Am I the only one who thinks it is immoral to bring children into the world if you don't have the means to support them? I must be one of the few. I rarely see anyone else make the point. Before anyone objects, let me concede up front that a lot of things in life are unpredictable. Women become pregnant despite their best efforts to avoid it. Women can lose their husbands from accidents, war and even homicide. Few of us have a tenured job. Few of us are safe from the economic reversal that would attend the loss of a job.
Still, when you find that:
•Almost four in every ten children is born on Medicaid,
•One in every four children is living in a food stamp household,and
•Entire classrooms — no entire schools, wait, even in entire areas of whole cities — all the children are on the school lunch program.
And,you just can't write it all off to bad luck! What we are witnessing are patterns of behavior. All too often it's intentional behavior.
From teachers we hear a constant drumbeat of anecdotal evidence. Some parents don't care what their children learn in school. They don't encourage learning. They may even belittle it. Also, more and more scarce education dollars are going for what should be parenting rather than schooling functions. The school lunch program exists because tens of thousands of parents apparently can't afford lunch for their children. Now, schools across the country are subsidizing breakfast as well — for the same reason.
Charles Murray has warned that the really important inequality that has been emerging — a dangerous inequality — is not inequality of income. It is the separation of two cultures. Upper-income, highly educated households (including politically liberal households) tend to respect traditional values. They may say they are cultural relativists. But they don't practice cultural relativism. These tend to be intact households — ones with mothers and fathers — where parents invest a lot of time, money and energy in their children. Among lower-income, less-educated households there is starkly different behavior.
Harvard researcher Robert Putman finds that there is a "growing class gap in enrichment expenditures [day care, tutors, games, etc., but not private school] on children, 1972-2006." At the bottom of the hierarchy, the expenditure has increased about $400 per child over the past 40 years, but at the middle income it's gone up $5K.