View all Books

Marriage and Caste in America Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age

By Kay S. Hymowitz
Ivan R. Dee 2006 ISBN: 978-1566637091

About the Book

A generation ago Americans undertook a revolutionary experiment to redefine marriage. Where historically men and women had sought a loving bond, largely centered on the rearing of children, the new arrangement called for an intimate—and provisional—union of two adults. Now, as Kay Hymowitz argues in Marriage and Caste in America, the results of this experiment separating marriage from childrearing are in, and they turn out to be bad news not only for children but also, in ways little understood, for the country as a whole. The family revolution has played a central role in a growing inequality and high rates of poverty, even during economic good times. The family upheaval has hit African-Americans especially hard, Ms. Hymowitz shows, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan had famously predicted it would. While for decades feminists and academics toyed with the myth of the strong single black mother supported by kinship networks, black men drifted into fatherhood without being husbands, without even becoming part of a family, while black children were left behind. When Americans began their family revolution, they forgot to consider what American marriage was designed to do: it ordered lives by giving the young a meaningful life script. It supported middle-class foresight, planning, and self-sufficiency. And it organized men and women around "The Mission"— nurturing their children's cognitive, emotional, and physical development. More than anything, Ms. Hymowitz writes, it is The Mission that separates middle-class kids—who for all their overscheduling are doing very well indeed—from their less-parented and lower-achieving peers. In fact our great family experiment threatens to turn what the founders imagined as an opportunity-rich republic of equal citizens into a hereditary caste society.

About the Author

Kay S. Hymowitz is the author of Liberation's Children and Ready or Not, and has written extensively on education and childhood in America in articles for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the New Republic, among other publications. She is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York City and a contributing editor of City Journal. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and three children.



The frayed knot—Marriage in America The Economist, 05-24-07

The Elusive Altar By David Brooks, New York Times, 01-18-07

Social ills demand an altared view By Patrick McIlheran, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 01-16-07

That Ring Makes a Difference Charlotte Hays, Wall Street Journal, 12-13-06
. . . The Marriage Gap, as Ms. Hymowitz calls it, appears likely to have a more profound effect on the future of both Americas than the gender gap so lamented by the feminists. . .

Lifestyles of the poor and anonymous Suzanne Fields,, 12-04-06
...As Kay Hymowitz reminds us in her persuasively documented book called "Marriage and Caste in America,". . . Few people today think divorce and single parenthood are equal-opportunity misfortunes in a house on the beach of Malibu or a trailer camp in West Virginia, but we're still slow in finding solutions for the disastrous consequences of single parenthood in the underclass, which more than any other single ingredient contributes to a caste system in America. . .

Single Mothers, Many Problems Editorial, Wall Street Journal, 12-01-06
...Missing in almost all these approaches is what the Manhattan's Institute's Kay Hymowitz refers to as "the M-word." She told us that while high-school girls may accept advice to finish their education before having children, the "wait until" message doesn't include marriage. . .In her new book, "Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age," Ms. Hymowitz documents how, by refusing to emphasize the link between marriage and successful child raising, "we have created a new demographic, which is the poor, working, single mother...

Unwed-Birth Boom: Bad News Christine Whelan, New York Post, 11-29-06
...Educated women want to raise educated, successful children - and they realize that having a husband in the picture makes it easier to devote time to a child's development, argues Kay Hymowitz. Indeed, she sees it as a new class divide: Her new book is titled "Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age." ...

Incubators of decline Vincent Carroll, Rocky Mountain News, 11-28-06
...If Hymowitz is right, America's evolving caste system will contain an explosive racial and ethnic element, too, given the sky-high rate of single motherhood among blacks and the fact that out-of-wedlock births are growing fastest today among Hispanic women....


"Marriage and Caste in America is the best single book on the damage being done to our nation by the explosion of divorce and nonmarital births since the 1960s. Beginning with the widely ignored fact that it is minorities and the poor who are disproportionately affected by family breakdown, this provocative book presents a disturbing tale of cultural meltdown. Reading it is like reading a cultural obituary."
Ron Haskins, Senior Fellow, Economic Studies, Co-Director, Center on Children and Families, The Brookings Institution

"No one writes with more verve and wisdom about families as the incubators of success or failure than Kay Hymowitz—she's a national treasure."
William J. Bennett, is the Washington fellow of the Claremont Institute and a former secretary of education under President Reagan. He is also the host of the nationally syndicated radio show Bill Bennett's Morning in America.

"It takes courage and intellect to penetrate deliberate obfuscation. Kay Hymowitz has them both. America could save itself a lot of trouble by paying attention to what she writes."
Theodore Dalrymple, author of Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses

"Kay Hymowitz thoughtfully takes on the minimalists who say a marriage is just a shack-up plus a piece of paper. Her elegant essays show that marriage is an essential culture-preserver, poverty-fighter, and life-improver."
Dr. Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief, World


Getting Hitched Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review Online, 01-23-07

The "breakdown of marriage in the United States - which began about forty years ago as divorce and out-of-wedlock birthrates started to soar - threatens America's future. It is turning us into a nation of separate and unequal families". . . [Kay Hymowitz] took some questions from National Review Online editor Kathryn Lopez. . .

Kathryn Jean Lopez: I assume you read the New York Times story last week that reported that 51 percent of American women are not married. What irked you most about it?

Kay Hymowitz: The article was a vintage example of how the Times shapes information to appeal to its readers' class prejudices. The Times discovers that 51 percent of American women are single and concludes that this must mean the feminists were right. Women don't need to be married to be happy! Marriage is dying! . . . Well, not so fast. For one thing, the story plays fast and loose with statistics, especially by including teenagers between 15 and 19 and so adding millions of girls who still get an allowance from their parents as "single women". . .

Marriage and Caste in America Jamie Glazov,, 12-05-06

FP: What is the marriage gap? Tell us about it.
Hymowitz: It turns out that the dramatic rise in illegitimacy and divorce during the last forty years—what I call the unmarriage revolution—has been largely limited to less educated men and women. College educated women have never gone in for having babies outside of marriage; Murphy Brown was largely a Hollywood fantasy. Moreover, divorce rates among higher educated women have been going down since 1980. The bottom line is that the large majority of well educated women are raising their children with their children's father. . .