Wednesday, April 23, 2014

It's the Economy, I Tell You

In case you didn't see this excerpt from the upcoming book Marriage Markets: How Inequality Is Remaking the American Family, authors Naomi Cahn and June Carbone find that working class women (in contrast to upper middle class women) do better economically as single moms.  I didn't find the authors' conclusion in the least bit surprising: I see evidence of it all around me, every day.  

In today's economy, many working class guys can't get or maintain jobs that allow them to contribute much in the way of financial support.  Marrying such a man makes the woman responsible not only for providing for the child, but also her partner, and gives the man parental rights (i.e., shared custody) or control over her life that he wouldn't easily enjoy if she did not marry him.

Under these circumstances, choosing not to marry the father of her child is kind of a "no-brainer," especially if a woman has parents or other family members willing to help out with child care. 

Is it possible this phenomenon is fueling the backlash that the "manosphereans" represent?  Their fear of obsolescence is, after all, not unfounded.  As the middle class continues to erode, and the former working class slip into chronic, inescapable poverty, the trend of mothers unwed by choice is unlikely to reverse itself, however much they are berated by the religious right wing.  And the impotent efforts of the New Misogynists to shame these women are less menacing than pathetic, for they know and we know that those women they call "sluts" or "feminists" not only don't want them, they are better off without them.


  1. An astute post. I think it's true that, between the welfare system and the dearth of jobs for working class men, men can become an economic liability. It's sad though that kids miss out on being parented by fathers in many cases.

    1. Yep, it is worrisome for both the children and the men who are shut out, or discouraged, from active parenthood. Strong, involved fathers are an enormous asset not only to their children but to society in general.

  2. Yes, children need positive male role models, but an unemployed, embittered and disillusioned semi-absent father is going to have trouble being that.

    The concept of what is manly needs to change; the idea that a man must provide, be in charge, but not really get involved with domestic stuff is becoming a thing of a past.

    1. Very true. Everyone has to bring something to the table..

  3. It is really sad. Far as I can understand, the long-taken-for-granted existence of a broad American middle class was a phenomenon created by, basically, the government. But in my lifetime we've deregulated, offshored, gotten rid of tariffs, cut taxes at the top, cut benefits at the bottom, forced people off welfare and into the workforce, beaten our labor unions half to death, raised tuition at state colleges (and made up the difference in loans!) shed pensions for the private sector... and now we are surprised wages stagnate, people get tightfisted, and jobs disappear? argh!

    and a lot of the people seem to want *more* punishment! Why?!

    I'm basically in the Judith Harris school of thought about divorce/single parenting and its (lack of) meaningful effects on kids in the long run-- I think it makes perfect sense that a lot of what people see as the lasting effects of divorce is really just the effect of difficult people passing on their difficult personality traits to another generation-- but family ties and economic/community stability bring joy and meaning to most people's lives. You can't really put a price on that. I don't think current trends are impossible to reverse, but sometimes it seems like Americans really like to cut our noses off, in an ongoing grassroots effort to spite our faces. :D

    I kind of like the idea of a national minimum income or an MMT-style Job Guarantee, but sheesh, people are so mad about even a paltry allotment of food stamps, I doubt that kind of thing will take off anytime in the foreseeable future.


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