October 22, 2014

Wedding Rings Are the New Indicator of Social and Economic Class

You need to read this magnificent article in The New York Times that breaks down the economic phenomenon we went over several years ago when we looked at the work of Harvard Professor Charles Murray, who demonstrated that a significant driver of income inequality in the United States was caused by a radical shift in the family structure of the lower and middle classes.

The wedding ring, along with a college degree, has become the primary social and economic class status indicator.  Namely, the upper classes are more likely than ever to get married, stay married, and invest an enormous amount of resources including time, energy, and money, into their children.  The economies of scale of having multiple paychecks, yet the same fixed expenses, results in a leveraging effect that makes life exponentially easier in the same way economies of scale give Wal-Mart or McDonald’s financial advantages; there comes a point at which you’ve covered your base operating costs and every additional dollar flowing in results in more falling to the bottom line.  This creates a self-reinforcing cycle where economic security and prosperity is easier to achieve, leading to more economic security and prosperity as the family accumulates capital that throws off dividends, interest, and rents, increases human capital permitting higher paying jobs, and can more flexibly manage commitments so the opportunity cost of sickness or temporarily unemployment is significantly reduced.

A couple of generations ago, 95 out of every 100 children in the middle class enjoyed such a two-parent household.  Today, a majority are born out of wedlock, with a large percentage to a mother who chooses to have multiple children with multiple fathers.

This matters to economists because, despite all of the heroic efforts of single mothers, as a group, children who don’t grow up with two parents in the household fall behind in every measurable life progress score imaginable.  They are more likely to drop out of high school, less likely to go to college, more likely to go to prison, less likely to have a high paying career, less likely to have a stable family of their own, more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs, more likely to be physically assaulted or sexually abused, more likely to be obese, ad infinitum.  Horribly, these social ills actually cost society more money to produce as the broken households use more per capita taxpayer funded benefits just to survive.

The Economic Problem Can’t Be Solved Because It Is Politically Unpopular to Discuss

One of the reasons it hasn’t been solved is because it creates a political problem.  For a child born today, the single greatest, sure-fire indicator that you came from a lower class family is a mother who is unmarried and has children with multiple men so the siblings are half-related.  Yet, no one wants to go back to the days when women were shamed into marrying a man because they got pregnant, nor do they want to stigmatize the (now large percentage) of children born into such situations as the kids are innocent.  Equally as delicate is the notion of egalitarianism that is instilled in every American, who generally eschew social and economic class categorizations entirely (our poor insist they are middle class and our rich insist they are middle class).

Wedding Rings New Class Status SymbolThis leads to a sort of Gordian Knot, bound by social niceties, where the desire to avoid individual injustice is leading to a system-wide failure that ultimately harms women and children in tangible ways that will follow them throughout their lifetime.  Thus, in order to be polite and potentially not hurt anyone’s feelings, the situation goes unchecked, with some damning consequences.

What makes it worse is that there are those who refuse to address this economic disparity because it doesn’t fit with their existing worldview.  Consider this comment, which is one of the highest rated responses to the New York Times article:

We need different values alright – among the powers that be, who think $10 p hr is a living wage. These changes don’t happen in a vacuum and do blame them on “eroding values” is preposterous. Americans have become more conservative, churchgoing, but also unfortunately more ignorant about economic realities. Transferring a nation’s wealth, up to 90% of it, to the 1% at the top, which politicians have strategically done with the help of their oligarch bosses, has unfortunate consequences for the remaining 99%. The economic and social realities people like Ms. Scheirer finds herself in are the result of conservative political goals – media concentration (the better to spew out untruths and disinformation), defunding public education (the more ignorant the public, the less able they are of critical thinking), and the systematic elimination of unions (the best to kill off the middle class and turn the 99% into obliging oligarchy serfs). So she didn’t finish college, and made stupid choices (having 3 kids with a deadbeat father – btw, men rich guys are also great deadbeat material) – she still deserves to earn a living wage!

This is the sort of fatuity that drives me to exasperation, yet it’s this commentator who is precisely the type of person we should be trying to help; those too ignorant to realize how ignorant they are, while spouting off about the importance of “critical thinking” (the irony of which is painful).  For example, school funding cuts are not responsible for the sub par results of the American education system as per capita education expenditures are the highest in the world.  As a matter of fact, we used the Kansas City School District as an example the other day.  The amount of money spent on education is far less useful in determining how well a student does than whether or not the student is in a two parent household.  Nicer textbooks and a better paid teacher cannot make up for, in even a small way, what a child lacks at home.  That’s the reality.  That’s what the numbers show.  Throwing more money at a problem is a particular American pathology that has to stop.  Money can’t solve everything and worshiping it as some sort of panacea when it is just one tool in our arsenal is pointless.  Some problems are cultural.  Want academic success?  A good marriage trumps money every time.

In addition, despite this commentator’s belief, church attendance has not increased in the United States, it has shown a decline over the past decade with those saying they “seldom or never” attend increasing from 25% of the population to 29%, while those who attend weekly went from 39% to 37%.

The numerical reality of the single mother’s life in the Times article is mostly not part of some evil conservative machination (leaving aside the House Republican’s refusal to support President Obama’s proposed 50% payroll tax cut a couple of years ago, which would have been one of the largest tax cuts in American history aimed squarely at the poor and working class), it’s a function of basic math: When you add a second income on top of costs that don’t change, it’s all profit.  It’s disproportionately beneficial.  It’s all left over for swimming lessons and baseball equipment, vacations and college savings.

