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Monday, July 16, 2012

NY Times: How to Reduce Inequality: Get (and Stay) Married

New York Times:  Economic Inequality and the Changing Family, by Jason DeParle:

[T]he widening in many measures of inequality can be traced in part to changes in marriage patterns, rather than just changes in individual earnings. A number of scholars have looked at the varied dimensions of this thesis — growing inequality, changes in family structure, and the connection between the two. Here is a look at some of their findings....

An interesting pattern over the last four decades is that inequality has grown much faster for households with children than it has for households over all — an indication that changes in family structure (as opposed to wages and employment alone) have increased inequality.

Bruce Western and Tracey Shollenberger of the Harvard sociology department compared households at the 90th percentile and the 10th percentile. In 1970, the top households had 8.9 times the income of the bottom. By 2011 they had nearly 11.7 times as much — inequality between them grew 31%. But among households with children it grew 121%. (The ratio went from 4.8 in 1970 to 10.6 last year.)

Changes in family structure may explain anywhere from 15 to 40 percent of the increased inequality in recent decades.

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It could be changes in household structure.

Or it could be that we've slashed public spending on early childhood education, welfare to families, public education and public universities, medicare, day care and every other anti-poverty and family support program that made it possible to have kids without being rich.

Having kids is taking a huge financial risk.

Posted by: Anon | Jul 17, 2012 6:20:30 AM

I'm pretty sure this is the pre-tax & transfer "earned income", and NOT the actual Net Disposable Income (& transfers) which is the amount of money people actually have to spend on their expenses.

And of course if welfare is not counted as "earned income" for inequality, it should be obvious that gov't programs which give cash/ benefits but are not counted will always increase the mis-measured inequality.

Posted by: Tom | Jul 17, 2012 8:58:21 AM

Safety net programs have taken the mortal worry out of having children. 200 years ago women got married to avoid extreme poverty, hunger, and the risk of starvation. Now women need not settle for an inferior husband: Uncle Sam will provide adequately. This has led to one-parent "families" headed by women unable to attract a husband who is superior overall to a welfare check.

The increased income disparity between 2-parent and 1-parent households with children is a result of government's replacement of low-earning and otherwise inferior husbands. This may not be a bad trade, but you can't complain about the effect without blaming the cause.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Jul 17, 2012 11:10:05 AM

I must have missed the news that we "slashed" spending on Medicare and education, especially in light of our record deficits and debt. That said, I'm sure all the single moms and deadbeat dads out there would have gotten married and had stable families, but decided not to because the government wasn't spending enough money. Yes, I'm sure that is exactly it. If only we had a robust welfare system, we'd have committed dads and moms raising kids in stable, nurturing families.

Posted by: DEM | Jul 17, 2012 11:30:54 AM

What evidence does anon. have to make her wonder whether we have "slashed public spending ..." In view of the gigantic deficits and public debt is it not more plausible that we have enormously increased "public spending on ...?"

Posted by: DrZ | Jul 17, 2012 11:34:08 AM

Anon: slashed spending? what slashed spending? Can you give some actual $ amounts that show that spending on social safety net programs have actually decreased over say the last 10 years? I'd wager to say you can't.

Posted by: jbird | Jul 17, 2012 11:42:33 AM

Please explain to me how to get married. Pretend I'm an idiot, and give me detailed instructions.

I've been wanting to get married for over 20 years, and have been told that I can't possibly attract a girl, because I don't support gun control and abortion.

So please, explain to me how I'm supposed to get married, instead of condemning me for not being allowed to by the dominant far-left culture.

Posted by: Ken | Jul 17, 2012 11:43:31 AM

"it could be that we've slashed public spending on early childhood education, welfare to families, public education and public universities, medicare, day care and every other anti-poverty and family support program" ?????

Seriously? You actually believe that we spend less now in constant dollars than we did in 1970?

Can I have some of whatever crazy stuff it is that you're smoking?

Posted by: JorgXMcKie | Jul 17, 2012 11:56:43 AM

"Or it could be that we've slashed public spending on early childhood education, welfare to families, public education and public universities, medicare, day care and every other anti-poverty and family support program that made it possible to have kids without being rich."

We’ve cut spending on some of those things in the last 3 years, but overall, over the last 40 years, we have dramatically increased spending on nearly all those things, especially on K through 12 education. The modest welfare reform of the 90’s was nothing compared to the enormous spending increase occasioned by the ‘Great Society’ programs of the 70’s.

Posted by: ChrisGreen | Jul 17, 2012 12:18:31 PM

Hey Anon, here's Show me where ANY of those categories you mentioned have not grown over the past twenty years. None of them have been slashed.

Posted by: Jeff Burton | Jul 17, 2012 12:18:49 PM

"Or it could be that we've slashed public spending . . ."

What country are you living in? Here in America, we have increased spending on the poor every year since the 1960s and it has bought us more and more poor. Even Headstart has been shown to NOT work. The research shows that there is no effect by the third grade. That is because the government and the schools cannot fix bad parenting. Here in America, we are learning that the best of intentions do not guarantee good results.

