Mandating Fatherhood

By J. DeVoy

Last night was the state of the union address.  I did not watch.  I was working and then at the gym.  The successful (and attractive, since there is a correlation) people I know have little use for politics, and I have come to agree with their position.  Sure, they care about broad issues like equality, the availability of birth control, and abortion, but the primary focus is always on self-improvement through developing new ideas, honing better skills and making more money.  These skills are desirable no matter who is in office (assuming, charitably, there is any difference between the political parties).  The minutiae of politics is for, and best left to, the trolls. You want to know who gets all excited about politics? This person.  Great company, I’m sure.

However, because of the scourge of social media, some exposure to the bread and circuses is inevitable.  From what I gleaned, the President made comments about the need to incentivize fatherhood.  This morning, I pulled the transcript of his speech to see the exact comments:

And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low- income couples and do more to encourage fatherhood, because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child, it’s having the courage to raise one. And we want to encourage that. We want to help that.

That’s ironic, since the state of the law over the last 30 or so years has had the opposite effect.  I don’t think low-income people are really obsessing over the marginal rates for married couples filing jointly versus filing as a head-of-household or filing separately while residing at the same address and potentially claiming the same dependents.

In reality, financial deterrents to marriage are the dual threshers of child support (which you can be incarcerated for not paying, and held in custody until payments are made – which creates an interesting catch-22 if you’re unemployed) and alimony.  How strong of a deterrent are these?  Considering the failure rate of all marriages is around 50%, it’s a pretty strong deterrent.  Ironically, the people more likely to be influenced by and understand statistics – and avoid marriage because of this deterrent – are generally higher-income and better educated than average.

There’s some dispute over what the divorce rate really is.  This is important, as it signals to men what their risk is of losing half of their assets, the chance of losing access to their children, and a radical downward shift in standard of living – even without considering all that emotional stuff.  A much-vaunted study says that a full half of all marriages will end in divorce, while other analyses show that first marriages are more likely to succeed, with subsequent marriages being more prone to failure.  Whether the total failure rate for all marriages is 50%, 40%, or even an unfathomably small 30%, guess what number is lower: The divorce rate for mail-order-bride marriages, which is only 20%.

The Center for Immigration Studies has found that 80% of these mail-order-bride marriages are successful.  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had posted a study that drew significant attention until it was mysteriously removed, which read in part that “marriages arranged through [mail-order] services would appear to have a lower divorce rate than the nation as a whole, fully 80 percent of these marriages having lasted over the years for which reports are available.”  Still further research shows that these arrangements are not maintained out of fear, but genuine happiness; the bogeymen of spousal abuse and threat of deportment have no support in fact or law – U.S. law in particular goes to great extent to protect an immigrant spouse’s citizenship, even before it is finalized, unless it is procured fraudulently.

What we see here is the reality that mail-order-marriages carry a much lower risk than marrying a fellow American, and are less than half as likely to end in divorce and its ensuing asset-grab.  There are other deterrents that can be removed as well.  The federal government can eliminate or sand down the must-arrest requirements that many police departments have enacted in response to the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”), which provides for generous federal funding to police departments adopting these objectives.  The practical effect of VAWA’s adoption and resulting mandatory arrest policies has been to turn the prelude of every divorce into a psychological game where a wife tries to agitate her husband into hitting her, at which point he will be arrested and, as a scary and violent criminal, face a tough challenge in obtaining meaningful custody of his kids. (Forget the house; once he’s out of it and in jail, it’s as good as hers.)

Another deterrent to successful marriage  that could be removed is the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act, or IMBRA, which requires mail-order bride services to regulate and even restrict the speech of individuals who use their services.  Increasing the pool of people who can pursue marriages with better than a coin flip chance of success can only help the cause of fatherhood.

Other deterrents that I’m sure will go unaddressed: Maybe it’s not only the no-good-totally-evil men’s fault that divorce rates are so high.  More than a third of women are obese.  While there’s much noise made about how women are outnumbering men on campus and in obtaining bachelor’s and master’s degrees, little is said about the fact that they mostly get useless liberal arts degrees that come with lots of debt and little prospect for paying it off.  Student loans are only theoretically dischargeable in bankruptcy, so that debt is for life (while your spouse may not be).  And then there’s the cultural zeitgeist that it’s cool and braggable to be a self-identified “slut.”  As the saying goes, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?  I think most people would agree that these are unattractive qualities when evaluating a marriage partner, and especially one who can grab half of your present and future assets out of boredom.

If we want to remove the deterrents to fatherhood and the stable nuclear families that are highly correlated with growing, healthy societies, it won’t be through the tax code.  Instead, throw open wide the gates to Croatia and Ukraine.  Give Michelle Obama more air time to “fat-shame” and campaign against obesity at all ages.  Tie federal funds to states adopting more rational policies on alimony and child support, in much the same way the federal government cajoled the states to raise the drinking age to 21.  And stop assuming it’s solely fathers, rather than both parents, that have caused the broken family structure hollowing out America from its core.

