Two-parent families ‘privileged’?

George Packer interviews Barbie Snodgrass of Columbus, Ohio, who is ” forty-two, single, overweight, and suffering from stomach pains”:

“These days, you have to struggle,” she said. “As a kid, I used to be able to go to the movies or to the zoo. Now you can’t take your children to the zoo or go to the movies, because you’ve got to think how you’re going to put food on the table.” Snodgrass’s parents had raised four children on two modest incomes, without the ceaseless stress that she was enduring. But the two-parent family was now available only to the “very privileged.” She said that she had ten good friends; eight of them were childless or, like her, unmarried with kids. “That’s who’s middle-class now,” she said. “Two parents, two kids? That’s over. People looked out for me. These kids nowadays don’t have nobody to look out for them. You’re one week away from (a) losing your job, or (b) not having a paycheck.”

What’s “privileged” about getting married and having kids? People do it all the time. A marriage license is cheap enough, and kids — yeah, there are costs involved, but it’s not like they’re a luxury item.

Furthermore, I object to the suggestion that there was ever a time when working-class and middle-class families didn’t have to struggle to make ends meet. My folks grew up in the Depression. Don’t tell me they didn’t know anything about struggling.

Packer goes all into political demography and economic trends, but I think if he had dug a little deeper into the situation affecting Ms. Snodgrass, he might have discovered something about the sociological catastrophe that the breakdown of the traditional family has inflicted on the working class.

Did it not occur to Packer to ask why neither Ms. Snodgrass nor any of her friends had husbands? Does no one else see how weird it is that 80% in her social circle are childless, and 100% are unmarried? As a journalist, such an oddity would arouse my curiosity.

Whether or not two can literally live as cheaply as one, a successful marriage is probably as important to economic security as anything else, including education. The evident inability of so many people nowadays to form enduring marriages is a contributing factor to our nation’s economic problems that gets too little scrutiny.

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