The first counterargument is about men: It concedes that there is a modest upward post-’60s trend in household income, rather than a steep decline, but it argues that focusing on the general trend ignores a collapse in earnings for low-skilled men.... As I said in the column, a modest version of this argument makes sense to me. Less-educated men haven’t seen the same gains as their female peers in recent decades, male-dominated sectors of the economy have declined relative to the female-friendly sectors, and so some lower-income men clearly do look relatively less appealing as partners, less “marriagable” in strictly economic terms than they would have in 1960.I think that's right. Marriage is still very beneficial for those who can keep its disciplines. The working class is being damaged by both a collapse in public morality, and also by an immigration-heavy policy that makes American workers compete with immigrants who are willing to accept much less (as well as by globalization, which allows companies to hire non-American workers in the cheapest parts of the world).
At the same time, though, even in a world where women are earning more on their own, the strictly-economic advantages of the two-parent family and the potential costs of single parenthood are still very significant, and they get more significant, not less, as you go down the ladder of income and education.
...the issue is this: The men dragging down the overall low-skilled wage average since the ’60s are primarily recent immigrants, whose numbers have dramatically increased relative to mid-century, and whose wages are low by American standards but obviously much higher than the wages earned by their fathers and grandparents in their countries of origin.
Currently the politics are such that there's no possibility of controlling immigration or reducing globalization. Those who control the political class in our country are completely in favor of both of those things, as they benefit financially from them. The one thing we can really do to help the poor and working classes, then, is to encourage public morality.
That society should find ways to support the development of virtues in its citizens has been a commonplace idea since Plato. That it remains a perennial issue doesn't imply, I think, that there's no solution to it: it implies that something about human nature always requires a focus on developing virtue and avoiding vice.
How to do that, though? The working class is unlikely to take lessons from the government, because it is manifestly obvious that the government isn't concerned about their good: the policies of both political parties are dead-set on opposing the good of the working class in immigration and globalization, and dead-set on pursuing the good of their donor class instead. The Republican politician's game of pretending to oppose amnesty only makes them less credible with everyone. Similarly, the implementation of Obamacare has been a disaster for the workers of America, as we've often discussed: the only jobs available in much of the country are 24-hour-a-week part-time gigs, or temporary/seasonal labor, that avoid the law's mandates. The government has presented this as "help" for the worker, but it's clearly the opposite in effect.
You can make the argument in the hope of persuading people, but the working class is less likely to read political blogs (or the New York Times, for that matter). Churches are a good option in some places, less in others. In any case, they need more than persuasion: virtue development is hard. In many cases a young, poorer, married couple lacks models for success -- their parents may well have been divorced -- and therefore doesn't know what skills they need or how to develop them. We don't teach them in schools, instead handing them condoms and telling them to be 'safe' while working it out for themselves.