A news story about a study from an MIT researcher says:
The decline of two-parent households may be a significant reason for the divergent fortunes of male workers, whose earnings generally declined in recent decades, and female workers, whose earnings generally increased, a prominent labor economist argues in a new survey of existing research.
In this telling, the economic struggles of male workers are both a cause and an effect of the breakdown of traditional households. Men who are less successful are less attractive as partners, so some women are choosing to raise children by themselves, in turn often producing sons who are less successful and attractive as partners.
My problem with this study, beyond how its conclusions are stated, is how it will be used by those on the right. The truth underlying why things have come to be this way isn’t a simple black and white thing but they will make it out to be so. They will try to blame some specific groups and it’s easy for people to repeat such accusations. Much easier than actually understanding what really happened and what should be done about it. The easy answer is always what human beings want but it is so rarely what we need to hear. So, you will see feminism and atheism being blamed in 3….2….1…..
The truth of the matter is….if women had historically been treated as equals to men the breakdown might not have occurred in the first place and if it had happened anyway, the effects that they are pointing out would not have occurred or would not have been as severe. Let me explain what I mean.
Women in the U.S. didn’t get the vote until 1920. It wasn’t until the 1940’s that more women started working outside the home and only because the men were all off fighting WWII. After that many of those women returned to the home. But it planted a seed that began to sprout in the 50’s, took firmer root through the 1970’s and obviously is now very common today. That all being said, women today still earn only $.75 for every $1 a man earns 1.
Add that to the desire for women to seek fulfillment outside of the traditional role in the home economic pressures as well. I’m talking specifically about the increase in the cost of living as compared to the increase in wages. Cost of living has gone up much faster than the rate of increase in wages. So over time we all earn more on paper but in real purchasing power we earn less every year. Women valued men who could make more money because it meant that they were more likely to be able to stay home.
So women, many of whom didn’t want to work had to anyway to help supplement their husband’s income. Indeed, without that economic pressure you would have seen MANY women staying home, even career oriented women. You also would have seen more variety. For instance, if the economic pressure had not been there, many women would have worked until they had kids, stayed home with the kids until they were older and then have gone back to work. I myself would have done this. I tried to do this with my daughter. The pressure from my husband to keep working and my desire to be there for my daughter when she was little was one of the major conflicts in our marriage and a major reason why we divorced. And I am a feminist through and through. So women often get forced into the workplace by the economy.
And let’s face it. Women value men who make money. Men who earn more are deemed more attractive in the U.S. This was and still is a “no win situation” for men. On average they need to earn more but no matter how much more they earn the cost of living will always over take them. And women want men who can keep up with the cost of living because the odds are good that she won’t be able to earn enough to keep up with it and many women would prefer to stay home. Even career women who want to work feel guilty about not being home. So women are forced to work but dream of a man who can free them from their guilt ridden position. So they value salary in men that much more. And round and round the situation goes.
Furthermore, women have never been paid equally to men and they have never been actually treated as equal (e.g., we just won the right to fight in combat this year, sort of). This alone shows us that the U.S. is a long way off from actually fully embracing the non-traditional, single parent family. Indeed, even our tax laws reinforce the traditional patriarchal family by favoring married couples particularly those with children and owning property–i.e., the middle class. What I’m trying to say if it was so “normal” then there wouldn’t be any conversation about it all. There wouldn’t be millions of women suffering from the guilt of working but wanting to be home. There wouldn’t even be these accusations that it’s all our fault. Single parent households, particularly those run by women, would simply be accepted and they would be treated with the same respect, culturally and legally, as traditional married households. And that would mean that the economic disparity no longer existed since distribution of income between mother and father would be equal. Let’s look at why that disparity exists in more detail so we can see what can be done to fix it.
Since women are EXPECTED to fulfill the traditional role of child care giving, the courts have always and still predominately do today (about 80-90% of cases now) expect women to take the kids in a divorce situation even when the mother is some drug addicted selfish jerk. And even in this case the father must show interest and must really pursue the sole custody of children.
Add to that the fact that American fathers just walk away–about 33% voluntarily disengage. A majority of them, about 90%, blame the mother. They say, “well she doesn’t want me involved”. So…..you’re just going to give up? You’re just going to accept that? Sounds like the easy way out to me. I personally don’t know any women who would feel that way. Why is it the woman’s fault that American men choose to be selfish assholes who walk away or wimps who give up not only their parental rights but also their obligations? Grow a pair. Stand up for your kid and yourself. But where’s the outcry for their lack of involvement? It’s a hell of a lot quieter than the charges that feminists are ruining everything.
