Our local newspaper carries George Will’s weekly column, and I always read it. Not because of his conservative views, but that he writes with intelligence, and an intelligent mind is always worth listening to.
Today, he is discussing “The Millennial Success Sequence” published by the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies. This is something I wound never have come across on my own.
The millennial success sequence is this: First get at least a high school diploma, then get a job, then get married, and only then have children. (This is the sequence our generation took for granted.) Do this and you have only a 3% chance of being poor. Those who do not, find themselves in the bottom third of income.
An insight in the report is that the “soul-mate model of marriage” common today, is a self-centered approach that regards marriage primarily as an opportunity for personnel growth and fulfillment, rather than as a structure to create a family. The “millennial success sequence” is often disparaged as simply an old-fashioned, middle-class norm, despite its demonstrated success.
George Will, being George Will, adds that this may be the heart of the poverty problem, and the liberal view of throwing more and more public resources at poverty may never work.
As far back as Nathaniel Hawthorne’s day, it was said that social problems were so daunting that old principles must yield to new realities. Hawthorne, contrariwise, recommended consulting those who had “a death-grip on one or two ideas which had not come into vogue since yesterday morning.” Like getting an education, a job, and a spouse before begetting children, adds Will.
To this, I would add my own caveat: In any study, correlation does not prove causation. (A recent example is the correlation of Alzheimer’s memory loss with tangled clumps of tau proteins found in the brains of deceased Alzheimer’s patients. But are the proteins the cause of Alzheimer’s? If we can find a way to eliminate the proteins, will this prevent the memory loss of Alzheimer’s? We still do not know.)