Symposium: Fragmented Families and Splintered Classes

10.12.2012, 6:11 PM

The Center of the American Experiment published a report, Fragmented Families and Splintered Classes, that addresses growing class divisions in America. The report asked thirty-six writers — including Brad Wilcox and yours truly — to respond to the following questions:

  • How might abridged mobility and starker class divisions play out for lower-income and minority men, women, and, in particular, children?  What will it mean for their prospects?
  • What about the commonweal itself?  In what centrifugal ways might all this play out in the nation?  In Minnesota?
  • And getting to the core, what can be done to reduce out-of-wedlock births and divorce measurably in the first place?

Here is the essay that Brad and I wrote, in which we suggest that in order to stop the splintering of classes, ”we will need  to improve—and in some cases, revive—institutions that serve the 70  percent of non-college-educated Americans, particularly those that direct them toward steady work, thrift, and marital commitment.”

I haven’t read the full report yet, but according to the prologue by Mitch Pearlstein, it includes contributions from a philosophically and politically diverse group of people. I look forward to reading it.

On a related note, one of the things that Brad and I did not mention in our essay are early childhood education programs, which are touted by some people as essential for strengthening low-income families. I confess I’ve never really given that much thought to these programs – but perhaps I should. There’s an early childhood education center just a two minute walk from Amber and I’s home here in Maytown, which provides preschool, daycare, and Head Start programs. Amber and I just talked to young married couple with three children that love it because it allows their children (all under the age of 4 ) a head start in eduaction, and it gives the parents flexibility to work. I recall David Brooks writing one time that early childhood education programs have proven results. If anyone knows of these studies, I’d be interested in looking at them.

15 Responses to “Symposium: Fragmented Families and Splintered Classes”

  1. Anna says:

    Hmm. . . I thought one of the most famous things about Head Start was that it does not work. Haven’t pretty much all the studies (including DHHS’s own studies) suggested that it has very little or no long-term impact – with kids doing better according to some metrics during the program and for a very brief time afterward, but most of those gains disappearing by the end of first grade? At least, that’s what I recall from my education studies several years ago, but I don’t know good sources on it at this point.

  2. StraightGrandmother says:

    It is interesting that you would cite Germany as a nation to model as Germany has no minimum wage and exploits the very large immigrant Turkish population.

  3. David Lapp says:

    Anna, Thanks for mentioning that. As you can tell, I’m pretty ignorant of the studies on Head Start. If you find any links or resources, please send them my way.

    Straight Grandmother, I did not know that. If you have any articles that tell me more, I’m interested to learn more.

  4. Diane M says:

    I don’t have any links, but there was lots of research done on Head Start and you should be able to find links fairly easily.. I would argue that it worked, but not if you see it as an attempt to raise IQ.

    Kids who participated in Head Start were more likely to finish high school, stay out of trouble, and get jobs.

    I would add I believe that the studies of Head Start that showed this were done in an era when Head Start involved a lot of parent participation and many of the mothers were doing full-time child rearing/not earning wages. The program was not a full-time child care program.

    I think some of the pushback against Head Start programs has been by school systems that want to find ways to use early childhood programs to raise test scores. Whether or not that is good the children is debatable.

  5. Diane M says:

    It would be interesting to see if Head Start had any beneficial effects on the parents’ marriages.

  6. StraightGrandmother says:

    David, here are a couple articles

    Claus Mueller
    Associate Professor*
    Department of Sociology
    Hunter College/City University of New York
    New York, New York

    Close to fifty percent of all foreign students attend schools which do
    not allow them, after graduation, to continue training in advanced schools.
    Only 20 percent of German students graduate from those schools. Further, the drop out rate among Turkish students is much higher than among German students. Even Turkish students who graduate find it difficult to enter the trade apprenticeship system practiced in Germany, which combines onsite skills training for three years with mandatory education in a vocational school. Thus, 40 percent of all Turkish school graduates do not succeed in getting occupational training compared to eight percent of German students.…/togermany/…/mueller_communities.pdf

    or high level

  7. Diane M says:

    I’m enjoying your essay. I think the link between economics and marriage is a critical one.

    In terms of thrift/debt, I think part of the answer may be to regulate the credit industry more. I began my marriage without debt, but that is not, I regret to say, because I am super-virtuous in this area. It is because I did not have a credit card.

