This piece over at the Atlantic “Why Being a Poor Kid in America Is Particularly Awful” by Ogla Khazan is a particularly fine example of an argument for subsiding a social phenomenon in the hopes that alleviating the symptoms will discourage more people from participating in it.
The author writes (emphasis added):
One measure of how much governments prioritize children and families is how much they spend on things like child allowances, daycare, and child-tax credits. Inside a longer report on global child well-being, out this week from the nonprofit Child Trends, lies this surprising tidbit: The U.S. has a higher proportion of children living in poverty than most other high-income countries, and it spends just 0.7 percent of its GDP on benefits for families—a fraction of what other middle- and high-income countries spend.
After demonstrating how “little” the U.S. government spends in terms of “cash transfers to families with children, tax benefits, and public services for families,” the author concludes that this is the cause for the number of children in poverty.
As I’ve written previously, as many as a third of American moms find themselves struggling to afford diapers at some point. Studies like this reveal one reason why that might be.
The main photo at the beginning of the story unwittingly tells you another possible reason for why that might be – there is no father (or as Aaron Clarey likes to say, the father could not be reached for comment).
Generally speaking, men are the primary income provider for a family. When they’re removed or absent, through the rise of divorce or out-of-wedlock births (which accounts for 40 percent of births in the country today) that leaves a sizable financial gap.
Even though we have the child support system, by the time the divorce and family court are done with the men, it impoverishes them to the point where they are sent to modern-day debtors prison because they literally cannot afford it.
According to an Ohio State University paper titled “Single-parent Families in Poverty” (emphasis added), single motherhood and poverty go hand-in-hand (the percentage of single fathers is negligible).
Ninety percent of single-parent families are headed by females. Not surprisingly, single mothers with dependent children have the highest rate of poverty across all demographic groups (Olson & Banyard, 1993). Approximately 60 percent of U.S. children living in mother-only families are impoverished, compared with only 11 percent of two-parent families. The rate of poverty is even higher in African-American single-parent families, in which two out of every three children are poor.
A normal person looking at the situation rationally (meaning with no political agenda) would conclude that child poverty could be reduced significantly simply by insisting that women give birth within marriage and that there should be no perverse incentives for people to divorce so that marriages are not broken up unnecessarily. If you don’t want to live in poverty, don’t bring a child into this world without a stable foundation in which to support them and don’t tear them away from it unless necessary. You would then advocate that people make better life choices in this area and not condemn themselves to a lifetime of financial destitution.
Further, while you might be sympathetic to those who have realized the error after the fact and see nothing wrong with private charities stepping in to help them out, you certainly wouldn’t recommend rewarding such behavior, or at the very least subsidizing it, by insisting other people be forced to foot the bill. The idea is to get such behavior to stop, and the only way to do so is by creating incentives to behave otherwise and allowing those who make bad choices to suffer the consequences or endure the hardship so that others will not be encouraged to replicate it themselves.
The problem with this approach, however, is twofold; one, it requires admittance that certain behaviors in vogue at the moment are not conducive to prosperity; two, the solution calls on personal responsibility and doesn’t grant anyone the power to coerce or aggress against others through the state.
If you have an ulterior agenda (looking for ways to maintain a certain lifestyle or life choices), you look at the statistics I cited above and argue that poverty is caused by outside circumstances – the person is the victim, rather than the cause ,of their own plight. Notice the focus is on child poverty; children cannot control their family life, making them the victim. What isn’t addressed are the ones who were able to make better choices but decided not to. This rationalization is the only way to reach the conclusion that more government spending is needed.
Calls for more government funding for families is not intended to reduce or prevent child poverty but rather cloak the unpleasant consequences of certain behavior that goes against the natural order of things.
The reason being a poor kid in America is particularly awful is because many of their mothers chose to bring them into this world and/or raise them without a father figure to support them, a choice made in spite of all the evidence we have showing how harmful such a situation is to children. They should not be given money or resources stolen from others to make such choices more appealing and perpetuate a social/cultural Keynesianism arrangement.