What Factor of Income Inequality is Being Largely Ignored?

The topic of income inequality has been on everyone’s tongue lately, including President Obama, who made it a midterm campaign issue, discussing the problem in his State of the Union Address. While most people will agree that there is a gap between the rungs of the income ladder, the solution is not as readily agreed upon.

An April 15th Wall Street Journal opinion piece says that “because Americans have long been more willing to tolerate large inequalities of income and wealth [compared to Europe] when they believe that the opportunity to advance is widely shared” the topic is now more controversial when examining the “breakaway gains at the very top…the plight of those stuck at the bottom…[and the] stagnant mobility and declining household incomes in the middle.”

Generally the analysis goes like this:

90% of Democrats think the government should do something to reduce equality, but only 45% of Republicans agree.

76% of Republicans believe that most people who want to get ahead can do so if they are willing to work hard, but only 49% of Democrats agree.

And ultimately, 75% of Democrats think raising taxes on the wealthy and cooperations to expand anti-poverty programs will help bridge the inequality gap while 59% of Republicans share an opposing opinion that it best to lower taxes on the wealthy and cooperations to encourage investment and economic growth.

But most analysts, politicians, economists, and reporters are missing a critical factor in suppositions to reduce inequality:  the decline of the two-parent family.  Unwilling to side with social conservatists on the issue of reducing inequality, many main stream activist in the issue don’t connect the “stagnant mobility and declining household incomes in the middle [class]” mentioned above as explainable by family dynamics.

However, Robert Maranto and Michael Crouch report that 25% of today’s American children now live with only one parent and one-third away from their fathers.  A myriad of developmental issues can stem from being raised in a one-parent home.  Statistically, growing up in a single-parent home makes one less likely to experience upward mobility. Not to mention, 20% of children from single-parent households live in poverty long-term compared to only 2% from two-parent households.

“The causal pathways are about as clear as those from smoking to cancer,” write the authors, noting that family decline in the past 40 years cannot be reversed without first acknowledging the problem.  There is no quick fix, they say, but the nation might do well to reject liberal reluctance and incorporate the discussion on family in a culture moving in the opposite direction.  Equality depends on it.



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