There are several, and sometimes competing, explanations why children of unwed moms do so poorly in life. I suspect the complexity of the issue argues against any one cause. Suffice it to say, the effects have unwrought the many gains of the civil rights period. The newfound opportunities for women cannot be realized by those who bear children without partners. For black households, the challenge is deeper. The disadvantaged conditions most black children face today can no longer be honestly attributed to centuries of racism. Black families were stronger a generation ago than now. Today the culprit is poor parenting decisions.
The debate we should be having would confront the challenge of restoring the power of the family in our national life, while preserving individual freedom and opportunity. We mustn’t go back to a time when women and minorities were less equal citizens, but we will not go forward until we can, to some degree, restore families to a central place. So, the debate over same-sex marriage robs from us a wider, more critical discourse about the far more pressing social and economic problem of families today.
Michael J. Hicks, Ph.D., is director of the Center for Business and Economic Research and an associate professor of economics at Ball State University. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.