The theme of this symposium, “fragmented families and splintered classes and what it means for the United States and Minnesota,” overstates problems attributed to broken families and underemphasizes other conditions that affect well-being, human capital development, and ultimately economic performance.
This new American Experiment symposium grows out of a book of mine published just about a year ago, From Family Collapse to America’s Decline: The Educational, Economic, and Social Costs of Family Fragmentation, which examined many of the problems and shortcomings resulting from very high rates of nonmarital births, very high rates of divorce, and routinely short-lived cohabiting relationships. One of the book’s central themes is how such family churning—more specifically, the extent to which it hurts great numbers of children—is leading, and can only lead, to stunted mobility and deeper class divisions in a nation that has never viewed itself in such splintered ways.
Ron Haskins and Art Rolnick address the limited success of most early childhood education programs and discuss evidence showing that high-quality programs can dramatically and positively impact a child's future success in school and life. Rolnick then offers a proposal to make high-quality early childhood education available to high-risk children through an endowed scholarship fund. Both Rolnick and Haskins emphasize that any future programs must be market based.