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EDITORIAL: The government failed at fatherhood

The government spent decades trying to make fathers unnecessary. The failure of that experiment put society on the long-term path to collapse.

Sunday is Father’s Day. It’s much less popular than Mother’s Day for a sad reason. Fewer fathers are involved in their children’s lives. That’s caused by two main factors. One is the prevalence of divorce. The other is children born to single moms. In 2022, almost 40 percent of births were to unmarried women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Nevada, the rate is more than 48 percent.

Statistically, children raised without a father face a bleak future. Homes led by a single mother are more than four times as likely to live in poverty than married couples. Poverty is associated with a host of problems, including lower academic achievement. Children without fathers around are more likely to go to prison. They’re less likely to attend college. Children without dads are more likely to act out and have substance abuse problems. Tragically, teenage girls without a father present are seven times more likely to become pregnant. And thus the cycle repeats itself.

“A broken family is one of the biggest reasons why our children are committing crimes,” Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said in a video promoting Dads in Schools. “Fatherless — no father at home is a huge deal. It has a huge impact on a child’s life.”

Given this, promoting fatherhood should be a societal priority. It hasn’t been.

Welfare once “went to mothers so long as no male was boarding in the household,” Harvard professor Paul Peterson wrote in a 2015 article for Education Next. He continued, “Marriage to an employed male, even one earning the minimum wage, placed at risk a mother’s economic well-being.”

Put together, these handouts were generous. “Analysts estimated that in 1975 a household head would have to earn $20,000 a year to have more resources than what could be obtained from Great Society programs,” Peterson wrote.

In today’s dollars, that would be more than $115,000. Little wonder marriage collapsed. Even today, some couples still face a tax penalty for getting married.

This is backwards. Marriage provides major societal benefits.

But most people don’t think so. Pew recently asked if “society is better off if people make marriage and having children a priority.” Among supporters of Donald Trump, 59 percent agreed. That’s a low number. But among Joe Biden supporters, just 19 percent thought so. Among all voters, it was 39 percent.

Most obviously, a country that doesn’t reproduce shrinks. Look at Japan and South Korea. The U.S. birth rate has also fallen below replacement rate. Immigration can help but can also create its own problems, as New York City and Chicago are experiencing.

More fundamentally, societies, even powerful ones, aren’t eternal. Just ask the Roman Empire. Oh wait. It doesn’t exist anymore.

If a country imports people who don’t share its fundamental principles, that society can quickly becomes unrecognizable. Look at pro-Hamas protesters calling for “death to America” while in America.

A healthy society would grapple with and debate these issues. There would be disagreements, but discussions could expose areas of agreement and potential solutions. But woe to those mentioning how out-of-wedlock births have devastated the Black community. Or that all global cultures aren’t equal. If you point out these truths, Democrats will accuse you of racism.

That may be good politics in the moment, but it only exacerbates the long-term issue. It’s one reason why the fatherlessness crisis, along with its negative downstream effects, continues to fester.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on X.

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