Sunday, March 08, 2009

Are families waiting too long to have kids?; study Longman/Gray "Family-Based Social Contract"

Today (March 8, 2009), the “Sunday Read” in The Washington Times featured the first of a two-part series (on p 15), “American family needs some help”, link here.

Wetzstein starts with a Census Bureau finding that as “baby boomers age” there are fewer families with kids under 18 at home. The link for the Census Bureau report is here, Feb. 25, 2009. That is based on another Census report, "Families and Living Arrangements", here.

She goes on to discuss Philip Longman’s work (“The Empty Cradle”) on “demographic winter” problems and lower birthrates, put puts particular emphasis on the fact that many families simply postpone having children too long because of economic pressures and our cultural demand that people be perfect before they have kids. “The country deeply values its educated, moral, socially competent (and taxable) young workers, but barely acknowledges the people who created, nurtured, loved and invested in these young workers for 20 years.” I have to admit that I picked up on the attitudes as a teenager even as far back as the 1950s. She also goes on to discuss the biological strikes against families who wait too long.

It’s already pretty easy for me to predict how the second half of the series will go.

Update: March 15, 2009

Wetzstein's second part is called "U.S. needs a pact based on family" on p14 of the Washington Times Sunday Read on March 15. They are based on a paper by Phillip Longman and David Gray, mentioned below.

Some of her (or "their") suggestions already happen. Many universities do welcome married couples. No problem there. Nurturing professions like nursing are growing and will have to pay more. There will be more attention paid to the pay of teachers of younger children -- the market will force that.

The essay does hit hard (as does the paper she cites). Our culture sometimes does look at children as "liabilities." She notes toward the end that "friends" lifestyles leave bigger environmental impacts than large families (although that could be disputed) and writes, quoting Philip Longman and David Gray, "The next social contract must recognize both the changing nature of families, and the increasing dependency of all Americans on the investments parents and other nurturers make in the well-being of the next generation." Otherwise "America is living beyond its means."

Later Sunday, I found the original source by Phillip Longman and David Gray, "A Family-Based Social Contract" by the A Publication of the Next Social Contract Initiative, from the New American Foundation, in PDF format, here. Look especially at p. 10. The authors are critical of Elinor Burkett's characterization of "pro-family policy" as "affirmative action for parents" in her 2000 book "The Baby Boon: How Family-Friendly America Cheats the Childless". The authors say that such comments fail to take into account on how we all depend on the "quality and quantity of other people's children" and later write that "childlessness breeds dependency", partly because of the growing problem of eldercare (although that is also arguably related to the need to keep people able to work and employers willing to employ them longer).

Another related idea that used to pop up is the "family wage", such as in Senator Henry Hyde's "Mom and Pop's Manifesto" in Policy Review back in 1994.

So, I guess I have to just say it. That means "people like me" must submit ourselves to the culture created by the marital sexual intercourse of others.

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