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Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change

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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 se 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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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 se 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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