Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Perpetual Panic of American Parenthood

New York Times (Oct. 13, 2016): The Perpetual Panic of American Parenthood, by Pamela Druckerman,

A study from the American Journal of Sociology finds that "Americans with children are 12 percent less happy than non-parents."  The happiness gap between parents and non-parents in the United States is the largest among 22 rich countries surveyed.  What accounts for the gap?  The study's authors suggest that the main source of unhappiness stems from the lack of family friendly work policies - paid vacation and sick leave - and the high cost of child care.

Childcare offerings around the world vary, but in Europe and Canada, they are generally more generous than in the United States.  France offers day care billed on a sliding scale and free pre-school starting at 3.  It also provides subsidized after school and summer school activities.  England provides paid parental l leave and 15 hours a week of free preschool. Druckerman describes the experience of Finnish journalist Anu Partanen, who moved to New York and soon after had a panic-attack when trying to manage work and child care. 

“While Nordic citizens often don’t realize how good they have it, Americans seem not to realize how terribly they are being treated,” she writes in her book “The Nordic Theory of Everything.” Ms. Partanen points out that many Europeans pay only slightly higher income taxes than Americans do, while Swedes and Britons pay less, and all get far more in return. She concluded: “Maybe I wasn’t racked by anxiety because I came from a foreign country. Maybe I was racked by anxiety because I was becoming an American.”

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