There has been an increase in support groups for fathers who are spreading the message that being a father matters. The majority of these organizations are also Christian, at least in the U.S.. Unfortunately, they also spread some hurtful nonsense as well 2. Why parenting has to be a religious thing to have value is beyond me. One would think that bringing a new person into the world should be enough reason, regardless of whether you believe in God or not. But I digress….
It is known that a father that is more likely to pay child support is more likely to be involved in the child’s life. So what about the percentage that pay child support? Since they usually make more and they’re just as responsible for bringing them into the world, do they pay? One in four women don’t get a single penny. 3 out of 4 only receive partial payments. Does child support come close to paying for all or even 50% of the expenses of raising a child? Not even close folks. As of 2013, the average cost of raising a child was calculated to be $235,000 until they are 18. And that’s just the money. That’s not the blood, sweat and tears of which there are many. And the time spent on a child could be time the mother could be working overtime or working a second job, making more money. She’s damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t.
What would the father have paid if they stayed married? I guarantee if you add up what the father would have paid for the child while married versus what they pay out after divorce, the non-custodial parent, normally the father, makes out like a bandit. Why does he pay less after the divorce? Is he still not the other parent? Will the child eat less, poop less, breath less air, need less over those 18 years after a divorce? Of course not. Here’s some more facts to hammer this point home. 1 in 5 women fall into poverty as a direct result of divorce. The loss of income after divorce is still severe and takes years to overcome if ever AND child support does not mitigate this loss. Furthermore, the less education a woman has, the slower the recovery.
What else is contributing to men lagging behind in income? According to researchers, it’s a lack of education. At the same time as women moved into the workforce, the importance of a college degree has increased. There is a direct link between level of education and the amount a person will earn over a lifetime. The most quoted difference is $1 million more in earnings for the average college graduate versus the average high school graduate. Women are much more likely to attend college AND to actually to complete the degree regardless of what kind of home they came from. Again, the researcher from MIT says that boys raised by sinlge women are much less likely to attend college and much less likely to graduate…even less than males from two parent households. But if it occurs significantly in both married and single households, and we know it does, it could be a larger problem than just the single household. But conservatives won’t tell you that. They won’t ever get that far in the conversation and even if they do, they’ll reject the subtlety of the argument. But it’s an important distinction you and everyone else should be aware of.
Okay, so we know that women make less than men. We know that the cost of raising kids is astronomical and that women will bear the brunt of that cost and that the majority of fathers won’t. We know in general that women for several decades now have been more likely to go to college and graduate than men and the percentages are even worse for boys from single mother households. This means that women are more likely to earn more and the likelihood of their income rising should be going up while men’s is going down. We know that the loss in manufacturing jobs, which predominately affected men, did not account for the statistical differences we see in women’s increasing incomes and men’s decreasing incomes 3. So something is happening to men in this country. We CAN see a relationship or correlation between divorce and the negative consequences on children, particularly males. BUT we can also see a correlation of these same affects occurring, at a smaller rate but STILL significantly, to men from two parent families.
Correlation is NOT causation. Being from MIT, I’m surprised that the researcher would make such claims—then again, maybe he didn’t. After all, the source of my ire is a summary of what his research says written in the NY Times and you know how crappy the MSM coverage of science is. So the researcher and conservatives can’t just blame women’s liberation for this. In my mind, there is ample evidence (as I went to great pains to explain above) that our traditional patriarchal system and it’s emphasis on traditional marriage and the devaluation of women in general are to blame. The way to fix this is then to value women more. Equal pay for equal work. Remove financial incentives for marriage. Enforce child support laws and make custody sharing more 50/50 when both parents can/should participate. Get a handle on the cost of living–i.e., work on fixing our damn economy instead of working on silly laws like this. And make a concerted effort to raise boys that value being fathers and don’t let them get their ego hung up around how much they make. And raise girls to care less about what he makes and more about his character. Now THAT is family values.
1. Conservatives will tell you this isn’t true. They are lying or are mistaken. It is a well proven fact. MANY studies have come to this conclusion over many decades, doing a fair comparison matching up job descriptions, responsibilities and qualifications. Men just make more than women for no other reason than they have a penis. It’s that simple.
2. Perfect example, Promise Keepers. They are by definition aChristian org and they push VERY traditional families, you know the kind where men are superior and women should be obedient. That’s what’s at the root of the problem in the first place, patriarchy. A return to it won’t solve the underlying problem.
3. Further on this point, the IT industry which has exploded since the late 80’s is male dominated and has a pretty high average salary particularly in regards to the programming and engineering jobs….there are more women in the low end tech support/help desk positions which don’t make anything….if this male dominated and lucrative field hasn’t positively affected male income then you know something is negatively and significantly affecting it.