In , 69 percent of black men without a high-school diploma were married. By 2010, only 17 percent were. The marriage rate among non-college-attending whites and Hispanics has declined precipitously as well.
The link between family composition and child welfare is well established. What “Wayward Sons” adds is data on the differentially harmful effects of fatherlessness on sons versus daughters. “Growing up in a single-parent home appears to significantly decrease the probability of college attendance for boys, yet has no similar effect for girls.” Boys from such homes “are 25 percentage points more likely to be suspended in the eighth grade than girls from these households, whereas the corresponding gender gap between boys and girls from households with two biological parents was only 10 percentage points.”
A vicious cycle is clearly underway. Poorly educated women do not find marriageable mates among low-earning or jobless young men. Women then raise children alone and handicap their sons more than their daughters, and the cycle repeats itself.
The collapse of the marriage culture is arguably the “defining issue of our time.” Neither men nor women thrive without marriage, but men and boys seem to suffer more. Fatherlessness is driving income inequality, child poverty, and declining mobility. But Barack Obama is manning the barricades on “equal pay for equal work” — a matter addressed by Congress in 1963.