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Americans Love Families. American Policies Don’t.


July 2, 2018
Emily Badger and Claire Cain Miller
The New York Times

Politicians are united in their love for families. The very word — “families” — was among those said most often by Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton in campaign speeches. Democrats and Republicans have platforms for middle-class families, working families, military families. And candidates in need of character witnesses or podium backdrops routinely turn to their own.

But this past week was a reminder of a deep contradiction about the family in American politics: Families make powerful symbols, valuable to politicians and revered by voters. But American policies are inconsistent and weak, relative to many countries, in supporting them.

The focus of recent days was on the Trump administration’s separation of immigrant children from their parents at the Mexican border. The contradiction is also clear in many other realms, say critics on both the right and left: criminal justice, child welfare, family leave, child care, health care and education.

“There’s a basic inconsistency in saying we support families, we have family-friendly policies, when in fact we have the worst family policies of any developed high-income democracy,” said Dorothy Roberts, a professor of law and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. “We don’t have family-friendly policies at all.”