The anti-capitalists have convinced the American people that capitalism is the cause of a growing gap in per-capita income between the capital class and the working class. Their solution is to take more money from the capital class and redistribute it to the proletariat.
They are silent about the fact that the apparatchiks at the top of the Communist Party had 50 times the income of the average bloke during the heyday of the former Soviet Union, not counting the value of their government dachas, limos, special stores and schools, and shopping trips to the West. That statistic brings to mind an anecdote: Once, when Stalin and his boot-licking sycophants were traveling in the hinterlands and staying in peasant houses instead of their palaces, Stalin asked his henchman for money to reimburse a peasant for their stay. None had any money. It seems that they were so used to taking whatever they wanted that they had no need to carry cash.
I digress from the purpose of this article. The purpose is to offer a major reason why the per-capita income of a large segment of the American population is lower than it otherwise would be—a reason that the establishment media and academia don't like to discuss, as the subject matter is politically incorrect. Their silence widens their credibility gap.
The purpose is not to jump between the statistical duel between the anti-capitalists and capitalists as to whether per-capita income has actually decreased or increased, after such factors as cost of living and the shift of compensation from cash wages to non-cash benefits are considered. Nor is the purpose to explain the impact of illegal immigration, globalization and government regulations on the per-capita income of low-skilled workers.
Instead, the purpose is to suggest that a major reason why per-capita income is lower than it otherwise would be is the rise in single-parent families.
Both the Left and the Right accept the fact that single-parent families have considerably less household income than two-parent households, for the simple reason that they have one wage earner instead of two. The statistics are startling: About eight percent of families headed by couples in their first marriage are at or below the poverty line, versus 33 percent of families headed by a divorced or separated single parent, and nearly 60 percent of families headed by a never-married single parent.
But why would the head of a single-parent household have less per-capita income than the head of a two-parent household? After all, employers don’t pay a single parent less than a married parent, if the two have comparable skills and experience.
I posit that the answer is that single parents work fewer hours than married parents. The left-leaning Brookings Institute hinted as much in a Sept. 2003 article, "Work and Marriage: The Way to End Poverty and Welfare." It said that "the heads of poor families with children worked only one half as many hours, on average, as the heads of nonpoor [sic] families with children." Given that the preponderance of poor households are headed by single parents, it’s a safe bet that single parents work fewer hours than married parents. Unfortunately, extensive internet research failed to find a study that proved this hypothesis.
If the hypothesis is true, there are three possible explanations why single parents work fewer hours. First, they have to take more time off from work to take care of family responsibilities, because they can’t share the load with a spouse. Second, in spite of welfare-to-work public policies, scores of welfare programs continue to provide a disincentive for working. Third—and this is extremely politically incorrect—single parents might be less industrious, on average, than married parents.
The third point is not a sexist remark, in that it applies to both men and women. For example, studies have shown that single men are not as ambitious as married men.
The proportion of children living with single parents has tripled over the last 30 years, due to an increase in out-of-wedlock births and divorces. For the establishment media and academia to ignore or downplay the impact of this social tsunami on per-capita income is to widen their credibility gap.
They are correct in one thing, however. They are correct that capitalism contributes to the income gap. That’s because the more capitalist a country is, the wealthier the country is. And the wealthier a country is, the less that men and women have to marry or stay married in order to acquire the bare necessities of life. Capitalism gives Americans choices that people in impoverished countries don't have, including the choice to raise children without a spouse and to work fewer hours.
Whose fault is it that they make the wrong choices? Your answer will depend on where you sit on the political spectrum.
An author and columnist, Mr. Cantoni can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.