How Americans Stopped Getting Married and Started Falling Behind
Melissa S. Kearney
BA Princeton, PhD (Economics) MIT
Neil Moskowitz Professor of Economics
University of Maryland
Please join us at this special in-person event as Prof. Melissa S. Kearney—an acclaimed economist and expert in social policy, poverty, and inequality— shares the surprising story of how declining marriage rates are driving many of the country’s biggest economic problems.
Kearney makes a provocative, data-driven case for marriage by showing how the institution’s decline has led to a host of economic woes—problems that have fractured American society and rendered vulnerable populations even more vulnerable. Eschewing the religious and values-based arguments that have long dominated this conversation, Kearney shows how the greatest impacts of marriage are, in fact, economic: when two adults marry, their economic and household lives improve, offering a host of benefits not only for the married adults but for their children. Studies show that these effects are today starker, and more unevenly distributed, than ever before. Kearney examines the underlying causes of the marriage decline in the US and draws lessons for how the US can reverse this trend to ensure the country’s future prosperity.
Based on more than a decade of economic research, including her original work, Kearney shows that a household that includes two married parents—holding steady among upper-class adults, increasingly rare among most everyone else—functions as an economic vehicle that advantages some children over others. As these trends of marriage and class continue, the compounding effects on inequality and opportunity grow increasingly dire. Their effects include not just children’s behavioral and educational outcomes, but a surprisingly devastating effect on adult men, whose role in the workforce and society appears intractably damaged by the emerging economics of America’s new social norms.
For many, the two-parent home may be an old-fashioned symbol of the idyllic American dream. But The Two-Parent Privilege makes it clear that marriage, for all its challenges and faults, may be our best path to a more equitable future. By confronting the critical role that family makeup plays in shaping children’s lives and futures, Kearney offers a critical assessment of what a decline in marriage means for an economy and a society—and what we must do to change course.
"An important book...We liberals often perceive the world through prisms of privilege, but we rarely discuss one of the most important privileges of all — and it’s the title of Kearney’s book, “The Two-Parent Privilege.” Nicholas Kristof, New York Times
Copies of the book will be available for sale and signing.
Time will be allocated for Q&A.
- MIT Club of Washington DC
- Princeton Club of Washington
- Yale Club of Washington DC
Melissa S. Kearney is the Neil Moskowitz Professor of Economics at the University of Maryland. She is also Director of the Aspen Economic Strategy Group; a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); and a non-resident Senior Fellow at Brookings. She is a scholar affiliate and member of the board of the Notre Dame Wilson-Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) and a scholar affiliate of the MIT Abdul Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). She is an editorial board member of the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy and Journal of Economic Literature, and a former co-editor of the Journal of Human Resources and Senior Editor of the Future of Children, . She serves on the Board of MDRC and the Board of Governors of the Smith Richardson Foundation. Kearney served as Director of the Hamilton Project at Brookings from 2013-2015 and as co-chair of the JPAL State and Local Innovation Initiative from 2015-2018.
Kearney's academic research focuses on domestic policy issues, especially issues related to social policy, poverty, and inequality. Her work has been published in leading academic journals and has been frequently cited in the popular press. She has testified before Congress on the topic of U.S. income inequality. Kearney teaches Public Economics at both the undergraduate and PhD level at the University of Maryland. She holds a BA in Economics from Princeton University and a PhD in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she studied on a National Science Foundation graduate student fellowship and a Harry S Truman fellowship.