Following in the footsteps of her poverty-warrior father, Sargent Shriver, Maria Shriver has cast a needed spotlight on the millions of women and children in America who live in or at the brink of poverty. Her newest Shriver Report, A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, has garnered positive notice in liberal circles for advocating a progressive agenda — encompassing everything from expanded family leave to a higher minimum wage — that is designed to help women and children struggling to make it in modern America. But in one major respect, the report’s rollout, which was orchestrated this month by Shriver and the left-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP), is surprisingly regressive.
Although the Shriver Report strikes some grace notes on fatherhood and marriage in essays by scholars Kathryn Edin and Ann O’Leary, the public message presented by Shriver and CAP is downright dismissive of any efforts to strengthen these two institutions. Their message: Government, business, and other institutions must accommodate themselves to the “profound change in the makeup and reality of American families,” especially the dramatic increase in single motherhood. In their words, the country has to “adapt to this change and deal with it.” This all may sound well and good, but in the real world this accommodationist agenda — accept the reality of family breakdown, don’t do anything to renew the two-parent family — would lock in three profoundly unequal and regressive trends in American life.