Issues & Insights

The Fruits Of Deviancy Defined Down: Coronavirus, Conflagrations And The Doom Of Marriage

Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kenny Holston

What do concentrated coronavirus counts among minorities and conflagrations from Minneapolis to Miami have in common?

If you recall the classic 1993 article by the brilliant sociologist, senator and patriot Daniel Patrick Moynihan – “Defining Deviancy Down” – you’ll recognize they’re both collateral damage from the ultimate public health crisis, one the brain-dead coronavirus response will certainly worsen: government’s mindless destruction of marriage.

Blazing buildings are hard to miss, and you’ve certainly heard how hard COVID-19 has hit minorities: New York City death rates among African-Americans are more than double the rates for whites. Illinois, Michigan and Louisiana revealed even more disproportionate results.

But another recent report – inextricably related to those other phenomena – possibly slipped your notice. Per the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the U.S. marriage rate in 2018 hit an all-time low – experiencing an alarming 6% one-year plunge and down 40% from the 1960s.

Not catching the link among these news items? Let’s travel back 27 years to Moynihan’s remarkably prescient piece. The New York Democrat, but former Nixon adviser, observed that society, which historically tolerated low levels of offbeat behavior, had been “redefining deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the ‘normal’ level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by an earlier standard.”

One such area: single parenthood. Moynihan correlated “the breakdown of the family structure” with poverty, educational decline and, of particular interest here, poor health.

Pray tell, why is the African-American community, where for decades more than 70% of children have entered the world out of wedlock, an outsized segment of the 100,000-plus coronavirus deaths? Surmises the author of a recent study, “decades of disparities in education, housing, jobs and stress levels have contributed to an excess risk of chronic disease.” Or, as Moynihan averred: “’The United States is paying dearly for its social and behavior problems,’ for they have now become its medical problems as well.”

That transcendent intellectual of his time also reiterated his prior conclusion in a 1965 paper:

There is one unmistakable lesson of American history: a community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women … asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, unrestrained lashing out at the whole social structure – that is not only to be expected; it is very near to inevitable.

Not just inevitable. Happening – before our eyes, from one corner of America to another. And raised to the category of “normal” and hence, untouchable by law enforcement.

So back to the NCHS matrimony study. Its author, Sally Curtin, told the Wall Street Journal, “Millennials are in peak marriage years, their 20s and 30s, and it’s still dropping. This is historic.”

“Ya think? Wasn’t the previously known and flabbergasting fact that a mere 26% of under-35 adults were hitched enough of a clue?”

Those numbers are not just jaw-dropping: their public-health implications are frightening. We know because Ms. Curtin helpfully prioritized in her report’s first paragraph the flip side of Moynihan’s assertions: “Marriage has been shown to be correlated with positive health outcomes and longevity.”

Her agency was even more specific back in 2010: “Research findings consistently document associations between formal marital status and health and well-being…. Married persons also live longer, have higher rates of health insurance coverage, and lower prevalence of cardiovascular disease [a known corona co-morbidity] than unmarried persons. Research also indicates that marriage is positively associated with the health and well-being of children,” including lower poverty rates.

Getting it by now? Singleness and single parenthood, bad public-health and -safety outcomes. Marriage and married child-raising, good outcomes. So government’s all-in for marriage, right?

Nope. Even back in the day, Moynihan bemoaned that “a growth in deviancy makes possible a transfer of resources, including prestige, to those who control the deviant population. This control would be jeopardized if any serious effort were made to reduce the deviancy in question.”

Read: control by “progressives” trapping single parents, and their children, in second-class citizenship and health status.

Sound familiar? It’s the Democrats’ – and media’s – coronavirus strategy: shut down normal activity like working and doing business in favor of once “deviant behavior” such as depending on government handouts.

And just as important, normal activity like getting married and raising children. It’s no coincidence that the prior extreme dip in getting hitched occurred in the hopelessness of the Great Depression.

Moreover, it’s a scandal that no one’s talking about the near certainty that with young people, pre-COVID-19, already influenced by financial strains not to wed, the current corona-induced economic crash could doom marriage altogether – with less household formation portending even lower growth, in a vicious downward cycle.

OK, let’s talk. What to do? Well, for one thing, if the feds are hell-bent on throwing money around, they could toss some at an activity that decreases dependency and enhances public health and well-being. Hungary saw a massive jump in weddings last year after launching subsidies and tax breaks for marriage and child-bearing.

We’ve said it here before: smart government promotes family formation. But as communities smolder and body counts swell with coronavirus deaths, nobody’s accusing government at any level of being smart.

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Bob Maistros

Bob Maistros, a messaging and communications strategist and crisis specialist, is of counsel with Strategic Action Public Affairs, and was chief writer for the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign, three U.S. Senators, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at bob@rpmexecutive.com.

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