, the well-being of children and outcomes later in life. Daniel Patrick Moynihan said as much in his 1965 report on the black family, and Moynihan relied on research conducted much earlier by black sociologists such as E. Franklin Frazier.