Posted by: TMink | Jul 17, 2012 12:42:45 PM

"we've slashed public spending on early childhood education, welfare to families, public education and public universities, medicare, day care and every other anti-poverty and family support program."

You are intoxicated, I'd bet. But for the record, while real incomes went up 20% these past 40 years, government spending on entitlements has gone up 240%. That's some "slashing," with government spending outpacing private income by 12 to 1.

Posted by: Chuck | Jul 17, 2012 12:48:38 PM

One of the greatest predictor of marital success is when the both of the married couple's parents stay married. In my childhood (I am 44 and one of 5 kids, small for an Irish Catholic family), my parents lived the idea of putting the WE before the ME. They lived a life of honour, duty and commitment to their children and each other. We were not rich but we had clothes (often second hand), food (you ate what was in front of you or not at all), and one colour TV. My Dad (no college degree) worked overtime, exercised regularly and was a volunteer Firefighter. My Mom (Irish by birth, American due to emigrating at 18) went to daily Mass, cleaned the Church and sang in the choir at funerals so grieving families felt comfort. She did this along with battling sometimes crippling familial depression. They taught me by example what to look for in a spouse and instilled in me the belief that marriage is entered into deliberately, with great contemplation and is forever. I am so blessed. They sacrificed to make sure all 5 of us went to college. They produced 2 doctors, a teacher, a nurse and a successful businessman. My Dad is now 84, a cancer survivor and battling poor health. The Navy ships he served on exposed him to large quantities of asbestos and he has pulmonary fibrosis. He has NEVER once complained or blamed, he quipped, "It's a good thing I stayed in shape or this might be worse." My Mom, 79, also a cancer survivor suffers from severe dementia and resides in a nursing home, as she needs constant monitoring. Up until my Dad was sidelined by the fibrosis, he visited my Mom every day and stayed with her for hours. Together they will forever mourn the untimely death of their son, their firstborn. THIS is love. I remember a story my Mom told me about my Dad...He had been laid off (late 50's or early 60's) and times
were hard. Every day my Dad applied for work, waited in line for "day work." One day he was quite ill but of course he went to wait in line anyway. As he stood in line, he knew he was going to "be sick" and he went to the Men's Room. When he "felt better" he went back to the line...the end of the line as he knew every "fella" in that line was in the same (or worse) economic situation as he was. THAT is a man. THAT is sacrifice. I don't know if my Dad (or my Mom) was "happy." In fact I never really thought about it. He was always smiling, affectionate and read bedtime stories from the few books we owned. She always made dinner, picked us up from practice, took us to confession and never left my hospital bed when I waged a life or death battle with meningitis at age 8. Maybe they were too busy to waste time thinking about being "happy". All I know is that I will never stand in front of my Dad and tell him that my marriage is over because I'm not "happy" or because my spouse and I have grown "apart." I cannot imagine the shame I would feel at not being half the person he is,...The shame at not being even half the parent/spouse he continues to be. The shame at not providing my children with the same security and role-models I had. But maybe that is what is wrong with our society today...there seems to be an almost total lack of shame of selfish behavior and a pervasive lack of honoring our commitments.

Posted by: Mary Beth | Jul 17, 2012 12:50:44 PM

"Or it could be that we've slashed public spending on early childhood education, welfare to families, public education and public universities, medicare, day care and every other anti-poverty and family support program that made it possible to have kids without being rich."

Pretty sure we (us the taxpayers) are spending more money on just about all of these programs, fairly certain none have been significantly cut, let alone "slashed". Considering the results the programs have been getting, wish they would be slashed.

Posted by: John | Jul 17, 2012 1:06:05 PM

It may take a few years, but now that the NYT is now running front page Sunday articles about the inequality inherent in single parent households, you will start to see this presented as a women's issue and something that needs to be corrected for the sake of the kids. Instead of trying to encourage the formation of traditional households with 2 incomes to bear the load when there are kids involved, there will be a whole slew of new entitlement programs presented to make it easier for irresponsible people to have kids in order to even out the inequalities. Heaven forbid that we try to say that you should not be having kids when not married unless you have a really nice size income

Posted by: JohnnyL | Jul 17, 2012 1:12:33 PM

I'm glad they used a fixed percentile somewhat below the top. It is quite common to use the top X percent, but that metric has a fatal problem for honest debate: the top whatever percent is open-ended and full of people whose high income is a one time event. This makes great grist for wealth-bashing but it induces us to have public policy that reduces the wealth of everyone.

Posted by: theBuckWheat | Jul 17, 2012 1:50:38 PM

Please allow me to add that I am always baffled by the fixation on "income inequality", as if this is a reliable indicator of some horrible injustice in society. Having a wide diversity of incomes is no more a sign of injustice than having a wide diversity of skin colors.

Posted by: theBuckWheat | Jul 17, 2012 1:54:40 PM

If the liberal lawmakers stay true to form, there will soon be laws enacted punishing married couples since it isn't "fair" that they have an economic advantage. I see changes in the tax code as one possibility.

Posted by: Trogg | Jul 18, 2012 4:57:48 AM

"single moms and deadbeat dads"

Sexist much? How about single dads and moms and dead parents?

Posted by: ipo | Jul 18, 2012 9:43:15 AM