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We Need to Build the Family Back Better: The Bill Won’t Do It

AMAC Exclusive – By David P. Deavel


The recent electoral victories in Virginia and school boards around the country are extraordinarily heartening. Pushback against politicians and administrators who have hindered and corrupted learning for American children in our public schools is a good sign that Americans are now seeing the dangers presented to the next generation. But American children have some stiff winds coming from decades of inattention or, in some cases sabotage of, the state of family structure in America. Analysis over the last few decades, including a 2019 study from Pew Research, has shown the extent of America’s problem of fractured and incompletely formed families and the result—that too many children grow up in single-parent households. Sadly, the Democrats are still pushing legislation that will bring on more bad news—and they’ve had help from House Republicans. On Friday, the Democrats were aided by thirteen House Republicans in advancing the Build Back Better bill, which pushes incentives that will harm the American family again.

American family problems aren’t exactly new. As Stephanie Kramer wrote in her introduction to the 2019 Pew report, “For decades, the share of U.S. children living with a single parent has been rising, accompanied by a decline in marriage rates and a rise in births outside of marriage.” In an important 2018 essay titled “Two Nations Revisited,” looking back on James Q. Wilson’s 1997 speech upon receiving the Francis Boyer Award from the American Enterprise Institute, Eberstadt cited the famous Harvard political scientist’s understanding of what was creating “two nations” in our own nation. It was not income or social class, but instead family structure that was creating the rift. 

“Children in one-parent families,” Wilson said, “compared to those in two-parent ones, are twice as likely to drop out of school. Boys in one-parent families are much more likely than those in two-parent ones to be both out of school and out of work. Girls in one-parent families are twice as likely as those in two-parent ones to have an out-of-wedlock birth. These differences are not explained by income….children raised in single-parent homes [are] more likely to be suspended from school, to have emotional problems, and to behave badly.” Wilson joked, Eberstadt recounted, that there was so much evidence for this reality that “even some sociologists believe it.”           

In the years since, scholars including Carol Hymowitz, Mitch Pearlstein, and Charles Murray, among many others have vindicated this judgment. While some have tried to say that many of the problems in black and other minority communities are caused by racism, personal and “systemic,” thus getting away from the questions of family structure, Murray’s 2012 Coming Apart showed that this thesis doesn’t work. His subtitle, “The State of White America, 1960-2010,” indicated what he was looking at. It doesn’t matter what color the people are, single parenting is a risky proposition for children.

Yet in the 2019 report, as Kramer summarized, the U. S. had the highest percentage of children living in single-parent homes of any country in the world. According to Pew, the American rate is 23% while the world average is 7%. It’s true that the developed countries of Europe seem to be the worst generally: the next highest rate was the U.K.’s 21%, while Russia sits at 18% and Denmark at 17%. China, meanwhile, had a rate of 3%. Whatever weaknesses they have in terms of population derived from their one-child policy, they still have children in families.

Of course, some statistics find that the U.S.’s numbers are even higher. In Mitch Pearlstein’s 2011 book, From Family Fragmentation to America’s Decline, the author put the number at 33%. The discrepancy is due to differences in determining what qualifies as a single-parent home. Pew’s work only counted those children who lived with a single adult as living in a single-parent home. Others count also those children living with a parent and another adult (often a grandparent or a cohabiting adult unrelated to the child) while a few studies will count even those children living with two unmarried cohabiting parents.

Why would a study count children living with multiple adults, even their cohabiting biological parents, as children living in single-parent homes? There’s a good reason for counting in a more expansive way, at least with regard to cohabiting partners. As Murray observed in Coming Apart, “If you are interested in the welfare of children, knowing that the child was born to a cohabiting woman instead of a lone unmarried woman should have little effect on your appraisal of the child’s chances in life.” If we’re looking at outcomes for children, cohabitation does little on average for children’s chances at physical, mental, and emotional health—or lifetime success.

And yet despite the fact that some sociologists believe even this, the Build Back Better bill creaking its way through Congress again is on track to add incentives to make sure that children are not raised by married moms and dads. In an October 31 commentary in the Wall Street Journal by Casey B. Mulligan, the University of Chicago economist noted that a new federal child care program of “regulated” facilities created as part of the bill includes a provision incentivizing single-parenthood for the youngest of our citizens. “For each year that a couple has children under 5,” Mulligan notes, “being unmarried could easily save them over $10,000 annually in child-care costs compared with being married.” Not only that, but affordable housing benefits in the bill will also include a marriage penalty.

