What’s Driving Growing Inequality in the United States?

29 Apr 2016

The “Money vs. Marriage” debate between Naomi R. Cahn and W. Bradford Wilcox paves the way for an Experts Meeting next year exploring the same topic.

STI was pleased to sponsor “Money vs. Marriage: What’s Driving Growing Inequality in the United States?”. The event was a debate held in New York City on Thursday, April 7th between Naomi R. Cahn, coauthor of Marriage Markets: How Inequality Is Remaking the American Family and a professor of law at George Washington University, and frequent STI contributor W. Bradford Wilcox, coauthor of Strong Families, Prosperous States: Do Healthy Families Affect the Wealth of States? and a senior fellow of the Institute for Family Studies/professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. Catherine Rampell, a columnist at The Washington Post, and Kay Hymowitz, the William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, served as respondents.

Cahn and Wilcox agree broadly on the current state of inequality in economic and family stability.  However they largely disagree about how society arrived at this point and what should be done about it.  Both speakers characterized their differences in terms of the “chicken and egg” question. 

Cahn argued that shifts in the economy—from declines in non-college-educated men’s real wages to growing income inequality—have played a central role in undercutting the stability of family life among working-class and poor Americans. She contended that the changing economy is the chicken that has produced the egg of changes in family structure, producing a cycle whereby that changed structure perpetuates the changes in the economy.

Wilcox contended that the cycle begins the other way around: that it is the breakdown of marriage that has left less-educated Americans particularly vulnerable to family instability and single parenthood, thereby fueling family poverty, income stagnation, and economic, racial and gender inequality.

The debate, which was held at the IESE Business School in Midtown, included audience questions, was taped and streamed. Watch it here.


Wilcox’s arguments were later printed in The Dallas Morning News.