In 1965, sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan (who later became the iconic New York senator) published a controversial study about the increasing number of black families headed by single moms, in which he asserted that black children growing up without male breadwinners would have a harder time breaking the poverty cycle. Critics called the study racist, and researchers shied away from closely examining father absence for years—but a new study by Princeton and Harvard scientists published in EducationNext analyzes some of the trends from the original report. Most notable: that half of US kids will end up living with an unmarried mom by the time they're 18, and kids of all races who grow up without a biological dad increase their risk of antisocial tendencies, including increased aggression and a refusal to abide by rules, notes a press release.
Since Moynihan's original study, the percentage of kids raised by single moms (based on marital status, not living arrangement) has risen from 25% to 50% in black families, and from 7% to 19% among white families. Single moms today are also more likely to never have been married, lack college degrees, and experience poverty more than households with two parents. "Children growing up with a single mother are likely to be doubly disadvantaged," says study co-author Sara McLanahan. "They spend less time and receive less money from their biological fathers. ... [And] the mother ... has lower earnings than the typical mother in a married-parent family." The study's authors suggest more incentives for women to further their education, encouragement to use better contraceptives, and a push to help young fathers make economic inroads. (Mom's the moneymaker in 40% of US households.)