Why do academics and journalists lend legitimacy to the National Marriage Project?
I today’s New York Times Week in Review, Andrew Cherlin offers this:
Having a child outside of marriage has also become common. According to a report by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, 47 percent of American women who give birth in their 20s are unmarried at the time.
It took me 3 minutes to find the the 2010 report on birth data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), a branch of the Centers for Disease Control, and another 1/2 minute to locate the table with this information, which is table 15. Because of my weakness in algebra, it took me another 5 minutes to turn the number of babies born to unmarried women in the age range 20-24 (600,833) and in the age range 25-29 (384,865) and the percent unmarried that those represented (63.1% and 33.9%, respectively), into the total births to women in their 20s (2,087,487) and the percentage of all those to unmarried women (47.2%).
The New York Times paid for that statistic through taxes, which its government has provided. So why publish an essay by a sociologist with a named chair crediting the National Marriage Project, a right-wing front run by the discredited Brad Wilcox on behalf of big-money Christian conservatives? (In other news, the Heritage Foundation reported that the unemployment rate in February was 7.7%).
Maybe the media establishment simply doesn’t know a simple government statistic when they see one. But they see the university label and fancy website, and guy with the (implied) elbow patches, and they think the number is more complicated than it looks. Rather than hire a qualified unpaid intern to check facts and credit them to their actual sources, maybe they just trust the experts they rely on. (This is the David Brooks strategy.)
With resources for journalism and social science research on the decline, and foundation money playing a growing role in providing information to the media, this is predictable – but still lamentable.