Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gay Parents

A new study is sure to stoke the controversy over the issue of gay marriage:
Walter Schumm knows what he's about to do is unpopular: publish a study arguing that gay parents are more likely to raise gay children than straight parents. But the Kansas State University family studies professor has a detailed analysis that past almost aggressively ideological researchers never had.
When one such researcher, Paul Cameron, published a paper in 2006 arguing that children of gay parents were more likely to be gay themselves, the response from the academic press was virulent, to say nothing of the popular press; the Southern Poverty Law Center, for instance, equated Cameron to a Nazi.
The gay press, as far back as the 1980s, labeled Cameron "the most dangerous anti-gay voice in America." Though Cameron was the first to publish papers on the dangers of secondhand smoke, the scientific community has abandoned him. The American Psychological Association long since dropped him from its membership for an "ethical" violation.
Schumm seems to have done a pretty thorough analysis of the available data and what he's found has implications not only for the question of gay adoption but also for the debate over what role genetics plays in one's sexual orientation.

One thing that isn't clear from this article is whether the children studied were biological children of gays or adoptive children. I assumed the latter but they certainly could be the former, and it makes a difference.

Anyway, Schumm, anticipating a firestorm of outrage over his having conducted a study that does not arrive at the socially approved conclusions, and which indeed treads on the far side of the line separating orthodoxy from heresy, takes comfort in a quote from philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. "All truth passes through three stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

Exit question: If it turns out that gay parents are more likely to raise gay kids why should a society that holds as dogma the belief that homosexuality is a legitimate alternative lifestyle find that upsetting?

Marriage and Poverty

Statistics cited in a column by Mona Charen suggest that a big part of the solution to the problem of poverty in America is marriage. Not "living together" but marriage. I copy her column at length because the information it contains is so important:
But cohabitation doesn't begin to confer the benefits that marriage does. In "The State of Our Unions," scholars associated with the Institute for American Values outline some of the advantages married couples enjoy over their single counterparts.
"Men who marry," writes Alex Roberts, "typically earn more because marriage itself leads to increases in income; that is, men who marry work harder, work smarter, and earn more than their unmarried peers ... Cohabiting couples ... are less likely to pool resources, feel obligated to spend wisely and save, or invest in the future of the household." Married men earn between 10 and 40 percent more than their single counterparts with similar educational and job histories.
Married couples also create more wealth than single people or cohabiting couples. "A 1992 study of retirement data concluded that 'individuals who are not continuously married have significantly lower wealth than those who remain married throughout their lives.'"
A study of 7,608 household heads between 1984 and 1989 found that those who married saw income increases of 50 to 100 percent, and net wealth increases of 400 to 600 percent. "Continuously married households had about double the income and four times the net worth of the continuously divorced and never-married, on average."
Marriage also bestows more emotional well-being. A study by W. Bradford Wilcox and others, "Marriage and Mental Health in Adults and Children," reports that "Married Americans were more than twice as likely as divorced or separated Americans to say they were very happy with life in general. Cohabiting, never-married, and widowed individuals' happiness resembled that of divorced and separated people more than married people."
Married people were also less likely to suffer from depression and other forms of mental anguish: "Married men and women report fewer symptoms of mental illness and psychological distress than do otherwise similar individuals who are not married. Longitudinal research shows that it is not merely that mentally healthy people are more likely to get or stay married. Instead, marriage itself appears to boost mental health. Remaining unmarried or getting divorced seems to result, on average, in a deterioration in mental well-being."
Children of married couples are far healthier mentally and physically than the children of cohabiting, divorced, or never-married couples. Wilcox et al cite one study suggesting that the tripling of the teen suicide rate over the past half-century is closely associated with divorce, while married men are half as likely as single men to kill themselves.
Marriage knits the couple into a kinship network in which interest-free loans, baby-sitting, elder care, and other forms of assistance in hard times are more readily available. Sadly, among those most in need of these added supports — those with lower levels of education — marriage is in steep decline. More than 50 percent of new mothers without college degrees are unmarried, compared with only 7 percent of mothers with college diplomas. In fact, among the college-educated, marriage has strengthened over the past several decades, leading to a "marriage gap" that goes a long way toward explaining the slowing of growth in family income over the past generation. Married-couple families have become a rapidly diminishing segment of total families over the past 20 years.
The young adults who move in together imagining that a wedding is too expensive are paying a far higher price than they recognize.
Another advantage of marriage Charen doesn't mention but could have is that a married couple and their children are much likely to be better off because of the grandparent effect. Grandparents who stay married tend to accumulate much more wealth than they would have if they had separated. This wealth is often made available to their children and grandchildren for college educations, cars, home mortgages, inheritances, etc. A married couple with four parents to fall back upon is in far better shape than a single mom whose own mother was a single mom.

One reason the poor often can't rise out of poverty is because when single motherhood becomes the norm, as it has among African Americans, for example, every generation has to start over in their struggle to rise into the middle class. Among families who get married and stay married, on the other hand, most of the struggle to get into the middle class is undertaken by the first generation. Subsequent generations are then well-positioned to reap the benefits.