Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Latest in Marriage and Childbearing... 

The full Newsweek story correcting their long-ago marriage crunch hype story is out, and mostly it's reasonably responsible in what it says. I still want to quibble with what seems to be the underlying assumption that everyone who's not married wants to be. When they compare proportions ever-marrying now to the 1950s (again a mistake, since that period was an anomaly in our history), why don't they ever consider that some who married then may have been pressured into it and didn't necessarily stay married?

Next, a listserve I'm on sent around this story from the Boston Globe about the slight recent uptick in families with three kids in the United States, which claims that "three is the new two." I found the focus on upper-income families annoying--I'd like a little more solid data that establishes how this phenomenon breaks down along income lines--but my favorite part was this paragraph:
Just look at classroom No. 8 at the Wellesley Nursery School in the Hills. DeMatteo's daughter is the only one who comes from a family of six kids. But Laurel is one of five. So is Mark. Then there are Ryan, Jack, Andrew, and Adam, who each come from a family with four kids. Shane will join their ranks when his new sister arrives in a few months. Right now, he's in the three-kid camp with Lucy, Nicole, and Natalie. In fact, of the class's 20 preschoolers, 12 come from families with three or more kids. And let's not forget Owen. He is one of eight, and his father says a ninth is likely. Definitely don't want to forget Owen.
It sounds like a pretty dramatic trend when you put it that way, right? But--duh--of course children from large families are going to be over-represented when you measure at the child level. I do this as an exercise in the family class I teach. First, as a joke: "How many of you are from families with no children?" ... We generally find what seems like a surprisingly high proportion of students who have 2 or 3 siblings, but that's just because a family with one kid has only one chance (in whatever) of having that kid end up in my class, while with a family of 3 or 4, you get more "draws" out of the hat.

Finally, here's a story in Slate about efforts by Russia and Portugal to either bribe or threaten people into having more children. What I find interesting about this is that, as far as I know, we don't really have a definitive answer about why birth rates are higher in the U.S. than in other developed countries. Some of it is our immigration, some is greater religiosity, some (thinking about Russia) is relative economic and political stability, and some is probably just plain space... But I wonder how much is also our restrictiveness about contraceptives (mainly for the young and poor).

Update: On the Newsweek site, this sidebar story by Stephanie Coontz is a good one.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday Bunny Blogging 

Look who's visiting!

(More Friday animals at Friday Ark.)


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Pelosi v. CBC 

OK. In principle, there are two sides to every story. But, honestly, how can House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi not be right in demanding that Representative William Jefferson (D-LA) step down from the Ways and Means Committee when he was videotaped taking a $100,000 bribe and most of the cash was found in his freezer?

Yet the Congressional Black Caucus "produced an emotional consensus that Pelosi had overreached, since Jefferson has not been charged with any crimes".

Give me a break. Jefferson has a right to his day in court, but he does not have a right to represent Democrats on one of the House's most important committees. We rightly complained when the GOP kept Tom DeLay in place, arguing that he hadn't yet been indicted.

The public is fed up with the GOP's culture of corruption. Now is not the time to act as if we are no better than they are.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Surnames, Version 2.0 

Hugo has a lengthy post up on "the thorny discussion of whether or not a real feminist can take her husband's last name when she marries"?, a subject Hugo admits is highly personal for him because his current wife had adopted his last name.

I'll be honest. My initial, gut reaction to was to answer Hugo's question with a firm negative. That may be unfair -- people come to marriage from all kinds of backgrounds and in all kinds of circumstances, and anyway who am I to say who is and is not a "real feminist"? -- but it was nonetheless my reaction. Rather than explore that reaction right now, I'd like to add a wrinkle:

Earlier this week, I received a note from an old acquaintance. She mentioned that she (or, rather, her same sex partner) had had a baby. She signed the note with a new last name, which was also the last name of the baby. (I don't know if she adopted her partner's last name or if they made a new one together.)

It struck me that, while all things being equal a woman's adopting her male partner's name might not be a feminist decision, her adopting her female partner's name might indeed be one, as it is an emphatic rejection of the irrational legal prohibition against same-sex marriage. I admit that I felt some discomfort with my acquaintance's decision, as I strongly believe that one can be fully committed to a marriage while at the same time mainatining one's own identity. At the same time, I recognize that my reaction was, to an extent, one of heterosexual privilege -- because we are in a heterosexual relationship, Mary and I have been free to keep our own last names without anyone (or almost anyone) questioning whether we are really married.

Something to think about....


The Moment to Decide... For the Good or Evil Side 

Lowell Weicker quotes from my favorite hymn at the beginning of his ass-kicking endorsement of Ned Lamont. I am moved to quote at length:
`Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside ...

"And the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied."

These words of the 19th-century American poet James Russell Lowell sum up my admiration for and my support of Ned Lamont to be the next U.S. senator from Connecticut.

The majority of Democrats say they support Sen. Joe Lieberman in spite of his backing the war, since Iraq, after all, is only one of many issues facing voters.

Hello! To characterize the most monumental screw-up of our times as "only one of many issues" is like admiring the theater marquees on Broadway with King Kong on the loose.

Iraq is a war based on falsehood for which thousands of young Americans have been killed and wounded. It is a policy mistake that has drained the life's blood of financial resources from all our endeavors here at home. It is the issue that shapes all other issues.

Ned Lamont has taken a clear stand on exiting this insanity. Sen. Joe Lieberman has made staying the course the cornerstone of his term. In his TV advertisements, Sen. Lieberman belatedly pleads for a civil dialogue on the war issue. How do you dialogue on a mistake based on a lie? A candid and wise man would have admitted his error and moved on in a new direction. Not so the incumbent senator.

Ned is challenging Sen. Lieberman for the Democratic nomination this week in Hartford. I know Ned from the years when we were fellow townsmen in Greenwich. Indeed, I appointed him chairman of the Investment Advisory Council to the state pension fund - a volunteer job - when I was governor. He is a highly qualified, idealistic individual.

He speaks to the issues of Connecticut's cities, health care and education - all issues that are on hold for lack of adequate funding because of the Iraq war. My sources inform me that most of the delegates from the big cities are voting for Sen. Lieberman. How is that possible when the senator has prioritized Iraq and not Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, New London, etc.? Ned Lamont understands the obscenity of the amount of money going to Iraq - by some estimates, more than a trillion dollars - when juxtaposed against the needs of Connecticut's poor and middle-income citizens.

I want to see brave men and women stand up with Ned Lamont in the days ahead and say: Enough! We don't want to be cast in the image of President George W. Bush, of whom Sen. Lieberman is so enamored. America is better than the portrait painted by this Republican administration.

I speak as an independent who has seen the two-party system corrupt itself to the point of irrelevance during a dangerous time in our history. Ned Lamont can start the reform process by providing opposition to a Republican Party too long in power. What is needed is Ned Lamont's voice for health care for all, funding for our cities, and public education from kindergarten through college that works for our children.

He might be an underdog, but that only points to being outside a Democratic establishment that at the state and federal levels has failed miserably to uphold its end of the two-party system.

In 1889 at Hartford, Mark Twain wrote "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court." In it, he said:

"The citizen who thinks he sees that the commonwealth's political clothes are worn out, and yet holds his peace and does not agitate for a new suit, is disloyal; he is a traitor. That he may be the only one who thinks he sees this decay, does not excuse him; it is his duty to agitate anyway, and it is the duty of the others to vote him down if they do not see the matter as he does."

Go, Ned! Give voice to what all of us feel so deeply: a return to an America of high ideals, reverence to the Constitution and concern for the frail. That is a patriotism sorely needed.
I am deeply ashamed to admit that in 1988, I supported Lieberman over this great man. But, in the words of the hymn,
New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Most. Condescending. Blog. Post. Ever. 

Power Line (via Tennessee Guerilla Women):
I rode home from the airport in a taxi a few minutes ago. My driver, as is almost always the case in Minnesota, was an African immigrant. No sooner had I gotten into the cab than he began talking about the speech and railing against Bush on the theory that the President is anti-immigrant. I patiently tried to explain that President Bush is in trouble because he is not just pro-immigrant, but pro-illegal immigrant. I explained that he has argued for a guest worker program and a path to citizenship, and has said repeatedly that it would be impossible to deport all the illegals.

My cab driver was completely disoriented by this. I could tell he didn't believe it. Like nearly all African cab drivers, he listens to public radio all day long. Twenty minutes with me wasn't enough to overcome years of liberal indoctrination. He simply wasn't able to absorb the idea that President Bush might not be a racist who hates immigrants. I'm sure he'd forgotten everything I said by the time he left my driveway. (Emphasis added.)

Why do I suspect Hinderaker is a fan of Kipling?
Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain.


Monday, May 15, 2006

Temporary Until When? 

Josh Marshall wonders:
The White House is now saying the troops would only be temporary. But temporary until when? I guess just until there aren't any more illegals trying to come across the border from Latin America. [More here.]
The answer -- natch -- is temporary until Bush can outsource another government function, and truckloads of taxpayer money, to his corporate cronies:
The National Guard would be a stopgap force until the federal government could hire civilian contractors to take over administrative and support functions from the Border Patrol, freeing more agents to actually hunt for immigrants slipping into the country.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

You Gotta Lotta Bawls, Pink Edition 

Via Feministing and Feminist Law Profs, some major league ballplayers will be using pink bats on Mother's Day to raise money to fight breast cancer.

