The Civitas Institute, a two-year-old right-of-center UT-Austin initiative designed to re-introduce academic balance on campus, hosted author Timothy P. Carney for a discussion of how America became “family unfriendly.”

Carney’s premise in his new book— “Family Unfriendly” —is that American culture and public policy have, in recent decades, become hostile to raising children. He cites demographic data that shows U.S. birth rates peaked in 2007. According to Carney, “We should have had a baby boom, but we didn’t.” 

While the Great Recession bears some responsibility, marriage, birth rates, and family formation did not recover with the economy, suggesting factors beyond economics are at play.

Carney believes American culture suffers from a “deification of autonomy.” Essentially, the desire to preserve options leaves individuals unwilling to accept the level of commitment required for marriage and children. As Carney explains, “less connection is the goal.”

Dating apps received special derision in Carney’s explanation. According to Carney, they have “poisoned the brain” by fostering unrealistic expectations. Carney highlighted survey data that suggested one out of six young women consider being asked out in a “non-dating” context to be sexual harassment. Carney believes this is backward as you “can’t have a strong dating culture without having social institutions that bring people together” with no ulterior motive, such as a church or a sports team.

While Carney advocated for the “family-centric” family, he cautioned against “child-centric” families. In that spirit, Carney opposed helicopter parenting and its documented ill effects. Similarly, he lamented the decline of local little leagues in favor of traveling teams.

During the Q&A, Texas Scorecard asked about the role of housing policy and zoning laws in creating a family-friendly environment. As Texas Scorecard has previously reported, the Texas legislature will likely consider reforms to these laws next session. Carney agreed that, by driving up housing costs, these sorts of laws make family formation more difficult. In addition, Carney spoke about a need for “walkability in the streets” as “children need a place to roam freely.”  

Adam Cahn

Adam is a longtime conservative activist and an avid UT and Yankees fan.

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