The Culture Gap: Differences in Parenting & Education Predict Economic Outcomes

Dr. Brink Lindsey’s latest book “The Age of Abundance:  How Prosperity Transformed America’s Politics and Culture”  from the Cato Institute in Washington D.C. is valuable for parents and those seeking marriage.

Dr. Lindsey reveals that differences in parenting and education are the best predictors of economic outcomes.  His research reveals some startling facts.  First, the wage premium associated with a college degree has jumped to 70%.  In 1980 it was barely 30%.  The wage premium associated with graduate degree’s has soared to 100%.  All of this indicates that dropping out of high school guarantees socioeconomic failure.  And let’s be honest, the high school drop out rate in urban environments is already over 50%.

Throughout this reading he reveals the rising demand for analytical and interpersonal skills that drives the change.  It is the development of human talent that brings social and economic security.

But what explains the disparity between an enormous drop out rate and the absolute necessity for at least one college diploma.  The disparity can only be explained by culture.

In 1979 the median household income was barely $18,000, in 2004 its over $44,000.  The increase in economic disparity has nothing to do with our capitalist system.  Rather, the disparity is a product of demographic changes.  Rising numbers of both single parent households and affluent dual earner couples has stretched the income distribution.

Our problem is simple to understand.  The human capital gap perversely demonstrated in licentious behavior impedes security.  As Dr. Lindsay reveals “the most obvious and heartrending cultural deficits are those that produce and perpetuate the inner-city underclass.”

Poverty today is largely about the failure to get and hold any job.  “The Age of Abundance” reveals that the problem resides in a lack of elementary self discipline: failure to stay in school, failing to live within the law, failing to get and stay married to the mother or father of your children.  The prevalence of all these pathologies reflects a dysfunctional culture that fails to invest in human capital.

For those seeking marriage, it is wise to discuss the culture of the household, for Lindsay reveals that their are deficits that distinguish working class culture from middle and upper middle classes.  Those families that follow the traditional laissez-faire child rearing  philosophy of ‘the accomplishment of natural growth’ possess deficits which are not seen by upper middle class families.  The new kind of family life is hectic and stressful but the inculcation of intellectual, organizational, interpersonal skills required to succeed today is necessary.  Only a family involved with its children can act as a bulwark against the deficits that contemporary culture bestows on children from laissez-faire households. Simply put, the difference is in the values, skills and habits taught at home.

Our productive capacity has outstripped our cultural capacity.  And the public institutions responsible for human capital formation are failing miserably.  All that’s left is the family.

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About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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