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Too many American families--unstable, broken, often poor--are in serious peril, and both the reality of the situation and the myths obscuring that reality call for attention and swift action. In this most incisive analysis of the parlous state of the family today, Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children's Defense Fund, charts what is happening, exposes myths, and sets a bold agenda to strengthen families and protect children. In brilliant strokes and with abundant detail, Edelman describes family conditions over a generation--the rising curve of teenage pregnancy, the overwhelming joblessness of young blacks, the trend toward single-parent households, the increase in hungry and neglected children. Dispelling common assumptions about these bleak phenomena, she shows that the birth rate for black unmarried women is stabilizing while that for unmarried whites continues to rise, that Aid to Dependent Children does not cause teenage pregnancy or births, and that the child poverty rate has increased two-thirds for whites in recent years, as opposed to one-sixth for black children. Overall, whites are losing ground faster than blacks. Speaking for a growing number of social commentators, she finds the key to explain the rising proportion of births to single black mothers: a lost generation of fathers--young black males unable to marry and support a family, jobless from lack of education and training. What can be done? Edelman links the family and child poverty crisis to the fragile and ephemeral commitment of government to assist the needy. She suggests establishing a partnership between government, the private sector, and the black community to ensure children food, clothing, housing, medical care, and education. "Preventive investment strategies"--providing health, nutrition, and child care, raising the minimum wage, preventing teenage pregnancies, and opening up educational and employment opportunities for heads of families--will benefit us all. A passionate call to act now, to give real meaning to traditional American instincts for decency, this book is essential reading for everyone committed to preserving the nation's future.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780674292291
ISBN-10: 0674292294
Format: Paperback
(234mm x 153mm x 11mm)
Pages: 144
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publish Date: 1-Jul-1989
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » With copious statistics, Edelman (president of the Children's Defense Fund) documents the sudden increase in poverty among families with children. In 1983, for instance, toward the end of a serious recession, nearly 5.5 million children were living in families making less than $3,969 for three people or $5,089 for four, while 13-million children in all lived in official poverty. The subsequent recovery did not benefit these children. Edelman attributes these grim statistics to a multiplicity of factors, among them a stagnant minimum wage, which today falls 25 percent short of the poverty line for a family of three; an 8-percent decrease in aid to the needy since 1981, coupled with a 24-percent increase in arms expenditures. Furthermore, unemployment for black urban males has climbed to nearly 40 percent in the 20-24 age group, while immigrants (frequently undocumented aliens) often get entry level jobs Today, black men - having little hope they will ever earn a breadwinning wage - are increasingly unable or unwilling to marry. One result is that 58-percent rate of black babies are born to unmarried mothers. All this - and more - puts children at risk in often unstable, poorly housed, poorly fed, poorly clothed families. Edelman calls for a pastiche of government and private efforts to remedy the situation. Although she mentions that every industrialized Western nation (except the US) automatically provides government allowances for every child, she does not go that far. She says we are not tuned to "massive social upheavals" and prefer "incremental changes built over time." Her suggested strategy includes an increase in the minimum wage sufficient to support a family of three; an increase in money and food stamps to a minimum equal to 75 percent of the poverty level; elimination of the anti-family proviso in the states that withhold benefits if an unemployed father lives with his family. Edelman also calls for "a substantial federal investment. . .to create jobs" (how, she doesn't say); better education and job-training programs; a concerted effort to reduce teen-age pregnancies; and health insurance for the working poor. Unanswered, unfortunately, is what effect a higher minimum wage might have on US unemployment. In sum, a graphic and eloquent documentation of how the hopes and accomplishments of the 60's were undermined by the inflation of the 70's, and today are virtually destroyed as a seemingly indifferent society tolerates a growing class of permanently impoverished families. (Kirkus Reviews)


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