Media Ignores Congressional Report on Two-Parent Families, Federal Program Failures

August 25, 2020 Updated: September 5, 2020

News Analysis

Readers needn’t bother searching the websites of The Washington Post, The New York Times, or The Wall Street Journal for news about “The Demise of the Happy Two-Parent Home” report from Congress’s Joint Economic Committee (JEC), because there isn’t any.

At least not judging by multiple searches of those three media outlets’ web pages for news stories about the July 23 report. To be fair, this news story is the first to appear in The Epoch Times on the report.

It has been an intense month since then, what with riots in major U.S. cities, continued deaths due to the CCP virus, also known as the novel coronavirus, and an intensifying presidential campaign of unprecedented and increasingly bitter partisanship.

Such issues pale in importance, however, for Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the JEC chairman.

“Everything comes back to the family,” he told The Epoch Times on Aug. 24. “The family is the foundation of our society and, if the institution of marriage is suffering, then everything is suffering. Repairing the institution of marriage should be our top priority.”

The July 23 report is the latest in the JEC Republicans’ “Social Capital Project” series to analyze “the web of social relationships through which we pursue joint endeavors—namely, our families, our communities, our workplaces, and our religious congregations. These institutions are critical to forming our character and capacities, providing us with meaning and purpose, and for addressing the many challenges we face.”

The paucity of coverage for a major congressional report on the anchor of every recorded civilization in human history is also puzzling, considering the consensus among researchers on the benefits of two-parent families.

“Researchers have well established that children raised by married parents do better on a wide array of outcomes. They have stronger relationships with their parents, particularly with their fathers. They are also much less likely to experience physical, emotional or sexual abuse,” the meticulously documented report states.

“They have better health, exhibit less aggression, are less likely to engage in delinquent behavior, have greater educational achievement, and earn more as adults. They are also far less likely to live in poverty.”

Yet, as the report documents with more than 150 footnotes linking to multiple studies by researchers around the world in recent years, happy families with both parents present for their children no longer represent the majority in America.

“Today, around 45 percent of American children spend some time without a biological parent by late adolescence. That is up from around one-third of children born in the 1960s and one-fifth to one-quarter born in the 1950s,” the report said.

Among the effects of the decline is a steep increase in the number of children born to unwed mothers, which climbed to 40 percent of all births in 2018 from 5 percent in 1955, according to the latest available federal data.

Moreover, according to the report, “over two-thirds of births to black women (69 percent) are to unwed mothers, and over half (52 percent) of births to Hispanic women are.” The figure for non-Hispanic white women is 28 percent.

Similarly, the percent of married women aged 15 to 44 years plummeted to 42 percent in 2019 from 72 percent in 1962. Meanwhile, the percentage of ever-married women aged 50 to 54 with divorces rose to 45 percent in 2008 from 29 percent in 1960, before declining to 40 percent last year.

With more illegitimate children living with one parent comes steadily worsening quality of life indicators, including higher crime rates, lower educational attainment, more poverty, and less hope for the future, especially among black and Hispanic children trapped in failing inner-city public schools.

The report questions the current conventional wisdom that marriage and legitimacy rates are up because fewer women marry due to the lack of  “marriageable” men capable of providing sufficient financial support.

“One study comparing identical twins who differ in their marital statuses estimates that marriage increases wages by about one-fourth,” the report states, adding that “a weakening of the institution of marriage might have reduced men’s perceived obligations and changed their incentives, thereby leading to less ‘marriageability’ in the form of lower employment rates and wages.”

The report also notes the curiously asymmetric fact that declining wages for marriage-age men declined into the 1990s from 1970, but wages have been climbing since, even as marriage rates continued downward.

Although not intended to provide comprehensive solutions, the report criticized a huge inherent obstacle in current federal social programs.

“The means-tested welfare system consists of more than 80 programs that provide cash, food, housing, medical care, and social services to poor Americans,” it says. “Most all of these programs penalize marriage, such that when household income rises, welfare benefits decrease.”

Removing such disincentives is where Lee hopes to refocus federal policy.

“I think the first thing the federal government should do is to stop harming the institution of marriage,” he told The Epoch Times. “Marriage was much better in America before the federal government started creating incentives to undermine it. We need to focus on ending those federal disincentives to marriage.”

The disincentives extend into the middle class as well.

“A typical working family of two parents and two kids making $44,000 a year would lose about $8,000 in benefits a year if the parents got married,” Lee said.

“Most middle-class families couldn’t afford an $8,000 a year hole in their budget. Such a hit is devastating for working families. We must stop punishing marriage, especially among our working class where the institution of marriage is needed the most and is failing the most.”

Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc