|Typical single mother who just can't find a decent man|
Just Say No
For white working-class women, it makes sense to stay single mothers.
By Naomi Cahn and June Carbone
The following is based on Marriage Markets: How Inequality Is Remaking the American Family, out in May 2014 from Oxford University Press.
Lily had grown up in a rural town, more than an hour from Kansas City, Mo. She was four months pregnant and not feeling well, and she was in tears. She was also not married, but that’s not what was upsetting her. The car that she needed to get to her two jobs in the city had broken down, and she had no other way to get to work. We asked whether her boyfriend, Carl, could help her. Lily frowned. She had recently broken up with Carl, she explained, because “I can support myself. I always have. I can support myself and our kid. I just can’t support myself, the kid, and him.”
You know, Lily, if Carl is such a loser that you don't want to marry him, why did you want 50% of your child's genes to be his? Are you really that convinced that your 50% are going to be so awesome that your kid won't wind up a loser?
... A generation ago her decision would have seemed narrow, misguided, and difficult to understand. But now we have to conclude that it makes a lot of sense. Although it defies logic, socioeconomic, cultural, and economic changes have brought white working-class women like Lily to the point where going it alone can be the wiser choice. And the final irony: The same changes that have made marriages more equitable and successful among elite couples have made it less likely that marriage will look attractive to Lily.
When Lily looks around at the available men, they don’t offer what she is looking for.
That picture above from Slate is not actually Lily, it's just a stock photo of a model. But that's probably how Lily pictures herself, if she just found the right diet.
Lily, just like better-off men and women, believes that marriage means an unqualified commitment to the other spouse. When you marry someone, you support him in hard times. You stick with him when he disappoints you. You visit him if he ends up in jail. And you encourage him to become an important part of your children’s lives. It’s just that Lily doesn’t believe that Carl is worth that commitment.
But he's worth making a baby with, apparently.
Nor does she believe that she will meet someone who will meet her standards anytime soon, and the statistics back her up.
The economy has changed. A higher percentage of men today than 50 years ago have trouble finding steady employment, securing raises and promotions, or remaining sober and productive. Blue-collar men like Carl have lost ground while more highly educated men have gained. The unemployment rate for all men ages 20–24 is almost 13 percent, and those with only a high school education are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as those with a college degree.
... At the same time that men like Carl have lost ground, women like Lily have gained. While almost no one outside the top executive ranks has gained much since the financial crisis, women in the middle of the American economy saw greater increases than the comparable men in both pay and job stability through the ’90s. That doesn’t mean that ideas about who should be the breadwinner have changed much, though. Both men and women generally agree that a man who can’t hold a steady job shouldn’t marry. Indeed, “the less education and income people have, the more likely they are to say that to be a good marriage prospect, a person must be able to support a family financially.”
The women ready for marriage in this group have grown larger than the group of marriageable men who would be good partners. These men—the ones with better jobs and more stable lives—have become more reluctant, in turn, to settle for only one woman. ...
She has very few friends, married or unmarried, in strong relationships, and she did not see much point in waiting for a Prince Charming she did not expect to find. Indeed, while less than 20 percent of the most highly educated Americans believe that marriage has not worked out for most of the people they know, more than half of those who are least educated believe that marriage has not worked out. ,,,
In our view what would make the most difference to this unfair marriage market are policies that would increase the number and quality of jobs available to working class men, retraining and unemployment benefits that fill in the gaps between jobs, and ongoing support for women’s autonomy. Since the ’80s, the gender gap in wages has increased at the top but shrunk in the middle.
In the past, young people molded each other into better people. Lots of guys start out as feckless as Carl, but shape up so they can have a woman.
Lily, of course, in her very 2014ish egotism and heedlessness sounds like she'll be a horrible mother to their poor misbegotten bastard child. That's a real failure of society when we fail to inculcate basic maternal virtues in young women by encouraging them in the Life of Julia, Bride of the Obama Administration mindset.
... Let’s not make raising a child become yet another marker of class.
How about having a child?