    Banning credit cards is obviously not a solution. I’m sure there are advocates who know about this area better than I do. I would guess that we could start by making it less profitable for credit card companies to go after people who can’t afford things. Limit the rate they can charge, maybe even based on income.

    Another part of the solution involves the cost of education. College should be something people can afford without having to go into debt. Perhaps instead of loans the government should give more outright scholarships to good students or to people who agree to do some kind of service for a few years after they graduate.

    For-profit colleges need to be regulated so that they don’t fleece people.

    Another part of the puzzle is health care costs. Universal health insurance would go a long way towards keeping people out of bankruptcy. For another approach, we should train more doctors. Lots and lots of doctors. Then let supply and demand bring down their wages.

    Credit unions would be a good idea, but they just wouldn’t be enough to keep people out of debt.

  8. Diane M says:

    I’m sorry, there is no way that movies or public relations campaigns will change the mind of someone who says that “marriage has not worked out for most people they know.” The evidence in front of you will be stronger than a movie or ad.

    There is a great need to somehow address the problem of people not having faith in marriage, but I think it would take more than this.

  9. StraightGrandmother says:

    We already have the rough equivalent of Apprenticeships in this country, it is call an Associate Degree in a 2 year Technical College or Junior College. It is a pity that so many of them are having their funding cut. Additionally all the trade unions have apprenticeship programs.

    Our 2 year Technical Colleges graduate Cook/Chefs, Radiology Assistants which are X-Ray, MRI Ultrasound technicians etc., dental assistants, Welders and CNC Operators, Airplane Mechanics, computer programers, computer hardware tecs etc.

    I think we already have pretty good trade schools, we just need to publicly support them (i.e. stop slashing their funding) and support the students who attend with low cost loans and grants and provide publicly subsidized daycare to allow parents to attend.

    A percentage of graduates having succeed with a 2 year Associates Degree program find the confidence and intellectual curiosity to go further and attend a bigger school for a Bachelors degree and beyond.

    I see what I call thee “fake” schools advertized on television, thee schools that only exist but for the student loans that the students are helped with. “ITT Institute, graduate in 6 months and get a high paying computer job.” I am really really suspicious of those schools, how valuable that training really is in the marketplace. I could be wrong, I have no firsthand experience but I am highly suspicious of them. It seems to me that when people attend them and find out it really doesn’t help them get a job that they are disinclined to ever attend one of our County Technical Colleges. They give up on learning a good skill.

  10. Anna says:

    Here’s the official study commissioned by the government itself:

  11. David Lapp says:

    Diane M, I agree that movies or public relations campaigns that tell moving stories about good marriages, would not near be sufficient to have a measurable influence. But I think that we need lots of good things, and the more the better. In order to fight the bad contagion, a good contagion has to start somewhere.

    Plus, there is evidence that working class folks spend more time in front of the television, which means that they are more likely to imbibe the messages about love and marriage that Hollywood portrays. In talking to some working class people for the book that Amber and I are writing, we frequently hear people reference movies for how they have come to understand relationships. I don’t know about you, but I think most of the stories Hollywood tells about love and marriage are, to use a Bidenism, a bunch of stuff. And that is not insignificant.

  12. Diane M says:

    I think right now what teaches people about life and relationships may be a strange combination of Judge Judy and Kim Kardashian! Unfortunately, nobody sane and stable is going to want to be on a reality show.

  13. Diane M says:

    I hope someone else will comment on this, but I think the concept of a family wage has some problems.

    How do you achieve it without doing injustice to women who support families?

    How do you get to the goal when the couples most likely to have two full-time wage earners are the ones with the most money? In other words, how can you even begin to compete with just one wage?

    Apprenticeships seem like a fine idea; why make young people pay for community college instead of having a company train them?

  14. StraightGrandmother says:

    I dunno, but have a hunch that if people were paid a small sum to go to Technical College it might be just the edge that tips the scale. If we paid people just $600 a month while attending Technical School full time it may be that small stipend that gets people into the classroom. Not enough to fully support them but enough with the help of family or friends to incentivize them to attend and graduate. Between a small stipend and working part time people can make it through a 2 year technical school.