Jennifer Roback Morse

We all know that rebuilding the physical infrastructure of New Orleans will require tremendous resources. But rebuilding the civil society of the Big Easy will require just as much effort, and has so far gotten almost no attention. That's because most of our opinion-making elites do not want to see that marriage is the cornerstone of civil society. And the images of Katrina demonstrate this, if we are willing to see.

 We saw photos of women, children and elderly people struggling first, to get out of the hurricane?s path, and later, to get help. We heard reports of groups of young men seemingly without consciences, preying on victims, stealing guns and even shooting at rescuers. This is about family, not race. 

  It is not a pretty sight: generations of women without husbands, grandmothers, mothers and children, dealing with the greatest natural disaster in our nation?s history. We shouldn't be surprised to see many such families: the 2000 Census data for Orleans Parish shows that female-headed households with children under 18 actually outnumber married couple households with children.

The color of the mothers isn?t the issue. The issue is the inherent difficulty of trying to raise children alone.

 The problems with unmarried child-rearing transcend race. The children of unmarried parents have poorer life-chances than the children of married parents, in just about any dimension you can name. Health, education, mental health, and wealth are all greater among children whose parents are married and stay married. The propensity to use drugs, drop out of school, get in trouble with the law and commit violent crimes are all greater among children who grow up without both parents. Even accounting for differences in income, education and race, the children of married parents do better than the children of the unmarried.

Jennifer Roback Morse

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love In A Hook-up World. She blogs at

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