And that doesn't mean not caring about the plight of single parents.
Gov. Mike Pence made good on one of his campaign pledges in his first day in office, making one of the 15 executive orders a requirement that six state agencies prepare “family impact” statements for any new proposals for regulations. There are good reasons to view the order with a little skepticism and watch its implementation closely. It’s one of those noble-sounding intentions that can get a little vague in the real world. How can we know for sure what the impact of a proposal might be, and how much weight should we give that knowledge anyway?
But one concern that’s not as worrisome is the idea, advanced by some critics among whom was Pence’s Democratic opponent, John Gregg, that this effort to “promote traditional families” is unfair to other kinds of families, including heroic and desperate single parents. No, it isn’t.
Trying not to hurt “traditional” families doesn’t mean you don’t care about other families. Pence has said – and there is no reason to doubt him – that the state isn’t going to reduce the help it gives to single-parent families. His wife Karen was raised by a single mother, and his own sister is raising her family by herself so he’s not unaware of the problems faced by such households.
All Pence is saying is that intact families are important and, since they face increasing challenges from all sides, it doesn’t make sense to add to their burdens.
Just how important those families are is a topic Pence explored at length on his campaign website. Decades of social science research, he wrote, “confirms that one of the greatest causes of poverty and inequality is the number of children born to unmarried parents.” In fact, in Indiana children are “85 percent less likely to live in poverty if they live with their married parents.”
Research also suggests that “the sure-fire way for a young person to avoid poverty, or what we call ‘the success equation,’ is quite simple: Graduate from high school, work full-time or go to college, and wait until you’re married before having a child. No governor or state agency anywhere in America has made the success equation the basis of its anti-poverty strategy. By using it as a framework, Indiana would be the first.”
So it’s no mystery that one of the governor’s other pledges is to strengthen workforce development by pushing for expansion and improvement of vocational education in the state – high school then college or work then family. The state can’t make people do what they should, but its policies can certainly make the road a little easier for those who do.