Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Don't Confuse Us With the Facts

Tiresome Vacuous Canards

The book of Ecclesiastes says, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.".  [Ecclesiastes 4:9-12]

This teaching is pretty much self-evident, the lameness of committees notwithstanding.  There is safety, strength, protection, and power in numbers.  Since the truth is self-evident what madness has persuaded our culture that sole parenting is OK as a model?  What convinced the Chattering classes, the authorities, the government, the academics, the know-it-alls that one person trying to bring up children will do as well as, or in many cases, better than two adults living with their children?

The downstream effects of marriages breaking apart are legion.  Most of them are bad, or less than ideal.  Therefore, it is no surprise that a recent piece fingers sole parenting as a major cause of child poverty (one of our perennial bugbears in New Zealand).

Parental breakups, not unemployment, are given in a new report as the prime cause of New Zealand's high rate of child poverty.  The report, published today by the Family First lobby group, says the near-trebling of sole parents from 10 per cent of families with dependent children in 1976 to 28 per cent of families in the last two censuses is "the elephant in the room" in the child poverty debate.

Child poverty has tracked sole parenting almost exactly. Children in homes earning below 60 per cent of the median household income rose from 14 per cent in 1982 to 30 per cent in 2001, then declined to 22 per cent by 2007, although they have risen again recently.  "The correlation between sole parent and child poverty rates is stronger than between unemployment and child poverty rates," says the report, by welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell.  [NZ Herald]
New Zealand is said to have a housing crisis.  One of the reasons for a shortage of housing is that when marriages break up, two dwellings are required to house the dislocated family, instead of one.  Add to that the number of houses contaminated and now uninhabitable due to P manufacture and consumption and we have two significant contributors to shortage in the housing stock.
"Unemployment, low wages, high housing costs and insufficient social security benefits are consistently blamed for child poverty, yet a major culprit (if not the major culprit) is family malformation, that is, a lack of two married committed parents."  Sole parents are naturally poorer than couples, on average, because they have only one potential income earner who often can't work fulltime because of the children.  
In 2014, 62 per cent of sole parents' children lived in homes earning less than 60 per cent of the median income, compared with only 15 per cent of children in two-parent homes. . . . For Maori, children born to legally married parents collapsed even more spectacularly from 72 per cent of Maori births in 1968 to just 20.9 per cent in 2011, recovering to 21.6 per cent in the latest year.
It would seem that belief in the institution of marriage is important in helping couples stay together.  The "split rate" is far higher amongst de-facto couples.
The report quotes Australian data showing that de-facto couples are much more likely than married couples to break up within five years, and that the five-year separation rate increased much faster for de-facto couples (from 25 per cent in the 1970s to 38 per cent in the 1990s) than for married couples (from 7 per cent to 9 per cent).
Unfortunately, arguments and evidence demonstrating that single parent families are inimical to societal health, wealth, and happiness are insufficient.  There is always the counter argument, that runs as follows:
However, Dr Susan St John of the Child Poverty Action Group said the report ignored the fact that marriage was not always good for women or their children.  "Intimate partner violence is not mentioned, nor the high rate of incarceration, especially of Maori males," she said. "The policy implications of this report, to reduce the safety net yet further and stigmatise the unwed, are extremely dangerous."
Susan St John lets a little bit of her feminist slip show.  One could argue equally that marriage is not always good for men either.  Moreover, she claims that reducing the safety net and stigmatising the unwed are "extremely dangerous".   But that's not the issue.  If one is concerned for the protection and care of children, people Susan St John needs to do two things: firstly she needs to acknowledge candidly that sole parent households are disproportionately places of danger and poverty for children.  Secondly, she needs to do more than retreat to the same old, same old--namely, that all would be bliss in single parent households if society just paid them out more money.  We are so tired of that vacuous canard.

We stand with the age-old wisdom of Ecclesiastes: two are better than one.

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