I have hoisted the following from comments, since it touches upon issues worth discussing in their own right. The awkward opening is a reference to an ongoing discussion about offering encouragement to unwed mothers to adopt out.
Neither is this principally about economics, from my perspective; I do not believe that the ethical and the politico-economic can be segregated, or even disaggregated so that discrete questions can be addressed without messiness. The ethical and the economic are inextricably bound together; they provide context for one another, and implicate one another in countless ways. It is not necessarily invidious, and quite possibly highly ethical, to encourage unwed mothers to surrender children for adoption; in the context of many elements of American political economy, which have decimated the opportunities of the working classes, not to mention many of the bugaboos of the political right - no minimum wages, benefitless jobs, no entitlement to even a public minimum level of health care, and so forth - that encouragement seems rather different in character to me. That context bids the poor and working classes to fend for themselves in a globalized, deregulated, deunionized, unsupported labour market, earning wages determined by a "natural market rate", to perhaps hope for a little charity, if some rich persons should condescend to them, and thereby undermines the material basis of family formation. Then, this cultural context, partly real, partly hypothesized, bids them not to do anything irresponsible by forming families; this is not primarily a question of marriage, but rather a question of finances: they can marry or sire bastards, and in either case, they don't really have the resources to sustain a family. The living wage, or any semblance thereof, has been repudiated as a socialist construct. We've had those arguments here; they're tedious, and I have no desire to revisit them. Hence, my reference to early political economists, like Steuert and Bentham, who sought to render to dispossessed peasantry more "suitable" for employment by Whiggish capitalists, and conceived of various punitive, disciplinary expedients towards this end; this is the context of which I speak, the analogy I draw between early industrial capitalism and the present: the lower orders are largely stripped of their means of remunerative provisioning within the system; they become pauperized and manifest various cultural dysfunctions; then, "enlightened" carceral policies are imposed to "reform" them, to make them amenable to the conditions imposed upon them. Is encouragement of adopting out one of these carceral policies? No. I'm not making that argument. But encouraging adopting out will be perceived in a definite way by the lower classes, as a statement that they are not entitled to much of anything from society, and aren't really entitled to have children, either. At least, they shouldn't have them. As I argued above, the economic incentives of such a situation are perverse, and militate against longer-term thinking; it is difficult to survive, married or not, and so men become reckless in pursuing the Main Chance, often criminal, and women opt to fulfill the biological imperative early. Apart from the ethical context, which I find dubious, we're warring against human biology. And when we fight biology, we will almost always lose. Biology will trump the ethics, as it already has, and it will trump the economics, unless the privation becomes catastrophic.
I have a fear - not a political one, since there is no reasonable prospect of this occurring in the actual American political system - but a theoretical one, about social conservatives; that fear is that, confronted by a policy programme of socially-conservative social democracy, such as existed in Sweden before the feminists took over, which would emphasize the male breadwinner family, living wages, cultural support for larger families and motherhood, the proscription of abortion, and so on, American social conservatives would opt against it. They would probably argue that they think it impossible, on any number of technical economic grounds; some would argue that the economic programmes themselves would be unjust (no use denying this). But here's the thing: they aren't willing even to attempt it, to meet halfway, or a quarter of the way. No, it's all unvarnished classical liberal economism, however arrayed in rhetorical finery, whether libertarian, neoliberal, whatever. Political economy should not take into account the human flourishing of the lower orders, not as an object of the art; no, what happens in The Market happens, and hopefully charity will help out at the margins. If it doesn't maybe people will feel guilty and/or generous; if they don't feel guilty and/or generous, them's the breaks. The ethics of the economic are univocal: obligations are towards The Market System, and from the poor to the system and the rich.
So, why is this my fear? Because, apart from my ethical estimate of the matter, I think that American social conservatives are tipping their hearts, showing where their treasures, and hearts, lie. That's perhaps harsh. But, as I have argued all along in my blogging career, we should be willing to accept a lesser degree of economic efficiency for the sake of justice. I believe that there are good philosophical arguments for this claim; there are also some technical economic ones, to the effect that a less efficient, but less unequal, system will be more stable in the long run. I also believe that there are theological and biblical arguments for this claim; certainly, the Bible speaks often about doing justice to the least of these; I don't recall it speaking nearly as often, or as forcefully, about chastising the lazy poor. I realize that virtually everyone here disagrees with these claims, and that's fine, really it is. Of the making of these arguments, there will be no end. But I stand by my claims: social conservatives should be willing to compromise a bit on the economics, in order to support families, but I don't see much willingness to compromise.