Add to this the incentives in the bill against working and you have a disaster in the making. Such regulated childcare programs have the prospect of being as humane and useful as any government bureaucracy. Mulligan notes that a similar “regulated” system in Quebec was recently evaluated, with the reported results of “increases in early childhood anxiety and aggression” and “little measured impact on cognitive skills.” The end result for the kids in this regulated system were: “worse health, lower life satisfaction, and higher crime rates later in life.” Mulligan concludes that the bill, if passed, would incentivize the loss of about five million jobs over the next four years. “Meanwhile, more kids will come home from a regulated child-care facility to an unmarried parent who is out of work. More families will be willing to tolerate this kind of care, regardless of the quality of cognitive or social development, since the price is ‘free.’” Yes, an unmarried dad might be in the picture somewhere, but that, as we noted, is not enough for families to thrive.

The law is a teacher and also a persuader. Charles Murray’s older work, such as his book Losing Ground, argued that the incentives of the Great Society led to catastrophic results in family structure. Build Back Better is just more of the same and it’s now on the docket. Just Friday the House passed the $1.2 trillion “infrastructure” bill with thirteen House Republican votes and in the same day passed a procedural motion allowing them to consider the Build Back Better bill.

Republicans had better be a bit more disciplined this time in defeating the second of these disastrous bills. If not, it will be a lot harder to build back America’s families as our government pays them not to act as families.

David P. Deavel is editor of Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, co-director of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy, and a visiting professor at the University of St. Thomas (MN). He is the co-host of the Deep Down Things podcast.

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Roger Davis
8 months ago

This article about Biden’s “Build Back Better” bill by David P. Deavel does not itemize the really bad things that I have read about. It sort of covers some things but I have read that the IRS will be able to monitor middle class families and raise our taxes plus other things that I do not remember now.

Roger E Davis
8 months ago

I would like to see items highlighted in articles such as the Build Back Better one. Also, perhaps numbered items so a reader can see which ones he or she would like to read more thoroughly and possibly referrals to more information on those items.

9 months ago

Call out the 13 RINOS by name to help awareness of those not representing conservative views put a stop to them being re elected

9 months ago

Try this on for size…you can’t vote if you’re on the public dime because you’ll only vote yourself more taxpayer money. When you prove you are employed and can support yourself, you may again vote. How about this for #2…any man or woman on the public dole must use birth control or be penalized with losing benefits instead of gaining them per child.

9 months ago

The demon rats will do anything to ruin this country

9 months ago

Stop paying Welfare to single mothers per child.
Fire every Communist from office. (That includes RINOs)..
Problem resolved.

anna hubert
9 months ago

There is no need to thrash an empty straw we all know the hand outs create dependency problem is finding David who can take on Goliah

Highway Veteran
9 months ago

I think omnibus bills that Pelosi & the left push hurt taxpayers & families. I previously worked in a field & saw how single mothers & some fathers used welfare benefits. These programs take away parental responsibility. The welfare system was supposed to be used temporarily, but some take advantage until the child emancipates. Some of the absent parents were drug/alcohol addicted, in jail/prison, mentally incapable, or cheating the system. Taxpaying citizens would alarmed if they knew what government programs that take away from family values & wasted $.
This administration is creating a mess at the border. We support children of illegal aliens on taxpayer money. Biden is a known liar & will sign anything his handlers put in front of him.
It is evident most politicians care more about vote/new voters, their donors/special interest groups than their constituents, children, the Constitution, & our country.

9 months ago

They must not care that much about the vote, or they would change their nasty habits

9 months ago

Thank you for David for writing this article.

There is a lot more to this Build Back Better (B3) than what is presented here. This is just one piece of the puzzle.

After hearing about B3, a 2,000 page document (front and back) that was provided to our representatives, late Wednesday afternoon 11/3/2021. Got me wondering…. “Is one day and two hours enough time to review this document in detail?” I decided to watch The house of representatives session live 11/5/2021.

After watching the full 14 hours, I was both shocked and left in disbelief.

We the people, need to educate ourselves to what this bill is about and communicate with our representatives and anyone who this may affect.

Not only are there initiatives within this bill that are concerning but the points that were raised on the floor should have all of us concerned as it affects all of us on various levels.

