We live in a diverse country, where people have a lot of different preferences about how to live. For example, a 2016 Pew Research Center survey found that 59 percent of Americans believed children with two parents were better off if one parent stayed at home, but 39 percent thought children were just as well off if both parents worked.
So which side was right? Well, obviously, neither. It depends on the personality, values and circumstances of the people in each particular family. Despite what Tolstoy wrote, happy families are in fact all happy in their own ways.
Our debates about family structure have been poisoned by people who can’t acknowledge difference without immediately rendering some judgment. Family pluralism is a source of strength for this country, not a weakness.
It should be said that people’s views on what is the ideal family form are powerfully linked to their class standing. As research by scholars at the American Compass think tank has shown, people in the working class and to a lesser extent the middle class are more likely to prefer the “breadwinner” model, in which one parent stays home, when children are younger than 5. Families making more than $150,000 are more likely to admire the “dual earner” model, in which both parents work.