Recently on Slate, W. Bradford Wilcox speculated that Kanye West is unlikely to benefit from his new status as North West’s father. This is based on findings that fatherhood has physical and social benefits for men that live “proximate” to their children. Wilcox argues that fathers that live proximate (he means married to the mother and in the same home) are less depressed, earn more money, and drink less/attend church more. The point being, Kanye and Kim should not have had a child out of wedlock because it is better for everyone if traditional families are maintained.
I doubt that Wilcox is genuinely worried about Kanye’s mental, financial, and spiritual health. After all, plenty of celebrities have “illegitimate” children and still continue to thrive in their chosen fields. Steve Jobs fathered his first child in 1978, two years after inventing the first Apple computer. He denied paternity and distanced himself from the family but still went on to achieve great financial success–I don’t know about his level of happiness or church attendance.
An anecdote about Steve Jobs provides no serious challenge to Wilcox and Kline’s findings. Also, since I have not read Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Scientific Perspectives I am not qualified to dispute any of their claims–though I am suspicious of them.
It isn’t surprising to me that there is a relationship between economic success and traditional families. There has been plenty of research to suggest that people feel marriage is a luxury. Jen Silva’s NY Times Opionator post finds that today’s working class youth feel they can not afford marriage and children. While, Kefalas’s work finds that poor urban women choose to have children young and outside of wedlock because they see no benefit to waiting–due to poor economic opportunity and the volatile nature of romantic relationships in these communities.
“Responsible” fathers within a traditional family structure probably see a lot of benefits to having children because they sought out those benefits in the first place. First comes love, then comes career, then comes marriage and a baby carriage. By the time these traditional fathers have children they are already on the path to economic success. The family plan often includes a renewed interest in church once children are born, which is why families with young children make up so much of church attendance (I learned this in Wilcox’s seminar on religion though I forget the source). Succeeding in this plan would likely make people happier than those that failed to find a gainful employment, a spouse, or (even more devastatingly) divorced after having children.
All this is to say, that I don’t doubt the correlation but I would be interested to see how they defend their inferences. Would Kanye see a jump in earnings if he married Kim? Would he start attending church? Would he be happier? I believe Wilcox and Kline are more concerned with what North West represents– the steady march away from the traditional family. Reinforcing the idea that marriage doesn’t have to come before baby carriage or even at all (or in Kim’s case can come temporarily twice before baby).They worry about the precedent set when successful and independent women have children without the benefit of a breadwinning husband. The concern seems misplaced. I can think of a lot of worse examples that Kim has set in recent years. And, who knows, maybe Kanye will set a good example of how to be a responsible baby daddy, following in the footsteps of Kourtney’s baby daddy, Scott.