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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Love, marriage, honor roll: Culture closes 'excellence gaps'

Culture explains why Asian-American students do so well in school, writes Helen Raleigh, who's Asian American, in The Federalist. It's not just a matter of "tiger" moms and dads who value hard work and high grades, she writes. It's the fact that Tiger Mom and Tiger Dad are likely to be married -- to each other -- and raising their children in a stable home.

Photo: Vantha Thang/Pexels

A new Fordham study on the "excellence gap" shows that Asian-American students excel even if they come from disadvantaged families, she notes. In math, 13 percent of the lowest-socioeconomic status Asian-American students (mothers didn’t graduate from high school) achieved the advanced level, outperforming blacks (3 percent) and Hispanics (6.8 percent) whose mothers were college graduates. Only whites with college-educated mothers (16.3 percent) did better.

Asian parents believe education is the "path to social and economic mobility," Raleigh writes. Even struggling immigrants see "money spent on their children’s education as the best investment."

"But the most important aspect of Asian American culture is the emphasis on family and marriage," she writes. "Eighty-two percent of Asian and Pacific Islander children under 18 in the U.S. live with both of their parents, while only 34 percent of black children live in a two-parent household."

Research shows that children raised in a two-parent family are significantly more likely to graduate from college and avoid poverty, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status, she writes.

“If we truly want to improve outcomes for children, we must have the moral courage to measure student achievement outcomes by family structure groups as routinely as we already do by race, class, and gender,” writes educator Ian Rowe in Agency.

Marriage bonds fathers to their children, argues Rowe. "While some argue that opportunities to pursue the American dream are divided by race, class, education, or gender, the brutal truth, I believe, is that today a parent's marital status has displaced all of those factors as the primary driver of child and intergenerational poverty."

Harvard's Raj Chetty's study of upward mobility, Where is the Land of Opportunity?, compared cities where Americans were likely to do better than their parents and those where few children escaped poverty, Rowe writes. Family structure, such as the percentage of single parents in the area, was one of the strongest predictors of upward mobility.

Supporting fatherhood is critical, says Richard V. Reeves, author of Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do about It. Marriage is desirable but not essential. "Responsible and engaged fatherhood" is a "moral obligation" whatever the relationship with the mother, he argues. Don't let men think they can walk away.

Paid leave for fathers, a fairer child-welfare system and better access to effective contraception for both men and women are doable, Reeves writes. By contrast, programs to promote marriage have had little success.

Liberals are afraid to talk about the importance of two-parent families, writes Nicholas Kristof in a New York Times column. He recommends an upcoming book by economist Melissa S. Kearney, The Two-Parent Privilege.

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