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Heeju Sohn

Research Findings

Fraying family support systems call for stronger public safety nets

September 11, 2019

Our spouses, our parents, and our children are often the first lines of defense against challenges in life. We lean on them as we navigate our first jobs or raise funds for a new home. We ask them for help when we fall ill. When their help is not enough, we turn to public safety nets provided by schools, hospitals, and government programs. However, these safety nets are grossly inadequate to catch the vulnerable. What is more, the family support system is threatened by growing divorce, single parenthood, and poor health among vulnerable populations.

Getting and staying married is becoming a phenomenon of the upper classes. People with less education and less income are increasingly opting to forgo marriage. Instead, they often enter parenthood alone or within cohabiting relationships that are unstable with few legal protections. The divorce rate, while on the decline for upper-class families, is still at a historical high among couples with the least education.

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