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Left Behind: Why Trends in Family Structure and Parenting are Setting Some Kids Up to Fail [Streaming Video and Audio, Presentation Slides].

Publication Year: 
Personal Author: 
Sawhill, Isabel.
Lerman, Robert.
Petrilli, Michael.
Wilcox, Brad.
Corporate Author: 
American Enterprise Institute.
Institute for Family Studies.
Other Material/Form
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Seventy percent of American children growing up in poor households will not reach the middle class. What role do family structure and early-childhood parenting play in making the ladder of economic opportunity easier or harder to climb? And how should public policy address these challenges? On Tuesday, October 29, 2013, AEI hosted the inaugural lecture of its new Home Economics Project to begin exploring the intersection of marriage, work, and economic growth.

Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution explained how less-educated women are less likely to marry and more likely to have children outside of wedlock, and that the class divide in marriage is growing. Touching on the instability associated with out-of-wedlock childbearing, Sawhill suggested reducing unintended births among single women by increasing access to affordable contraceptives.

Brad Wilcox of AEI and of the University of Virginia discussed how children raised by single parents and by parents with lower educational attainment are not as financially successful as peers who grow up in two-parent households. He therefore stressed the importance of marriage before parenthood and of shoring up the economic foundations of working-class families.

Robert Lerman of the Urban Institute and of American University addressed the potential for apprenticeship programs to increase income levels and increase family stability, especially for black and Hispanic men. Apprenticeship programs can reengage young men in the workforce at low government cost and with significant benefits for communities and families.

Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute underscored the importance of education reform, especially of improving the methods for tracking and monitoring students' future success and of better articulating the proven pathways toward success, such as graduating from high school and finding employment before getting married and then having children. (Author abstract modified)

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