Miss Utah made headlines and lit up Twitter feeds with her infamous answer at the Miss USA Pageant.
The judge asked Miss Utah, Marissa Powell, the following: “In 40% of American families with children, women are the primary earners yet they continue to earn less than men. What does this say about society?”
Well, Miss Utah couldn’t quite seem to find the right words. But for all those viewers waiting for an answer, here’s what she could have said.
She could have pointed out that the number one reason for the growth of breadwinner mothers is the rise in single-mother households. In fact, a full two-thirds of breadwinner mothers are single women. The vast majority of single mothers have less than a college education, which will make it more likely that they’ll struggle going it alone. Children born into single-parent households are roughly five times as likely to be poor, and among welfare families with children, approximately three-quarters are headed by a single parent, most of whom are women.
The story behind the growing number of breadwinner moms is very much a story of the breakdown of marriage between young men and women, particularly in low-income and working-class communities, and the subsequent increase in unwed childbearing.
What about women earning less than men, the “gender wage gap”? Powell could have noted that, while statistics do show that women on average earn less than men, the real question is why. Mostly it’s a matter of career choice. As Heritage Foundation researchers Emily Goff and James Sherk point out:
Women are more likely than men to work in industries with more flexible schedules. Women are also more likely to spend time outside the labor force to care for children. These choices have benefits, but they also reduce pay—for both men and women. When economists control for such factors, they find the gender gap largely disappears.
Miss Utah didn’t say much when asked about the 40 percent statistic. But she isn’t the only one not saying much about what’s behind it: the breakdown of marriage. Despite the massive increase in unwed childbearing and its subsequent consequences, there is far too little discussion about the crucial need to promote and strengthen healthy marriages. Children do best when raised by their married mother and father, and this ideal should be promoted at every level of society.