Values and Public Policy

By Henry J. Aaron; Thomas E. Mann et al. | Go to book overview

4 The Family Condition of America Cultural Change and Public Policy

David Popenoe

Throughout its history the United States has depended heavily, for both social order and economic success, on the relatively self-sufficient and nurturing family unit-- a childrearing unit that is crucial for the survival and development of children, a social unit that attends to its members' socioemotional needs, an economic unit that contains efficiencies derived from the specialization of labor and shared consumption, and a welfare unit that cares for the sick, injured, handicapped, and elderly. Yet in each of these respects the family condition of America has become problematic; by many quantitative measures, American families are functioning less well today than ever before, and less well than in any other advanced, industrialized nation, especially in regard to children. The evidence is strong that today's generation of children and youth is the first in our nation's history to be less well-off-- psychologically, socially, economically, and morally-than their parents were at the same age. Much of the problem, suggests the evidence, lies with what has happened to the family. 1

It is hard to conceive of a good and successful society without reasonably strong families--multigenerational, domestic groups of kinfolk that effectively carry out their socially assigned tasks. No socially assigned task is more important than that of raising children to become adults who are able to love and to work and who are

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Values and Public Policy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword vii
  • Contents xi
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • Note 15
  • 2: How Changes in the Economy Are Reshaping American Values 16
  • Overview 17
  • Conclusion 50
  • Notes 51
  • 3: Culture, Incentives, and the Underclass 54
  • Notes 75
  • 4: The Family Condition of America Cultural Change and Public Policy 81
  • Notes 106
  • 5: Multiculturalism and Public Policy 113
  • Notes 144
  • 6: Public Spirit in Political Systems 146
  • Notes 165
  • 7: Gang Behavior, Law Enforcement, and Community Values 173
  • Appendix 196
  • Appendix 205
  • Index 211
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