Thursday, July 19, 2012
From the New York Times:
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jessica Schairer has so much in common with her boss, Chris Faulkner, that a visitor to the day care center they run might get them confused.
They are both friendly white women from modest Midwestern backgrounds who left for college with conventional hopes of marriage, motherhood and career. They both have children in elementary school. They pass their days in similar ways: juggling toddlers, coaching teachers and swapping small secrets that mark them as friends. They even got tattoos together. Though Ms. Faulkner, as the boss, earns more money, the difference is a gap, not a chasm.
But a friendship that evokes parity by day becomes a study of inequality at night and a testament to the way family structure deepens class divides. Ms. Faulkner is married and living on two paychecks, while Ms. Schairer is raising her children by herself. That gives the Faulkner family a profound advantage in income and nurturing time, and makes their children statistically more likely to finish college, find good jobs and form stable marriages.
Law Professors June Carbone and Naomi Cahn write on this topic in the Next New Deal:
Ever wonder what the “war on women” is really about? An article in the New York Times, “Two Classes, Divided by 'I Do': For Richer Marriage, for Poorer, Single Motherhood” provides some clues. The article documents the growing class divide in family form. College graduates like Chris and Kevin Faulkner, who were profiled in the article, postpone starting families, produce marriages with lower divorce rates than a generation ago, and reap the rewards in terms of greater time and resources to invest in children. In the meantime, women like Jessica Schairer who do not graduate from college, also profiled in the article, are increasingly raising children on their own. These women often give up on the men in their lives and struggle to balance the demands of low-paying jobs with the attention their children need.
The article presents a compelling portrait of the causes and the effects, but not of the partisan divide over the potential solutions. That divide can be summed up by a struggle over a simple question: are women like the single mother, Jessica Schairer, the victims of our economy or the problem? Those who see them as the problem are setting forth proposals to make their lives (and their children’s lives) worse. Those of us who see Jessica Schairer as a victim of increasing economic inequality recognize that supporting her ability to care for her children is critical to the strength of the country’s next generation. The political war for the future of Jessica Schairer is under way.
Read more here.