Video of the day

Time-lapse photos of mountains under changing light conditions.  Very, very cool (and make sure to watch in high definition–available when you click on the gear icon):

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Liberals and families

Kevin Drum admits to rare agreement with Jonah Goldberg about the conservative emphasis on the importance of two-parent families:

And yet, the sheer unlikelihood of agreeing with Jonah Goldberg prompts me to say that I think conservatives have a point when they lament the breakdown of the traditional two-parent family, a trend far more noticeable among the poor than the upper middle class:

Although it’s certainly true that the kids of some single parents can do very well, particularly if those solo parents have the financial or social resources to carry the load (just look at Obama’s own childhood), it is also the case that as a generalization, kids from single-parent homes do worse. In other words, it may be better to have one good parent than two bad parents, but it’s indisputably better to have two good parents.

….The decline of marriage among low- and middle-income Americans is a crisis afflicting all ethnicities. But among prosperous whites, marriage is doing pretty well. And the evidence has steadily mounted that marriage is a big source of that prosperity…

Honestly, I just don’t know how big a problem this really is, and I don’t know what kinds of solutions are feasible. So consider this an open thread for discussion. But I will say that this is a case where I feel like the liberal pundit class—college educated, upper middle class, mostly white—protests too much. For ourselves, we’ve voted with our feet and we plainly believe that traditional families are a good thing. But we sure spend a lot of time making up reasons why this thing we obviously value so highly isn’t really of much value for other people. I’m really not sure I buy it.

For the record, I think it is a pretty big problem.  Maybe it’s not in Sweden (as Drum alludes to in a Krugman column), but it quite clearly matters here.  And quite a bit.  Like Drum, I don’t think conservatives have the right solutions, but I do think that it is a problem that liberals need to be comfortable addressing.  I’m not interested in telling people they need to get married becuase that will make them more moral nor am I interested in shaming those who have children out of wedlock, but from a public policy perspective, the evidence is pretty clear that they will benefit from a stable marriage.  And their kids will benefit.
And therefore all of us will benefit.  Now, what policies get us there?  That’s the $64,000 question.

Meanwhile in Slate, Amanda Marcotte looks at data on fertility rates, gender roles, and ideology by state:

States with over 70 births per 1,000 reproductive age-women per year all went for Romney, and states with under 60 per 1,000 all supported Obama…

Higher fertility in red states, for instance, is the product of the societal pressure on women there to marry young, have more children, and put less of their energy into developing careers. In blue states, on the other hand, women tend to limit their family size and have kids later in life. Lesthaeghe clearly believes that ideology precedes family size in this equation. Liberals care less about traditional roles for women and traditional authority, which in turn gives blue state women room to focus on their careers rather than marrying young or having big families.

But don’t buy the conservative hype linking ideology to family stability. Red states have higher incidences of teen births and divorce…

France has found that government support that makes it easier for women to have kids and work has led to higher fertility. The implementation of Obamacare and the economy’s continued recovery could ease economic concerns about the future for liberal women who feel they have more choices, which could, in turn, raise the fertility rates in blue states. Right now, conservatives are having more kids. But a few tweaks to the social safety net that make the prospect of having children more attractive, and liberals might catch up to them.

There we go, liberals can just out-breed conservatives in the future.  Actually, I wouldn’t count on that due to the myriad cultural beliefs tied into decisions about child-rearing.  I don’t know if it is self-contradictory to encourage  fewer single mothers but more choices for women over their own careers and reproduction, but that certainly seems the way to go.

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