Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: America's Families and Workforce Have a Guy Problem

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Editorial: America's Families and Workforce Have a Guy Problem

Article excerpt

There are so many unsettling ideas in David Autor and Melanie Wasserman's "Wayward Sons" that it is difficult to know where to start. But let's try this:

"[G]rowing up in a single-parent home appears to significantly decrease the probability of college attendance for boys, yet has no similar effect for girls. Putting these pieces together, we tentatively conclude that boys perform less well academically than girls when fathers are not present in the home and, additionally, benefit less from high levels of maternal education when either the father is absent or is not highly educated."

Thus, in a nation where one in every three children is being raised by a single parent four out of five of them single mothers boys quickly get behind the educational curve. One possible factor, say Mr. Autor and Ms. Wasserman, is that single mothers tend to interact with their sons an hour a day less each week than they do with daughters. This is not always the moms' fault.

Problems quickly snowball. These boys are more likely than girls raised in similar circumstances to do poorly in school and get in trouble in high school. They for sure don't want to "talk about it." They are less likely to attend college or graduate if they happen to get there. Increasingly they can't find decent jobs without a college education, which makes them less desirable mates for better educated, more ambitious women.

These women may choose to raise children on their own, risking putting more boys behind the curve. Or men drift in and out of short- term relationships with less discriminating women, fathering more children whom they are not likely to stay around to raise. And the cycle gets more vicious.

Studies showed this cycle began shortly after World War II. Over the past 20 years, it has begun to reach crisis proportions, and not just among male children in low-income families. Males from affluent families and good schools tend to do well. Those from less fortunate backgrounds tend not to. The income gap widens.

Obviously there are exceptions: strong, responsible men raised by strong, responsible mothers. But in a post-industrial economy, where size and strength matter less in many jobs than preparation and determination, too many men are self-marginalizing.

An organization called The Third Way, moderate Democrats for the most part who want to retool the nation's social policies, commissioned "Wayward Sons." Mr. …

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