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Future of the Family, The

Future of the Family, The

Daniel P. Moynihan
Timothy M. Smeeding
Lee Rainwater
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Future of the Family, The
    Book Description:

    High rates of divorce, single-parenthood, and nonmarital cohabitation are forcing Americans to reexamine their definition of family. This evolving social reality requires public policy to evolve as well.The Future of the Familybrings together the top scholars of family policy-headlined by editors Lee Rainwater, Tim Smeeding, and, in his last published work, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan-to take stock of the state of the family in the United States today and address the ways in which public policy affects the family and vice versa.

    The volume opens with an assessment of new forms of family, discussing how reduced family income and lower parental involvement can disadvantage children who grow up outside of two-parent households. The book then presents three vastly dissimilar recommendations-each representing a different segment of the political spectrum-for how family policy should adapt to these changes. Child psychologist Wade Horn argues the case of political conservatives that healthy two-parent families are the best way to raise children and therefore should be actively promoted by government initiatives. Conversely, economist Nancy Folbre argues that government's role lies not in prescribing family arrangements but rather in recognizing and fostering the importance of caregivers within all families, conventional or otherwise. Will Marshall and Isabel Sawhill borrow policy prescriptions from the left and the right, arguing for more initiatives that demand personal responsibility from parents, as well as for an increase in workplace flexibility and the establishment of universal preschool programs. The book follows with commentary by leading policy analysts Samuel Preston, Frank Furstenberg Jr., and Irwin Garfinkel on the merits of the conservative and liberal arguments. Each suggests that marriage promotion alone is not enough to ensure a happy, healthy, and prosperous future for American children who are caught up in the vortex of family change. They agree that government investments in children, however, can promote superior developmental outcomes and even potentially encourage traditional families by enlarging the pool of "marriageable" individuals for the next generation.

    No government action can reverse trends in family formation or return America to the historic nuclear family model. But understanding social change is an essential step in fashioning effective policy for today's families. With authoritative insight,The Future of the Familybroadens and updates our knowledge of how public policy and demography shape one another.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-412-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Population Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    John L. Palmer

    On March 26, 2003, the United States lost one of its most eminent and visionary public servants, the social sciences lost one of their most astute and prolific practitioners, and the Maxwell School lost one of its most celebrated and distinguished faculty members. I am writing, of course, about the death of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, which has left so very many holes in the fabric of our common life.

    Much has been written about Moynihan’s accomplishments, and much more, no doubt, will be forthcoming. This volume, however, may well be the last book that will ever be published under his...

  5. PREFACE A Dahrendorf Inversion and the Twilight of the Family: The Challenge to the Conference
    (pp. xiii-xxviii)
    Daniel P. Moynihan
    (pp. xxix-xxx)
  7. CHAPTER ONE The Challenge of Family System Changes for Research and Policy
    (pp. 1-22)
    Timothy M. Smeeding, Daniel P. Moynihan and Lee Rainwater

    In 1963, the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of Labor, led by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, first observed that out-of-wedlock childbirth was on the rise. Some forty years later, after a period of denial, we have finally acknowledged it and are as a nation beginning to address it headon. Moynihan has noted that this 1960s sighting was just the beginning of “ the earthquake that shuddered through the American family” (Preston 1984, 451) and still rumbles. It has shaken many nations, ours included, and has led to nearly forty years of demographic statistics, but not to a complete understanding...

  8. Part I What Do We Know?

    • CHAPTER TWO The Spread of Single-Parent Families in the United States Since 1960
      (pp. 25-65)
      David T. Ellwood and Christopher Jencks

      The spread of single-parent families has been both an intellectual challenge and a source of persistent frustration for social scientists. Some of the nation’s most influential social theorists, including Gary Becker (1991) and William Julius Wilson (1987), have sought to explain the change. These theories have led to a large body of empirical research, but there is still no consensus about why single parenthood spread, much less about why it spread faster in some populations than in others. The most widely cited empirical papers seem to be those that disprove various hypotheses. Indeed, it is only a slight exaggeration to...

    • CHAPTER THREE Unmarried Cohabitation and Parenthood: Here to Stay? European Perspectives
      (pp. 66-95)
      Kathleen Kiernan

      In many Western European nations and North America few developments in family life have been quite as dramatic as the recent rises in unmarried cohabitation and out-of-wedlock childbirth. Such developments raise questions about the hegemony of legal marriage as the basis of family life and many of the assumptions on which public policies are built. However, the extent to which these changes have taken hold and the policy responses to them have not been uniform across nations. The past shapes our cultures, institutions, laws, and welfare regimes, which in turn can constrain behaviors and responses to changed circumstances. A comparative...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Single-Parent Poverty, Inequality, and the Welfare State
      (pp. 96-115)
      Lee Rainwater and Timothy M. Smeeding

      Out-of-wedlock childbirth and divorce combine, then, to produce a wide array of family types and child living arrangements. Family change also brings economic changes. While the causes and consequences of father absence are not yet fully understood (see chapter 5), the economic consequences are much easier to trace.

      Our intent is to examine how income support policies help or hinder single-parent families. Children in single-mother families are widely understood to be economically vulnerable. In all countries in recent years policy has focused special attention on this problem. Single mothers are seen as caught between their responsibilities as mothers and heads...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Father Absence and Child Well-Being: A Critical Review
      (pp. 116-156)
      Wendy Sigle-Rushton and Sara McLanahan

      Patterns of family formation have changed dramatically in the United States over the last several decades. Cohabitation has replaced marriage as the preferred first union of young adults; premarital sex and out-ofwedlock childbearing have become increasingly commonplace and acceptable; and divorce rates have recently plateaued at very high levels. One of three children in the United States today is born outside marriage, and the proportion is twice as high among African Americans (Ventura and Bachrach 2000). Recent estimates suggest that 54 percent of American children will spend some time living apart from one of their parents, usually their father, by...

