Is the Family at Odds with Equality? The Legal Implications of Equality for Children – Article by Anne L. Alstott

From Volume 82, Number 1 (November 2008)

This Article revisits the liberal dilemma and suggests that one plausible version of liberalism can, at least in principle, combine wide diversity and freedom in family life with equal opportunity for children. But this conclusion arrives with two caveats. First, the theoretical compatibility of the family and equality of opportunity rests on three interpretations which remain contested even within liberal theory: the scope of parental autonomy, the meaning of equality of opportunity, and the functions ascribed to the liberal family. Second, the legal changes necessary to reconcile the family with equality would face practical and political difficulties. An egalitarian regime would require new redistributive programs and tax increases to fund them. A commitment to children’s equality would also require revision of constitutional and state law doctrines that prize parental authority and family economic self-sufficiency and disclaim positive obligations of the state toward children.