Jessica likes the idea ("Whatever, pink is totally macho."), while Ann Bartow is unimpressed ("But why is swinging a pink bat such a big deal? Is someone afraid that pink bats carry girl germs?").

Apparently, girl germs can in fact be transmitted by dyed lumber. An Indiana minister, who defended Keith Hernandez's sexist rant and whose theology includes such gems as, "I don’t need to be a girlie man to be a godly man" (in a post discussing the “feminization of our boys”), frets, "I can't imagine Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, George Brett, Rod Carew, Ryne Sandberg, Ted Williams, Thurman Munson, or Stan the Man EVER using a pink bat".

Others imply that players who use pink bats are gay, with a special interest in the handsome and single Derek Jeter:
SportTech: "A-Rod and Jeter Finally Get There [sic] Day ... Not that there is anything wrong with that." (Graphic: two pink bats next to each other.)

Technosailor: "Oh Barry, You look so Sexy With Your Pink Bat!"

Technosailor (again): "SportTech celebrates A-Rod and Jeter finally getting to couple up. :-)"

Sports. Music. Blog.: "Oh, and Derek Jeter is among the players expected to be swinging the pinkie on Sunday. I don't think that surprises too many folks."

Paul's Poop (possibly ironic): "Players participating include Gay Derek Jeter, Big Papi David Ortiz, Jim Edmonds, Mark Teixeria and Hank Blalock."
Look, Derek Jeter doesn't deserve a Nobel Prize for participating in this promotion, but he is raising money for a good cause and he is striking a small blow against the idea that calling a man feminine is the best way to insult him.


Monday, May 01, 2006

Grow Old Along with Me 

Tina (formerly of Pub Sociology) sent this link to a story in this weekend's NYTimes. Apparently, men are catching up with women on life expectancy in the United States, and in another 50 years, if the trend continues, women will no longer live longer than men.

Tina wondered whether I think they got the story right. My guess is that on the strict projections-based-on-currently-mortality-trends part, they did. One likely reason that women's improvements in mortality have slowed down relative to men's is the increase in women's smoking relative to men's over the past few decades. If we want to keep our lead, we've got to go back to smoking less than men.

However, if you married women out there were hoping for a long widowhood, it is quite possible for the kinds of improvements in mortality that we're seeing now for men to be reversed--sometimes in a matter of months. Just look at the mortality of men in the former Soviet Union--after the fall of the old regime, economic and political uncertainty there contributed to major increases in drinking and smoking and various risk-taking behaviors, and as of 1993, the life expectancy difference between men and women was 13 years ("probably the largest in the world", according to Shkolnikov, Mesle and Vallin in a chapter in this book). If our economic inequality and stagnating wages continue, maybe men here will start drinking and smoking more, too. More seriously, though, the problem with any story like this is that these kinds of projections are always premised on the assumption, "if current trends continue," and sometimes crazy things happen, like governments falling, or wars starting, that completely derail the trends.

I think the thing that's stranger about the story is that it completely ignores the effects of divorce. For women who are elderly now, the main reason they're alone may be widowhood, but over the time period they're talking about, a much higher proportion of the older women (and men) will be divorced rather than widowed. The issues for the divorced elderly are fairly different from those of the widowed elderly. For one thing, it's even less likely that the woman is collecting her ex-husband's pension (or social security, depending on how long they were married). For another, a number of studies (like this one by Cooney and Uhlenberg) show that older adult men who have been divorced have less contact with and less care and support from their adult children. So in figuring out who's going to benefit (or not) from men living longer, you'd definitely want to take divorce into account.

Finally, the story acknowledges that older women do an awful lot of caregiving and that they might not necessarily be better off in that way if their spouses lived longer (oh, goody, more years to cook and clean for him), but it accepts without question the idea that if overall household income is higher with the husband still alive, the wife must necessarily be better off financially. Hmmm. That depends on who really controls money in the household and how decisions are made about allocation of resources, no? A number of studies of divorced women have found that they consider themselves better off financially after the divorce even though they're "objectively" worse off because they now have sole discretion over spending. One reason widows may not be so eager to re-marry (or that they're increasingly cohabiting in later life rather than marrying) may be that they're not interested in losing control over money and decisions again.

So I think the article is okay on the pure demography of making life expectancy projections based on the current mortality trends, but I think it misses a few important points when it starts speculating about who's going to be better or worse off and in what ways as a result of these trends.


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