Marital Parenthood and American Prosperity:

As Goes the Middle-Class Family, So Goes the Nation

By Ryan C. MacPherson, Ph.D.

Published in The Family in America 26, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 1–21.


The Family in America

The middle-class family—as both a cultural ideal and a social reality—has contributed significantly to American prosperity. From the yeoman farmers of Jefferson’s republic to the white-collar workers of today, the middle-class family has passed the torch of liberty to the rising generation. The heterogeneity of America’s middle-class voters stabilized the twentieth-century political spectrum sufficiently to forestall the pressures of working-class demagoguery that fueled fascist regimes in other nations. The African-American civil-rights movement owes much of its success to the black middle class. The adage may in fact ring true: as goes the middle class, so goes America. A second adage is like unto it: as goes the family, so goes the nation.

Too often what has been lost in discussions of economic inequality is that the persons whose lives hang in the balance do not merely belong to a particular race or gender; they belong more fundamentally to one another. They are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. The greatest economic disparities persist not between the sexes, nor between racial groups, as real as those disparities have been. The deepest gulf that separates poverty from prosperity in America lies between children who are raised in married households and children who are not. Initiatives to reduce poverty and strengthen the middle class must, therefore, be concerned with the loyalty husbands and wives show to one another and the responsibilities that they jointly exercise for their children.


  • Male Breadwinning and Republican Motherhood
  • Marital Procreation and the Postwar Economic Boom
  • The Collapse of American Prosperity
  • The Collapse of American Prosperity


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