16 Responses to Mandating Fatherhood

  1. MikeZ says:

    As an anecdotal story, I actually have never gotten married because of the marginal tax rate and other tax penalties. I’ve been happily not married for almost 20 years. To further make things interesting we each have one child (Which gives us another 5K in credits (through separate childcare FSAs). I’ll admit though that this probably isn’t worth the hassle for the low-income audience being targeted.

  2. Mark Kernes says:

    Last I heard, being fat isn’t a crime (or I’d have been in prison long ago), and some men actually prefer what we in porn call “BBW”: Big Beautiful Women. Such movies (and websites) sell well. I also suspect that some non-BBW women like fat guys. C’mon, DeVoy: Don’t be a bigot.

  3. MKC says:

    I’m skeptical of the data. It appears to be from the agencies themselves, who have a strong financial incentive to inflate success rates.

    [B]ased largely on data supplied by the agencies themselves (along with the Commission on Filipinos Overseas report), marriages arranged through the mail-order services would appear to have a lower divorce rate than the nation as a whole, fully 80 percent of these marriages having lasted over the years for which reports are available.

    The commision report was not a U.S. commission; I cannot ascertain whether the periodical that published the report was peer reviewed or just an advertising magazine.

    I mean, it makes sense. Totally, for a number of reasons. But it also makes sense that there’d be a bias against reporting that you got snookered by your mail-order bride, who waited until she got citizenship and then hired an American attorney, and rather than take you for half of everything, took a quick settlement for just a third, which your lawyer suggested you take. And there’d certainly be a bias against the agencies reporting any such episodes.

  4. tamburlainethegreat says:

    Reblogged this on To the Slaughter of the Gods and commented:
    This is an excellent example of why everyone should be reading Randazza’s blog. Even the guest pieces are better than 99% of the other crap on the interwebz. An excellent meditation on the current state of parenthood, that is surprisingly, given the current political climate of “blame the menz”, even-handed.

  5. wellsdc says:

    For the sake of brevity, I shall limit my commentary to a question: what is the intended relevance to your broader point of the female obesity statistic you link to? I will also add that the linked article re: obesity states that obesity is linked to health problems, but does not say what health problems, nor how health problems are exacerbated by obesity. Its only functional definition of “obesity” is linked to a BMI over 25, which rather begs the question.

    • J DeVoy says:

      Well, everyone seems to be honing in on this point so I’ll address it here. My parents are both fat (used to be fatter and are doing better, but I wouldn’t classify them as thin), have had terrifying health problems because of it, and I’m afraid of having to have constant future problems because of a blasé attitude about health. The issue isn’t that fat people are “bad,” and I don’t believe that, despite what’s being imputed here. But if we’re being honest with ourselves about the gender differences between men and women and how both evaluate the attractiveness of the opposite sex, a woman’s looks are more valuable than a man’s – and thus the negative effect of obesity on women is higher. Not necessarily in getting a job or education, but in landing a mate, definitely.

      So why is this bad for marriage? If the majority of men aren’t going to be attracted to more than 33% of women, creating a lot of competition for the remaining less-than-two-thirds who merely aren’t obese. Yes, BMI is a flawed metric individually, but is designed to work over large groups of people where statistical averaging is present such as, say, the population of America. As for the “health” issue, an aggregation of serious health issues (heart disease, type II diabetes, hypertension, polycystic ovary syndrome, etc.) positively correlated with obesity is available here: http://www.obesityinamerica.org/understandingObesity/diseases.cfm

      But I think what this ultimately comes back to is the implied question of why did I “bully” fat women in this article? No bullying intended here; just observing reality. A reality where the average adult actress – a fairly good representation of male sexual ideals – is 48 pounds lighter than the average American woman. http://jonmillward.com/blog/studies/deep-inside-a-study-of-10000-porn-stars/ Also a reality where *blind* men with visual no social conditioning at all prefer slender waists. http://heartiste.wordpress.com/2010/04/19/even-blind-men-prefer-the-optimal-0-7-waist-to-hip-ratio/ This is also reality where, for the prestige whores in the audience, dating a larger woman means a higher likelihood of her being from a lower socioeconomic background than her thinner peers (which also may portend a disconnect in life experiences, ambitions, preferences, tastes, etc.) http://www.miller.co.at/publications/paper_pdf/social_childhood_bmi.pdf Maybe this is all making “””excuses””” for biology, but one can only fight genetic programming so much.

      Historically in western societies, when women were thinner, marriage happened more often. Sure, there were other factors at play then and are now, but body size is relevant. Now more than 1/3 of women are out of consideration for most men, and the competition for the remaining half (if that many) that aren’t overweight has profound and negative consequences. Rather than being as productive as possible and raising families, guys in their 20’s and 30’s are chasing an ever-shrinking pool of desirable mates. Mate poaching increases, as men make advances on married attractive women because there aren’t as many in the wild – making marriage an increasingly untenable proposition. Finally, those in demand hold out for ever better, more impressive propositions, pricing the average guy out of the market.

