Jonah Goldberg

Back then, Whitehead's essay was heretical. Today, it's conventional wisdom. Last year, Isabel Sawhill, a widely respected liberal economist at the Brookings Institution, wrote an op-ed article for the Washington Post titled "20 years later, it turns out Dan Quayle was right about Murphy Brown and unmarried moms."

Sawhill noted that kids raised by married parents -- not just parents living together, never mind single mothers -- simply do better. They do better academically and are less likely to get arrested, get pregnant or commit suicide. They're also much less likely to be poor or stay poor.

None of these claims are particularly controversial among social scientists. And none of this is particularly aimed at gay marriage, pretty much the only kind of marriage liberal elites want to celebrate now.

But where Quayle was wrong -- though only partially -- was putting the blame on Hollywood.

The black family was falling apart decades before "Murphy Brown." And since then, the white family has been breaking down even as the majority of Hollywood fare continues to romanticize traditional marriage or does an adequate job of showing how hard single motherhood is.

I don't know why marriage for all but the well-off and well educated continues to disintegrate; maybe it would help if elites "preached what they practiced," to borrow a phrase from Charles Murray. Forbes writer Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry notes that being married correlates about as positively with a person's wages as going to college does. But experts hammer the importance of college while ignoring marriage.

Maybe after the debate over gay marriage settles down, elites could focus on the far more pressing marriage crisis unfolding before their eyes.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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