Most of you, I’m sure, will be grateful to welcome two loving parents to Yale for family weekend. I, however, will be welcoming only my mom.
Statistically, I know that I’m lucky. Brookings found in a 2016 report on poverty that a child raised by a single parent is five times more likely to be poor than one reared by a married couple. Meanwhile, the chances of rising from poverty to the upper class — or even the middle class — are slim to none for children who lack the support of two parents.
While I’m infinitely indebted to my mom for devoting her life to me and grateful for the determination, perseverance and independent spirit I cultivated by facing the challenges of growing up in a single-parent home, I wouldn’t wish this life on anyone.
The fact is, in homes with a single parent, resources are slim, work is constant and stress runs amok. And the effects disproportionately harm minorities. An extensive amount of research proves that class and race inequalities have widened because of the extreme rise in out-of-wedlock births and declining rates of marriage. Since the sexual revolution of the ’60s and ’70s, these numbers have only gotten worse.
Supporting two-parent homes, it seems, would then be a soundly progressive position. Simply put, the best way that we can promote equality is to do what has now become an antiquated, conservative norm: Get married.
Liberal college-educated elites, ironically, seem to know this best. While Yalies spend their college years rampantly hooking up, declaring sexual liberation and your right to “do you” — or anyone, it would appear — a Princeton and Brookings study found that graduates of elite schools actually end up settling down and marrying in greater numbers after college than any other percentage of the population. Ultimately, elites silently recognize that marriage is the best means of supporting a family.
Yet you would be hard-pressed to find anyone on this campus who will openly declare support for two-parent homes over single-parent homes. Anyone who did might find the reaction similar to what occurred in a recent controversy at the University of Pennsylvania. In August, Amy Wax, a law professor, wrote a column in The Philadelphia Inquirer calling for a return to 1950s bourgeois values. The majority of students and 33 faculty members were outraged by the piece and categorically condemned Wax’s statements.
Rather than substantively engaging with any of the ideas put forward by the column, the response was mostly focused on Wax’s argument that “all cultures are not equal.” It is offensive, the opposition claimed, to suggest that white, bourgeois values reign superior over other cultural scripts. Besides the obvious problems with reflexively calling for the inverse — “all cultures are equal” — it just doesn’t seem to be true that a claim of support for two-parent homes is an endorsement of white culture. In fact, according to a recent Pew poll, African-Americans value marriage much more than whites. I remember that, of the children in my mom’s kindergarten classes, Hispanic children were overwhelmingly more likely to come from two-parent homes than their white and black classmates — and they all performed much better because of it. Asian societies have upheld traditional views on marriage for years — the list goes on.
Granted, I understand why arguments put forth by Wax and other controversial conservative icons such as Charles Murray are not persuasive. Their presentation of data is cold, they do not value empathy, and their ideas often seem to amount to little more than sociological finger-pointing.
Wax spoke at Yale last week — to a mostly conservative audience, unsurprisingly — and I had the opportunity to ask her how her position could have been presented more convincingly. Not having much of an answer, she essentially declared, “I’m tenured, what’s the worry?” to a round of applause.
Clearly, it’s not persuasion that she’s after.
Yet I think it’s crucial, if our fight for equality is genuine, that we seriously consider this idea. From our elite vantage point, loose values do not offer much of an obstacle to our successes: A night of partying will not affect our ability to get a great job, and our sexual tendencies will not define our lives. For the disadvantaged, I can personally attest, this is entirely not the case. The hypocrisy of elite behavior is crippling to those left without a safe culture to follow.
This family weekend, we should take a look around, thank our parents and realize that these values have worked, they do work and it’s absurd to reject them simply because the messengers are too cold. And to answer progressive worries, I agree that there is a great urgency to teach men to be better fathers and to support nontraditional marriage arrangements, but neither position prevents support for two-parent homes. For a truly better world for everyone, elites, the so-called creators of culture, must support the family.
Leland Stange is a junior in Ezra Stiles College. His column runs on alternate Fridays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .