I shared a segment on Talk of the Nation with Isabel Sawhill, ostensibly triggered by her op-ed in the Washington Post, “20 years later, it turns out Dan Quayle was right about Murphy Brown and unmarried moms.” It was mostly not about preventing unmarried parenting or analyzing the trends, but about the current issues and problems single parents face (education, custody, work hours, dating, among others).
It’s 30 minutes, and they’ve posted the audio and a transcript online here. (Unfortunately, the transcript has a few places where the names of the speakers are scrambled.)
Here are a few of my comments:
On the role of government in promoting marriage:
ME (it says “SAWHILL” here): I think it’s important for us to try to get beyond wringing our hands over the decline of marriage. The government hasn’t been able to do very much of anything to reverse that trend, despite kicking millions of people off welfare. That was supposed to encourage marriage. Promoting marriage through the Healthy Marriage Initiative…
NEAL CONAN: It was supposed to encourage other things, too, of course.
COHEN: Right, no, it was very successful at encouraging work, but if you look back at what they were saying at the time, it was about encouraging marriage, also.
How government policy should address the problems of single parent families:
I think if you look at the benefits of marriage, which are very real, if you break them down, you find that many of them are not – are quite tangible. They’re not mysterious. And as Isabel said, childcare is one of them, time – but also security, health insurance, stable housing. These are among the things that are transferred from married parents to their children in terms of benefits, and those are things where we should try to focus our energies rather than worrying about the marital status of the parents.
On the importance of single parents being able to continue their education:
I think it’s important to realize that there are different ways of investing in children’s future. It can be direct through their own education and care, and it can also be through investment in the skills and opportunities of the parents. And if we can cross that hurdle of public recognition that we have a collective interest in that kind of investment, I think we’ll be much better off and find that, like with good-quality childcare, making education available to single parents may translate into not only economic benefits for them but future benefits for the children.
For a souvenir, I took this picture of the Talk of the Nation green room: