Isabel Sawhill

Isabel Sawhill, an economist, is a senior fellow and co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution. She is president of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

Recent Articles

Is Lack of Marriage the Real Problem?

M arriage is now a hot topic in Washington policy circles. Ensuring that more children are born and raised within marriage is, in my view, a worthy objective. Marriage as a value has begun to disappear from the cultural lexicon, and affirmative efforts to underscore its importance, especially to children, should not be dismissed. But this begs the question of what states or the federal government realistically can do to promote it. The problem is not that people don't marry. Ninety percent of all American women are married by the age of 45. The problem is early childbearing. Until they are in their mid-twenties, more women have had babies than have married. After the mid-twenties, the numbers reverse. The issue, then, is timing. We don't need to encourage more people to marry unless our goal is to reach 100 percent married (which, incidentally, would require that we legalize same-sex marriages). What we need instead is to stop people from having babies before they get married. Most of...

Escaping the Fiscal Trap

As the 1990s begin, peace and prosperity are in abundance but so are poverty, drugs, poor schools, contaminated air and water, deteriorating roads, and a host of other problems. Although few believe that such problems can be solved with money alone, money is surely needed. Its lack has become an excuse for doing nothing or for launching rhetorical and symbolic attacks that satisfy public opinion but little else. President Bush used the lack-of-money excuse in his inaugural address. We have more will than wallet, he said. But how can the world's richest nation believe that its wallet is empty? The truth is that we face a fiscal stalemate because we have more wallet than will. As Charles McDowell, a columnist for the Richmond Times Dispatch has observed, we put Democrats in Congress to get us the things we want and Republicans in the White House to make sure we don't have to pay for them. Current budgetary rules are as simple as they are inadequate: no tampering with Social Security and...