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Married parents are ideal

If we want to build a healthy society in which everyone has the best possible chance to flourish, we need to be able to say that bad things are bad.

You might be thinking that this is self-evident. I’m sure readers can come up with any number of ills that should be identified, and boldly named — cancer deaths, racism, the various depredations of Donald Trump.

But let’s talk about family structure. The evidence is overwhelming that the decline of marriage over the past few decades has been very bad for children and, by extension, for society. For various reasons, however, this truth is too often left unsaid.

In her new book, “The Two-Parent Privilege,” University of Maryland economist Melissa S. Kearney lays out all the dispiriting facts. My colleague Alyssa Rosenberg has done a wonderful deep dive into the data that Kearney marshals, and I won’t duplicate her efforts here, but to sum up: More than 1 in 5 American children now live with an unpartnered mother. The trend is particularly pronounced among children whose mother does not have a college degree. Forty percent of those children are without the benefit of married parents. And this change is mostly driven not by divorce, nor by partnerships that are marriage-in-everything-but-name, but by ...