      If you want to talk about what’s wrong with fatherhood and marriage, you can’t honestly do so without talking about the current sexual marketplace. For about a third of guys, it’s a desert. While it’s the historical free-market norm for some men to have harems while others starve, I think it’s fairly rare in western civilization. The lack of reconciliation between this primal market with modern laws and expectations is the cause of many familial problems politicians now bemoan.

      • D506 says:

        Your point hinges strongly on the theory that 1/3rd of women, being ‘obese’, are effectively out of the dating pool because men prefer thinner women. Even granting both of these as true, your point isn’t supported unless you can show that those ‘obese’ women do poorly in the ‘dating game’, are less likely to marry and/or more likely to divorce. I don’t think you can assume this at all.

        • J DeVoy says:

          I don’t know if this is wishful thinking or just ignorance.

          Here’s an article from 1993, printed in the New York Times no less, stating that fat women are much less likely to be married than normal-sized ones: http://www.nytimes.com/1993/09/30/us/women-pay-price-for-being-obese.html

          It’s basically the same deal for dating. They are picked last, and to the extent they get attention outside of dating, it appears to be for one-off, secretive hookups that are untethered from commitment. See http://newsinfo.nd.edu/news/37481-cupids-arrow-research-illuminates-laws-of-attraction/ and http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/weightloss/2010-06-16-obese-sex_N.htm?csp=obinsite

          Have you been on a college campus or spoken frankly with anyone who has in the last decade? THE REALITY, IT BURNS!!!

          • D506 says:

            I said you can’t assume it and you didn’t show it; I never said it wasn’t true. It’s not ignorance or wishful thinking to ask you to back up your claims.

            Your 1/3 obese number comes from women who are more than 30lbs overweight, a BMI of about 25. In your first link, the average woman in the study had a BMI of over 35. That’s a 65lb difference in a 5’5 woman. The other links consider obesity for a BMI of 30+. In other words, the best you can say is that for 1/3 of women, those with BMIs greater than 30 will have trouble more dating/marrying.

            As for the college campus bit, I actually just left college a few years back. My experience was that while women with serious obesity problems (BMI 30+) generally sat out the dating game, those on the chubby side but not terribly so (say, BMI 25-30) did quite well. They tended to be more aggressive in asking guys out and more approachable as guys felt less likely to be rejected. They were also more likely to compromise in relationships and more interested in settling down; quite possibly because they felt that had fewer options to ‘trade up’.

            • D506 says:

              Obesity is also over represented among the elderly (“About 42% of women over 60 were obese”, from your original source), so therefore must be underrepresented among the.. not elderly. I would also suggest that women who marry and/or have kids are more likely to become obese than those who do not, furthering skewing your stats.

              I’m not entirely disagreeing with you. Obesity is a serious problem. But the sky is not falling. The female side of the desirable dating pool might be smaller but it’s not nearly as drastic as you want to paint.

              Even if it were, so what? Women should take better care of themselves so that the Cheeto dusted man children among us can date attractive women? Attractiveness is a relative scale; the most attractive men will date the most attractive women, and vice versa. And the rest will fall in line.

            • J DeVoy says:

              “They tended to be more aggressive in asking guys out and more approachable as guys felt less likely to be rejected.”

              Because they had no options and knew that if they did nothing they’d become forververalone cat ladies. Pity the guys who committed to them, even if they were willing to “compromise” (apparently on everything except being attractive).

            • markkernes says:

              Speaking as a fat person, though not female, it’s been my experience that people are attracted to each other for a variety of reasons, and a pleasant manner and good intellect count for a lot in the “dating game.” Moreover, the question of who’s willing to marry whom is a bit outdated these days, don’t you think? I mean, considering how many people cohabit rather than marry—and even have kids together. Bottom line: To assume that the majority of overweight people are not attractive to potential sex/life partners is just bigoted. Notout to censor you; just calling it as I see it.

  6. A+++ trolling, would read again!

  7. I don’t think anyone’s talking about the same demographic as the president is. While it’s true low income men probably aren’t worrying about their tax rates, the mail order bride option is hardly the solution.

    There is a dramatic disproportion in the number of marriagiable low income men and women, due to murder/accidental death, military service, incarceration, drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness/fetal alcohol effect, etc — the conditions that affect low income people more than higher income people and men more than women (or at least make men less marriagiable, as a mildly mentally handicapped woman is more likely to be accepted by a man of normal intelligence as a spouse than the other way around, due to expectations of contributing to family income).

    Anyway, the result is that women take what they can get, men take full advantage of the ability to be irresponsible and still get laid, women don’t want to marry immature men, women feel confident that men won’t attempt to get custody after the relationship breaks up, and therefore women have babies with men they aren’t willing to marry.

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