Do Fathers Matter?

It's quite well-documented that children of single mothers tend to perform much worse than children of married couples on a variety of socioeconomic metrics. The conclusion generally drawn from this is that children benefit greatly from being raised by both of their biological parents.

However, there are two other facts which are also reasonably well-documented:
1. Women* with low IQs are dramatically more likely to have children out of wedlock than women with high IQs.
2. IQ has a strong heritable component.

Which leads to a question which seems obvious in retrospect, but which I've never seen raised before: To what extent is the underperformance of children of single mothers due to being raised without fathers, and to what extent is it due to the fact that children inherit low cognitive ability and/or poor impulse control from their mothers**? Do fathers really matter?

*This may also apply to men, though I'm not personally aware of any research on the topic.
**And possibly fathers—see prior footnote.

Share this

Have you read The Nurture

Have you read The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris? I just finished it this week, and she argues that the problem with single mothers is not just that they inherit bad genes on average, but also that they tend to be reared in communities of poor, fatherless children. It's not so much the direct effect of bad parenting (which she argues that, outside of the normal range of experiences, doesn't matter that much), but rather than single mothers tend to be poor and live in poor neighborhoods, and the culture transmitted to the children (largely from other children) doesn't prepare them well for economic success.

It's a pretty fascinating book, well worth reading if you're interested in these things.


Single mother = bad parenting = nonsense. I'm a child to a single mother and I turned out just fine (I think)

Anecdote != data, &c.

Anecdote != data, &c.

Judith Rich Harris also

Judith Rich Harris also notes in her book that children of widows actually do somewhat better than other children. I'm guessing because widows were actually married at one point, obviously, so they weren't single mothers at the outset.

Easily checked

Why not just grab a copy of the standard statistics on single-parent households and control for IQ? It should be one of the statistics mentioned.