Friday, February 24, 2012

Formula for Success

There is a formula for avoiding poverty in America:

1.      Don’t have sex before age 20.
2.      Don’t have sex until after marriage.
3.      Stay married
4.      Obtain at least a high school diploma.
I first wrote down this formula back in 2001, in the notes I took at a lecture by Richard Wilkins, who was then a co-founder of the World Congress of Families, and is now head of the Doha International Institute for Family Studies and Development. I’ve come across the list a number of times since, and included it in a post last April 4th. The formula, along with lots of backup data, have risen in public awareness lately due to the latest book by Charles Murray: ComingApart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. (The book was mentioned by Newt Gingrich in Wednesday's presidential debate in Arizona.)
Murray tends to write about data in a way that stirs up a hornets nest. This was true with The Bell Curve in the 1990s, and to some extent with Real Education a few years ago. While I don’t always agree with his analysis, his wealth of data is always enlightening.
This book looks at class differences in whites in America to avoid differences related to race; it’s not a racist treatment, but rather a way to look at differences aside from race. Looking only at whites, then, is a statistical control. What he finds is that there are some rather surprising differences between the newer wealthy and the stuck lower classes. There are many aspects of the growing divide that may be worth talking about another day (when I have finished reading the book), including a separation that makes the leader class more and more out of touch with the lesser classes. But today what interests me is the social formula so many of the wealthier are using. This summary comes in the article “Charles Murray’s Book of Virtues,” by Heather Wilhelm, February 2nd:
In the new upper class, which amounts to about 20 percent of the country, out-of-wedlock births are rare: around 6-8 percent. For the more dysfunctional working class, which accounts for around 30 percent of the country, the number is mind-boggling: 42-48 percent. The numbers also turn a few stereotypes on their heads: In the lower working class, for instance, the rate of church attendance has dropped at nearly double the rate as that of the supposedly secularized elite.
America's working class, Coming Apart argues, has increasingly forsaken traditional values like marriage, religion, industriousness, and honesty—and, as a result, it is rotting from within. Happiness levels are down; participation in the labor force is down; television watching (an average of 35 hours a week) is up.
In short, those who have discovered the value of living the laws of civilization (as we outline at, keeping the Ten Commandments and valuing and protecting family as the basic unit of society) find themselves not only living a happier and more satisfying civilized life, but they enjoy economic prosperity and greater opportunity to participate in political leadership.
By several measures the Spherical Model family is in that top 20%. And we do indeed live the laws that lead naturally to prosperity rather than poverty. But unlike the subject of much of the book, we don’t feel distant from the less prosperous; we are very willing to share the formula, rather than isolate ourselves.
So, with something of a proselytizing spirit, let me share some comparison data: Only 10% of children in two-parent families live in poverty. But 50% of children living with a single mother live in poverty.[*] This is not intended to make struggling single mothers feel worse about their situation. Their burden is tough enough. But we need to recognize that accepting single parenthood as an equally valuable situation as a two-parent home is not only inaccurate but harmful. We must not encourage more problems for more people by subsidizing them.
Churches and local charities are a much better way of helping than the awkwardly broad brush of government. Locally, someone with social skills can work with the person in need to encourage living the civilization formula: no more sex outside of marriage; find ways to improve skills to become more self-sufficient; supplement the parent with community help (scouting, youth sports coaches, and other family serving auxiliaries), so that the deficits inherent in the single parent’s situation are mitigated, and the next generation is aimed toward more economically rewarding civilization, rather than being trapped in perpetual poverty patterns.
Poverty doesn’t have to be permanent. But the way out is much more likely to come by living the formula the successful use, rather than following the pattern that has so consistently led to poverty. Success won’t necessarily come instantaneously, but it can come within a single additional generation.

[*] Craig H. Hart, Ph.D., “Combating the Myth that Parents Don’t Matter,” address delivered at the World Congress of Families II, Geneva, Switerzerland, available online at

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