  9. Part II Commentary on the Family

    • CHAPTER SIX Fatherlessness in Non-Intact Families and Gender Inequality in Intact Families: Two Sides of the Same Coin?
      (pp. 159-165)
      Janet C. Gornick

      This chapter raises three interrelated questions about contemporary American families that should be integrated into research agendas on single parenting. The first concerns the link between single parenting and fatherlessness. The second relates to gender divisions of labor within contemporary American marriages. The third concerns the possible effect of gender inequality in intact families on the prevalence of female-headed, single-parent families. These questions are posed in relation to the United States, but they could be asked with respect to all industrialized countries with similar patterns and trends in family formation.

      Why is it that in the United States, in practice,...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN The Developmentalist Perspective: A Missing Voice
      (pp. 166-170)
      P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale

      The voice of developmental psychology—the people, the humans, the families, the children, and a focus on relationships from an emotional perspective—is critical in this debate. Most people want partners, they want spouses; they are seeking love and connectedness, which are essential for healthy functioning. Most people do not wish to get divorced or to be single parents. What do people think about relationships? How do they form them? What are their expectations for marriage? How do they behave within marriages? What are the consequences of their behavior? The answers to these questions cannot be completely covered by demographic...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Demography, Public Policy, and “Problem” Families
      (pp. 171-178)
      Douglas A. Wolf

      We have discussed two aspects of family change, namely the growth in nonmarital unions and the phenomenon of children being raised by just one, often an unmarried, parent. There have been, however, other substantial changes in family patterns in recent decades, and some of them have implications for the issues raised in these other chapters.

      Attention has been focused on children growing up in single-parent families and the problems associated with a group being born in—or in some cases raised in—a particular set of circumstances. But it is also instructive to consider another set of children, namely those...

  10. Part III Policy Perspectives

    • CHAPTER NINE Marriage, Family, and the Welfare of Children: A Call for Action
      (pp. 181-197)
      Wade F. Horn

      No one has yet found a satisfactory substitute for a good mother and father. As the lawyers say, we can stipulate that. And if evidence is needed, we have that, too.

      But children do not grow up only within the shelter of the family: the family functions in a social setting. Just as the health of the child affects the health of the family, the health of the family affects the health of society—and vice versa. The “vice versa”—the immense pressure for good or ill that society brings to bear—has a far more profound effect on the...

    • CHAPTER TEN Progressive Family Policy in the Twenty-First Century
      (pp. 198-230)
      Will Marshall and Isabel V. Sawhill

      Not long ago, the family was a prime battleground in America’s culture wars. In the last decade, however, the ideological passions unleashed by changes in family structure and social values have subsided. A new center has emerged in the long-running family debate, and with it a chance to build broad political and public support for a progressive, profamily agenda for the twenty-first century.

      We propose a wide-ranging set of policies tailored to the new realities of work, marriage, and family life in America. These ideas aim at promoting stable families by discouraging teen pregnancies, moving more welfare recipients into jobs,...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Disincentives to Care: A Critique of U.S. Family Policy
      (pp. 231-260)
      Nancy Folbre

      In the more than twenty-five years since this observation was made, social scientists have moved toward greater appreciation of the market value of nonmarket work.¹ A number of recent studies focus on the contributions that mothers and fathers make to the next generation of workers and the stock of “human capital” (Haveman and Wolfe 1995; Crittenden 2001). Some economists argue that child rearing offers positive fiscal externalities as well as more general public benefits (Lee and Miller 1990; Folbre 1994). Yet the welfare reform agenda continues to focus on “reducing dependency,” interpreted as increasing paid employment and reducing access to...

  11. Part IV Making Sense of Family Change and Family Policy

    • CHAPTER TWELVE The Value of Children
      (pp. 263-266)
      Samuel H. Preston

      Will Marshall and Isabel Sawhill say provocatively, “the sexual revolution, the movement for gender equity, and the emergence of a postindustrial economy based on services and intangible goods—these factors have overwhelmed the effects, for good or ill, of public policy on families” (see chapter 10). I believe their claim is and will continue to be accurate. Social change has precluded our return to the family of the 1950s through any device of public design.

      The reason is that neither men nor women are willing to accept at the core of their adult lives an intimate relationship that is not...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN Values, Policy, and the Family
      (pp. 267-275)
      Frank F. Furstenberg

      Throughout the past century, especially in the last few decades, marriage practices have been altered in ways that seem either irrevocable, as many authors suggest, or at least very difficult to reinstate, even if we could agree that it were desirable to do so. Moreover, these changes have been widespread, if not universal, throughout the West and there is growing evidence that the weakening of marriage, as a life-long social form, is occurring throughout much of the world.

      It seems there is also agreement that this decline of marriage is exacting a cost for children. Although there is not consensus...

    • CHAPTER FOURTEEN Policy and the Family
      (pp. 276-282)
      Irwin Garfinkel

      No one has done more than Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan to call attention to the importance of the question of how public policies affect families. Put simply, the long-term health of the nation depends on the health of its families. All of us share that view.

      Through their pioneering work with the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS), Lee Rainwater and Timothy Smeeding have been educating Americans and Europeans about poverty and single-parenthood from a crossnational perspective for two decades (chapters 1 and 4). They use LIS data to demonstrate convincingly that children in single-mother families in the United States fare worse...

  12. INDEX
    (pp. 283-296)