Thursday, June 05, 2014

Is Marriage Becoming a Luxury of the Rich?

A book excerpt from AlterNet:

For those whose incomes place them in the bottom third of the population, increasing disparities between men and women have made both more likely to give up on each other. International and interstate comparisons demonstrate that higher rates of inequality tend to be associated with chronic unemployment, high rates of imprisonment, and substance abuse—factors that disproportionately affect men. Women in these communities view commitment to a man who runs up the credit card bill, cycles in and out of jobs, or deals drugs on the side as more of a threat than an asset to the ability to care for children.

Men view women who take their money when they have it but do not stand by them when they flounder with distrust. These patterns encourage women to invest in their own resources rather than in the men in their lives and men to move on to new relationships when their current ones hit rough patches.

Family stability is an inevitable casualty.

More here.

I've been fascinated by economics from the moment I understood the term.  I mean, I didn't major in economics, but I did take an undergrad macro course, taught by an unashamed neoliberal Friedmanite, no less, and I've read, just for kicks, more than a few economists over the years, from mainstream guys like Krugman and Stiglitz to Marxists and other radicals like Richard D. Wolffe and Edward Hermann.  And I still love it.  Probably the main reason for this is that economics is the flip side of politics: you just can't understand what's happening politically in the world if you don't have a handle on the money.  But a secondary reason is just as motivating.

Economics profoundly affects how we live our lives.  

And I'm not simply talking about whether you have a good job or not.  I mean that economics affects our personal decisions in countless ways that we do not attribute to economics.  For me, the big one is how the US hardly funds the arts, relative to more civilized nations like France or Germany.  I'm an actor, a theater artist, and, even though a select few are able to make a living doing this kind of work, most of us have to have day jobs in order to pay the bills while we pursue our life's calling.  If we funded the arts in the way other nations do, this wouldn't be so much of an issue.  But we don't, so I wait tables by day, and do theater at night.

But that's just my own personal life.  There's MUCH more to how economics directs and shapes our lives in a seemingly invisible way.  The linked book excerpt presents still more evidence that the rise of the single mother in this country has nothing to do with the traditional morals-oriented explanations, and EVERYTHING to do with the continuing erosion of the American middle class.  That is, when the pool of available men is dried up by corporate America's decision to shift workers into the shitty service sector, or worse, out of the work force entirely, a husband, for many women, then becomes an economic liability, not the solution to poverty, as head-in-assed Republicans have been asserting for years.  Indeed, a husband who cannot, due to economic circumstances, add to his family's financial prospects, simply makes his family's poverty worse.

And this is why I study economics.  It helps me understand that a lot of public discourse on various topics is totally full of shit, people asserting things they can't possibly know, and being really self-righteous about it.  Of course, we see the same thing in the public discourse on economics itself, too, but that's another story.