Although I am sure there is going to be a summary of B3… Which will include the good, the bad, and the ugly with no opinions…. it will need to be available ASAP as the House of Representatives will reconvene on 11/9/2021, Tuesday at noon.

I encourage all to download B3 AND Related Bills, read them and then call, email, and attend the end of year town meetings …. know how this impacts you, your family and friends. I would even encourage people to watch the house Of representatives as they will reconvene on Tuesday, November 9 at noon.

I called and did not hear from my rep nor his assistant Friday morning nor throughout the day, evening…. There was a lot of downtime in that 14 hour meeting, a lot. I will attend the upcoming town meeting. Because this bill will affect my ability to put food on our table, it will take more money out of my already slim wallet and B3 will allow the IRS to access my bank account.

Friday nights meeting left me full of questions and much doubt as to how this will help the American people in our current situation and in the future…the top three questions for me are:

One: They say the bill is paid …how? Exactly how much has been paid? Are we using Paul‘s money to pay Peter, in which Peter needs to pay Paul back?

Two: How do they know the true cost of B3 if it has not been scored by the CBO,(congressional budget office). The last time they looked at it was early August 2021.

3: There are giveaways… there are also, funding programs for illegal immigrants …. since, B3 is paid for, does this include the giveaway…and this funding program? Did they use taxpayer dollars to fund all the above?

We need to pump the brakes so we have time to review these documents, figure out what works, what makes sense and what doesn’t.

In reality, this seems like another distraction from the bigger issue of the lockdown and inoculation measures that are preventing us from thriving.

Always, Eternal Vigilance

Highway Veteran
9 months ago
Reply to  AMC

Pelosi & her cohorts did this crap with the so-called ACA bill. They pushed thru 2K+ pages of many items other than healthcare. Now, the working folks pay more for less while a drunk, addict or illegal receives care free healthcare courtesy of taxpayers. If Americans saw what was in bills they would be shocked. They are written in legal language that is confusing for the average person. I have no respect for the politicians who vote for bills that affect our lives and the lives of future generations. Our country is already in the hole for reckless spending.

9 months ago
Reply to  AMC

You got it AMC, it’s a distraction that will cost us dearly

9 months ago

Maybe, just maybe Americans are have begun waking up to realty?

9 months ago

Two parent, Mom and Dad are needed.
The single parent or perverted family is not healthy and does not represent the plan God created.
Even more the societies with broken families don’t last. Romans, Original Greeks, etc.

Mark Marshall
9 months ago

Makes me sick seeing the use of Biden’s campaign slogan used here with family. So sick I’m skipping the article.

9 months ago

Of course my response to this article has been censored by AMAC. What’s wrong AMAC? Was it to honest?

9 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

No rhyme or reason as usual.

9 months ago
Reply to  Max

Yep. Same nonsense as usual.

9 months ago

I have to say this one of the more pathetic articles I’ve seen on this site in quite a while. The concluding remark of “Republicans had better be a bit more disciplined this time in defeating the second of these disastrous bills. If not, it will be a lot harder to build back America’s families as our government pays them not to act as families.” completely dismisses the permanent damage done by 13 RINOs in the House of Representatives to our country late Friday night by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Neither of these two bills should have ever passed and the so-called Infrastructure Bill, which is 75 percent socialist re-engineering programs, was dead without the 13 sell-out RINOs who pushed it over the finish line. Yet the author just treats the 13 RINOs in the House as just a case of temporary bad judgement. Talk about bad analysis of the situation. Another one of those “Oh well, we’ll get them next time.” events, as he moves on to lament the state of the American family that owes much of its current issues to decades of Democrat policies that have been enacted into law exactly in this manner.

What we witnessed Friday night was a repeat of what RINOs do far too often. In their zeal to “get something done”, “get some free publicity” or “reach across the aisle” in hopes of ensuring their own re-election prospects, they provide the needed votes to enact even more destructive Democrat social engineering polices that push the country farther and farther leftward. I can guarantee you everyone one of these RINO sellouts will try to justify their votes by saying something along the lines of “We only voted for the infrastructure in the bill”, which is of course completely idiotic on its face. They voted for the entire bill as written, which means they also voted for the 75 percent of the bill that is pure Democrat social engineering policies. This stupidity has to be stopped!

9 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

Your comment showed, I presume. Politics are politics, the RINOs obviously got something in return for their votes as usual.

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