The collapse of marriage among the uneducated and partially educated has unquestionably been a social and economic disaster. The data are overwhelming that children raised by married parents are happier, healthier, do better in school, and are more likely to attend and finish college than their peers from single-parent homes. This is true without regard to race or ethnicity. In fact, being raised by a single mother is a better predictor of poverty than race or ancestry.
Those concerned about income inequality, poverty and social health, I argued (and I was joined in this by my fellow panelists), must be concerned about rebuilding the marriage norm. I cited the successful effort to reduce teen pregnancy (it's dropped 50 percent in recent years). A similar campaign to stress the importance of stable families could yield huge benefits for the most vulnerable populations in our society.
Only in the question-and-answer session did the issue that so absorbed Milbank arise: How this affects elections. Responding to a question, we noted the glaringly unsurprising fact that the gender gap between Democrats and Republicans is actually a marriage gap. Single women vote disproportionately for Democrats and married women vote by a comfortable margin for Republicans.
The decline of marriage inclines more women to vote Democrat. They are, quite understandably, looking for security (a la "The Life of Julia"). It's obviously not a good campaign strategy for Republican office-seekers to lecture women about marching to the altar before having children.
But, believe it or not, it's useful to think about and discuss important social trends without always appending a D or an R to them. Serious people can seek out the illuminating research by Isabel Sawhill, Charles Murray, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, Elaine Kamarck, W. Bradford Wilcox and other scholars.
Fans of shallow snark will enjoy Milbank's work.