Rather than Confronting Reality, Economist Melissa Kearney’s New Book Merely Flirts with the Truth

Rather than Confronting Reality, Economist Melissa Kearney’s New Book Merely Flirts with the Truth
Rather than Confronting Reality, Economist Melissa Kearney’s New Book Merely Flirts with the Truth

“If we do not reverse this trend—if millions of American children miss out on the benefits that come from a two-parent home and if the family gap continues to widen—then children will suffer, inequality will continue to widen, and social mobility will erode. We will be a weaker, more fragmented, less prosperous nation as a result. A failure to acknowledge and address these facts is the first step in regrettable inaction.”

Self-Evident Truths

These sentences form the final paragraph in the University of Maryland economist Melissa S. Kearney’s new book, The Two-Parent Privilege: How Americans Stopped Getting Married and Started Falling Behind.

Order Today Return to OrderOrder Today: Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go


These sentiments are hard to deny. Western Christian Civilization is founded on the fact that children gain much by being raised in stable homes by both biological parents. The only improvement in the situation occurs when grandparents, a network of aunts, uncles and cousins are added—all under the umbrella of Holy Mother Church.

Such ideas form the Catholic definition of marriage—“A sacramental marriage is a covenantal bond designed by God between baptized persons that is an intimate, faithful, and indissoluble communion of life and love freely entered into by a man and a woman for their own good and the procreation of children.”

Uncommon Academic Perspective

It is rare to see an academic writing on such a topic. Melissa Kearney possesses considerable academic credentials. Her Bachelor’s Degree is from Princeton, and her Ph.D. is from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition to her position at the University of Maryland, she is on the board of the American Economic Journal. She is a Senior Fellow at the left-of-center Brookings Institution.

Help Remove Jesus Bath Mat on Amazon

The following quotations attest to her insights.

 “[C]hildren who grow up without two parents in their home are at a substantial disadvantage relative to kids who do.”

“Boys from disadvantaged homes are more likely to get in trouble at school and with the criminal justice system; girls from disadvantaged homes are more likely to become young unmarried mothers.”

“A strong, stable family life is the foundation upon which children find their surest footing in this difficult world.”

“The decline in the two-parent family relates in part to the struggles of men, which is in turn contributing to the struggles of boys.”

A Disintegrating Society

Few conservatives would disagree with any of these statements. They are more than merely accurate; they are concise and unambiguous. Few right-wing pundits have stated the case more succinctly.

Satanic Christ Porn-blasphemy at Walmart — Sign Petition

Not only does Dr. Kearney make a clear case, but she backs it up with statistics. In this respect, her economic training shines through.

“Among adults ages 30 to 50, in 2020, 60% of men and 63% of women were married. In 1980, the corresponding shares were 79% and 76%. Going back another decade, the decline is even more dramatic—the shares married in 1970 were 87% of men and 83% of women.”

This condition is a trend, a sign of long-term degeneration in society. Those figures explain much. They clarify one reason that violence is rising. They demonstrate one source of issues in America’s schools. They illustrate the rootlessness at the base of many modern social ills.

Bolstering “Woke” Credentials

Such statistics move the discussion away from supposition into the realm of fact. Without question, the book’s greatest asset is that its author backs its statements with solid information.

How Panera’s Socialist Bread Ruined Company

However, Dr. Kearney is playing with fire. She also knows that these simple statements can (and do) lead to a full-throated defense of traditional marriage. In the woke world, such conclusions could be academic suicide. So, the book often carries the sense that the author is constantly looking over her shoulder, lest her radical colleagues, like the Texas Rangers, ride up, capture her, and send her to cancellation jail.

So, Dr. Kearney needs to cloak these truths. Her future depends on including words that tell the academic community that she is still a happy dweller on the reservation. Indeed, the first line in the book is, “There are all kinds of families and all kinds of households.” That first paragraph concludes with a ringing statement of belief in the “do your own thing” part of the sixties libertarian ethos. “And part of what makes a family so deeply personal is that exactly how any one of them works (assuming nobody is being harmed) is really no one else’s business.” This slim volume contains many such disclaimers.

Not Without its Faults

Unfortunately, such measures deprive the book of much of its power. The clear statements and facts backed by statistics provide glimpses of truth, but the shroud of postmodernism deprives it of much of its power. So, rather than unmasking fallacy, the composite becomes a flirtation with the truth. Dr. Kearney knows many facts but is afraid of where those facts might lead, so she retreats before the reality becomes too intense.

Another of the book’s faults is that it refuses to assess blame on anything except the general economic situation. The people involved are simply victims of an unseen malevolent force.

What Does Saint Thomas Aquinas Say About Marriage?

“Plenty of descriptive evidence shows that lower-income parents experience greater family and environmental stress, which in turn predicts worse mental health, higher levels of family conflict, and harsher, more detached parent-child interactions.”

However, the most disappointing part of the book comes in the last chapter, in which Dr. Kearney spells out her solutions. She bases all of her remedies upon government largesse. She seems to say that money alone will remove the impediments to children’s thriving in two-parent households. Money will remove the economic stresses, cure the sick child, provide a home, improve the schools, and enable the parents to live together harmoniously.

An Old and Sad Tune

Unfortunately, Americans have heard all of this before. On March 22, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson addressed the graduating class of the University of Michigan. In that speech, he laid the foundations for his “Great Society.”

“But I do promise this: We are going to assemble the best thought and the broadest knowledge from all over the world to find those answers for America. I intend to establish working groups to prepare a series of White House conferences and meetings – on the cities, on natural beauty, on the quality of education, and on other emerging challenges. And from these meetings and from this inspiration and from these studies we will begin to set our course toward the Great Society.”

Is It Immodest to Wear Deliberately Ripped Clothes?

President Johnson’s conferences and meetings took place. The “best and the brightest” laid their plans. Congress passed sweeping legislation. Its laws created new government agencies and expanded others. However, with the possible exception of the environment, the promises added up to little.

Dismissing God is Disastrous

Sixty years ago. President Johnson made the same error Dr. Kearney makes in The Two-Parent Privilege. They both left God, morality and individual responsibility out of the picture.

Indeed, Dr. Kearney, there are all kinds of families. However, certain essential elements cannot be eliminated—a mother, a father and children. Occasionally, through death or some other contingency (like military deployment), it is impossible for that family to reside under one roof. However, such issues are not those that face most modern so-called families.

The problems that Dr. Kearney describes are usually the outcomes of decisions. With rare exceptions, incarcerations happen because individuals decide to commit crimes. Fathers abandon their children because they choose to go and spend their money elsewhere. Parents abuse children because they place their emotions above their children’s well-being. Ultimately, most one-parent “families” exist because fornication—which is a choice—is so common.

These are sins. No matter what the academics or politicians say, sins have evil consequences that money can never solve.