Sorry, Harvard, fathers still matter — including Black fathers

USA Today 17 June 2021
Family First Comment: It was Fathers Day in the US last Sunday. This excellent op-ed pushes back on the left revisionist logic that married, two-parent families don’t matter
“Progressives are calling into question even the kids-benefit-from-fathers argument Obama made so powerfully and poignantly….. There’s only one problem with this revisionist effort that relies on cherry picking a few findings to fit its narrative: Black children raised by single parents are three times more likely to be poor, compared to Black children raised by their own married parents. Black boys are almost half as likely to end up incarcerated (14% for intact; 23% for single parent) and twice as likely to go on and graduate from college (21% for intact; 12% for single parent) if they are raised in a home with their two parents, compared to boys raised by just one parent. Parallel patterns obtain for girls.”

The culture wars over family structure that raged in the 20th century — wars over single parenthood, marriage, and the importance of fathers — seemed to have ended in the early 21st century. From academia to the policy world, most sensible people acknowledged the importance of strong and stable families for kids. Hailing from the Ivory Tower in 2015, scholars from Brookings and Princeton reported on the new scientific consensus: “most scholars now agree that children raised by two biological parents in a stable marriage do better than children in other family forms across a wide range of outcomes.”

In the public square, the consensus view about the importance of fathers was best articulated by Barack Obama, in speeches at churches and colleges across the country. He underlined the value of fathers for kids and his own dedication to breaking the cycle of fatherlessness he experienced as a boy. “And so my whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father was not for my mother and me,” he told the graduates of Morehouse College in 2013. “I want to break that cycle where a father is not at home — where a father is not helping to raise that son or daughter. I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better man.” No one could doubt that President Obama understood how much fathers mattered for their kids.

The ‘Myth’ of the Two-Parent Home

But now, progressives are calling into question even the kids-benefit-from-fathers argument Obama made so powerfully and poignantly. This month, for instance, The Harvard Gazette ran an article entitled, “Why living in a two-parent home isn’t a cure-all for Black students.” Written by Harvard sociologist Christina Cross, it spotlights her research showing that poor Black kids with two parents do not do better on a few educational outcomes compared to their peers with single parents. 

Cross’ article echoed themes from an earlier article, “The Myth of the Two-Parent Home,” that she published in The New York Times that claimed “living apart from a biological parent does not carry the same cost for black youths as for their white peers.”

This Harvard research is part and parcel of a larger effort to call into question the idea that married, two-parent families matter not just for Black children but, indeed, all children. In an Atlantic article celebrating family diversity, the sociologist Pamela Braboy Jackson said, “All of our research points to the fact that it’s the quality of the relationship that matters, and the handling of communication and conflict, and the number of people in the household is not really the key” for the welfare of our kids.

There’s only one problem with this revisionist effort that relies on cherry picking a few findings to fit its narrative: it obscures the full truth from the sciences about the importance of two-parent families for kids.

A new report from the Institute for Family Studies co-authored by us with sociologist Wendy Wang finds large differences between Black kids raised by their own two parents, compared to their peers raised by single parents (primarily single mothers). Black children raised by single parents are three times more likely to be poor, compared to Black children raised by their own married parents. Black boys are almost half as likely to end up incarcerated (14% for intact; 23% for single parent) and twice as likely to go on and graduate from college (21% for intact; 12% for single parent) if they are raised in a home with their two parents, compared to boys raised by just one parent. Parallel patterns obtain for girls. Equally striking, we also find that Black children from stable two-parent homes do better than white children from single-parent homes when it comes to their risk of poverty or prison, and their odds of graduating from college. Young white men from single-parent families, for instance, are more likely to end up in prison than young Black men from intact, two-parent homes.
READ MORE: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2021/06/17/single-moms-great-families-dads-better/7705997002/

Scroll to Top
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap