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Heritage Event: Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age

Recorded on January 30, 2007

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium

A generation ago Americans undertook a revolutionary experiment to redefine marriage. In place of the historic loving bond, largely centered on the rearing of children, the new arrangement called for an intimate - and provisional - union of two adults. Now, as Kay Hymowitz argues, the results of this experiment separating marriage from childrearing are in, and they turn out to be bad news, not only for children, but also in ways little understood for the country as a whole. The family revolution has played a central role in a growing inequality and high rates of poverty, even during economic good times. This family upheaval has hit African-Americans especially hard, Ms. Hymowitz shows, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan had famously predicted it would. When Americans began their family revolution, they forgot to consider what American marriage was designed to do: it ordered lives by giving the young a meaningful life script. It supported middle-class foresight, planning, and self-sufficiency. And, it organized men and women around "The Mission" - nurturing their children's cognitive, emotional, and physical development. As Ms. Hymowitz posits, our great family experiment threatens to turn what the Founders imagined as an opportunity-rich republic of equal citizens into a hereditary caste society.

Kay S. Hymowitz, author of Liberation's Children and Ready or Not, has written extensively on education and childhood in America with articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the New Republic, among others. A Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York City, she is a Contributing Editor of City Journal.