Washington Monthly - September/October 2015 - 17

TEN MILES SQUARE "... such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) ... [shal l ] become the Seat of the Government of the United States" the constitution of the united states Can Gay Wedlock Break Political Gridlock?: A Debate icy interventions that will provide more economic opportunity to families, including children, their parents, and their potential parents. These interventions could involve employment and wage programs, universal health care coverage, quality pre-K, college tuition assistance, and incarceration reform. By Jared Bernstein, with a reply by David Blankenhorn, William Galston, Jonathan Rauch, and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead T I n the divisive, partisan political debates in D.C., the term "grand bargain" refers to a deal in which each side gives up a dearly held position to get what they want. Democrats accept entitlement cuts, for example, while Republicans accept a tax hike. In a recent article in these pages ("Can Gay Wedlock Break Political Gridlock?," March/April/May 2015), David Blankenhorn, William Galston, Jonathan Rauch, and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead suggested that conservatives and progressives forge such a grand bargain regarding marriage. In this scenario, conservatives would accept same-sex marriage and progressives would accept the compelling research that married families are better for child outcomes than single parents. I found their reasoning and evidence strong, and their case well argued. But the bargain they offered was weak then and it's even weaker now, since the Supreme Court has made same-sex mar- riage allowable across the country. Certainly it would be better for a pluralistic America if conservatives accepted gay marriage-but, especially since younger generations already do so, regardless of their politics, I'm not sure it matters that much. That train has left the station, with Justice Kennedy at the controls. While it's possible that future courts could reverse the decision, it's unlikely. So I'm here to offer a stronger version of a grand bargain. Progressives should accept that there's a link between family structure and childhood outcomes. (I'll go through the research below, as the findings are more nuanced and open to interpretation than this language makes it sound.) But since it's no sacrifice for conservatives to accept something that's already solidly in place, here's their part of the new grand bargain: in the interest of promoting more lasting marriages and stable families, they must accept the pol- he role of family structure in poverty, inequality, and child outcomes has been debated for decades, with progressives arguing that the increase in single parenthood is driven by economic forces, and conservatives arguing that prevailing cultural norms are to blame. While all this has been going on-and versions of this debate date back to the English Poor Laws of the early 1600s- researchers have been examining the impact that growing up outside of stable marriages has on children's outcomes. This now large body of research finds considerable evidence that children who grow up with two parents rather than one achieve better adult outcomes, at least on an "all-else-equal" basis (bad marriages, for example, are bad for kids). Some of this is also common sense: two incomes are greater than one, and two caregivers by definition have more time, arms, ears, and so on than one. While the research typically finds that family stability (that is, consistency in family structure) is particularly important for kids' outcomes, it's clear that married families are more likely to be stable than unmarried ones. Washington Monthly 17

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