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Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age [Paperback]

Kay S. Hymowitz
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 26, 2007
A generation ago Americans undertook a revolutionary experiment to redefine marriage. Where historically men and women had sought a loving bond, largely centered on the rearing of children, the new arrangement called for an intimate―and provisional―union of two adults. Now, as Kay Hymowitz argues in Marriage and Caste in America, the results of this experiment separating marriage from childrearing are in, and they turn out to be bad news not only for children but also, in ways little understood, for the country as a whole. The family revolution has played a central role in a growing inequality and high rates of poverty, even during economic good times. The family upheaval has hit African-Americans especially hard, Ms. Hymowitz shows, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan had famously predicted it would. While for decades feminists and academics toyed with the myth of the strong single black mother supported by kinship networks, black men drifted into fatherhood without being husbands, without even becoming part of a family, while black children were left behind. When Americans began their family revolution, they forgot to consider what American marriage was designed to do: it ordered lives by giving the young a meaningful life script. It supported middle-class foresight, planning, and self-sufficiency. And it organized men and women around "The Mission"―nurturing their children's cognitive, emotional, and physical development. More than anything, Ms. Hymowitz writes, it is The Mission that separates middle-class kids―who for all their overscheduling are doing very well indeed―from their less-parented and lower-achieving peers. In fact our great family experiment threatens to turn what the founders imagined as an opportunity-rich republic of equal citizens into a hereditary caste society.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Kay Hymowitz thoughtfully takes on the minimalists who say a marriage is just a shack-up plus a piece of paper. Her elegant essays show that marriage is an essential culture-preserver, poverty-fighter, and life-improver. (Marvin Olasky, editor–in–chief, World News Group WORLD)

America could save itself a lot of trouble by paying attention to what [Hymowitz] writes. (Theodore Dalrymple, author of Our Culture, What’s Left of It)

A sobering investigation of the widening gap in the American social structure that's being caused by new attitudes toward marriage. (Ron Haskins, co-director, Center on Children and Families, The Brookings Institution)

The most fascinating (but grimmest) sections...deal with child-rearing skills in unmarried America. (Charlotte Hays The Wall Street Journal)

Marriage and Caste in America should provoke serious thought about how marriage has become a class issue―and what we can do about it. (Christine B. Whelan New York Post)

Essential. (David Brooks The New York Times)

Hymowitz...has concluded that the family revolution [is both] bad news for children [and] has had the effect of stratifying the country as a whole. (Steve Goddard's History Wire)

Hymowitz provides an arresting diagnosis of American social ills. (Cheryl Miller The American Conservative)

Hymowitz has the gift of being able to convey complicated ideas, theories, and history in lucid and witty language. (Lisa Schiffren COMMENTARY)

A strong case for the value of marriage. (Today's Machine World)

A short and readable volume.... Hymowitz has surely contributed...to creating the present hopeful moment for mainstream America. (Claudia Anderson The Weekly Standard)

Kay Hymowitz makes a persuasive case in Marriage and Caste in America that the best social program is actually marriage. (David Forsmark Front Page Magazine)

[The author] has the gift of being able to convey complicated ideas, theories, and history in language that is lucid and-most precious of all in discussions of marriage and family-witty. It is a pleasure to read her essays....an intelligent, compelling case....Clear and forceful conclusions about what is missing from the impoverished lives that she describes so well. (Book Review Digest)

Hymowitz cogently lays out a case that when it comes to reducing poverty, economics and family structure can't be separated. (Newsobserver.Com)

Beautifully written tour de force of contemporary American family life. (W Bradford Wilcox, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia and fellow of the Witherspoon Institute First Things)

Powerful...unflinching...analysis of this crisis of the black abandonment of marriage. (Gregory J. Sullivan Evening Bulletin)

[A] fascinating and informational [book] that you ought to read. (Dr. Laura Schlessinger)

About the Author

Kay S. Hymowitz is the author of Liberation's Children and Ready or Not, and has written extensively on education and childhood in America in articles for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the New Republic, among other publications. She is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York City and a contributing editor of City Journal. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and three children.

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VINE VOICEon February 18, 2007
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