The American Pageant (12th Edition)

Chapter 40 – Page 946

Our Critique

946 “The median income of the average American family stagnated in the two decades after 1970.”

This statement is very misleading. True, family income did not rise from 1970 to 1990, but that was true in large part because of the increase in single-parent households which were counted as families. Out of wedlock births increased more during these years than in any previous era. In part, that increase was because of the incentives given under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children Act to have children out of wedlock. In Losing Ground, sociologist Charles Murray describes the increase in federal aid, food stamp benefits, and rent subsidies for women with children and without husbands. Thus, the United States had a rise in the number of fatherless families; those families were disproportionately below average in income, and that change led to stagnant “family” income.

As we will see in the next two chapters, household income declined in the 1970s and rose in the 1980s. Specific government policies influenced both the decline in the 1970s and the increase in the 1980s.