To put it bluntly, for all of their monumental, almost mind-numbing failures, it is not the fault of the United States Congress, or the Republicans, or the Democrats, or the President, or Wall Street, that a single mother can’t afford to pay her bills.  There has never been a time in U.S. history when she’s been able to live well.  It’s basic home economics.  None of us is somehow magically exempt from arithmetic.

What You Can Do To Give Your Own Family an Advantage

What are the takeaways on an individual level?  While the societal problem is a hard one to fix, you, personally, can use this to your advantage.  The single greatest inheritance you can give your child is not a trust fund, but a stable, intact, loving, two-parent home where you are married to your spouse.  Even if you are in the bottom half of household income, the significant advantages of this arrangement mean your children have a much greater statistical chance of enjoying better lives.

Nothing else you do as a parent will have the predictive power of improving your son or daughter’s chances.  It shows up in countless data sets touching on nearly every major sociological, economic, academic, and health indicator.  Marriage is the greatest anti-poverty program that has ever been created.  It was the original corporation.  It was the original partnership.  It is the fundamental building block of the civilization.

Wait to meet the right person, get married, and have children in that order.  Do that, and it’s like using an economic cheat code in the video game of life.  No matter how unpopular it is to discuss, or even acknowledge, you should still strive to take advantage of it, harnessing this model just like you do compound interest.

And for those of you who get that analogy, you might want to consider the following status symbols of your own:

Zelda Wedding Rings

  • http://tmault.co.uk/ Thomas Mault

    Really quickly, I just want to say thank-you for passing on the mental construct of life as a video game, with an array of tools + mental models + cheat codes to deploy. It’s so beneficial to be coming across these ideas at all, let alone before my twenties!

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      I’m glad you find it useful =) It definitely works for me and I use it in my own life all the time.

      A few years ago, I actually sketched out a 255-level guide to life (using the leveling system that Tri-Ace software does on games like Infinite Undiscovery) so it became fun to track my progress. In my case, I made it logarithmic. For example, a Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, generating billions of dollars in profit and overseeing global powerhouse empires would be at the level 255-cap, while a Mitt Romney with $300 million would be a 125. To “beat the game”, or “win” at life around level 65 or 70 required having no debt, being in to the top 1% (which is an adjusted gross income of around $32,500 per month), total financial independence so no one could ever take it away absent extraordinary circumstances. I actually tied other life goals to it, as well, that were non-financial.

      The gaming model just works with how my brain is structured. It makes coming up with ideas a lot easier and more enjoyable. I think a lot of people have the inherent creativity to make a lot of money, or pursue whatever else it is they want, but they don’t think of it that way. If you can figure out how to optimize a Pokemon build, farm for materials in an RPG, or sneak around some sort of enemy stronghold in a first person shooter, you can use it to make money. It’s all a game. Money doesn’t actually exist, it’s a social construct used as a rough gauge to measure future claim checks out on the output of others in exchange transactions. It’s as fake as the Gil system in Final Fantasy, only you need it to eat. It’s just points on a piece of paper.

      All this talk makes me want to go play SimCity. I think I’ll do that.

  • peter gryphon

    Excellent article! However, I’d argue that contraception is “the greatest anti-poverty program that has ever been created” simply by allowing women to have some control over their reproductive cycle, but I see what you’re getting at.

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      Amen. Contraception certainly is up there, too, there can be no doubt about that.

      I hesitate to mention it because over the past few years, there is a creeping asterisk that has slowly attached itself in my mind due to some of the data about the second and third order effects; how the introduction of synthetic chemicals in birth control alter women’s attraction mechanism by messing up their ability to interpret pheromones, which was nature’s evolved mechanism for finding potential mates with ideally compatible immune systems. This might be behind the rise in certain conditions that weren’t very prevalent in the past. Here’s a very quick, high-level review of the phenomenon from LiveScience.

      This begins to beg the question: If birth control is, in fact, causing sicker, less genetically optimal children to be born than would be the case otherwise, do its benefits outweigh its cons? Would it mean a male birth control pill, a holy grail of the pharmaceutical industry (along with a cure for male pattern baldness), is far more optimal, or could it introduce a change in the scent produced by the men, leading us to the same problematic outcome? I don’t think there is enough evidence to make a determination, yet.

      Other forms of contraception – condoms, for example – while less effective, pose none of these problems, while still offering all the same benefits and empowerment.

      • Scott McCarthy

        Giving men in their early-30s to late-50s the promise of a full head of hair and perfect teeth will do more to win support for stem cell research than finding a cure for cancer ever could.

        • Name

          I’m still waiting for you to run for office.

        • Scott McCarthy

          Shut up and take my money!

          Who do you think I am?
          Leland Yee?
          Patrick Cannon?
          Gordon Fox?

          …is this a trap?
          [and where are those hookers I recall being offered?]
          [PS: I'm not even a politician yet, and I'm worrying about hookers being ...late. Uh-oh. Interestingly, that's probably exactly the fear that would lead Congress to pass federal subsidies for male birth control pills, though.]

    • Rob

      True. That also goes to the studies that have shown legalization of
      abortion has decreased certain types of crime as ‘wanted’ pregnancies are more apt to have a stable, attentive household.

  • joe pierson

    “It is the fundamental building block of the civilization.”

    Like it or not, that ship has sailed, many adults never desired marriage to begin (and to some degree the extended family where grandparents/parents/children lived together), the stigma and economics forced it. We are slowing moving from tribes, to extended families, to families, to single parents living by themselves in their own home.
    BTW, in nature a single parent family is extremely common.

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      As productivity increases, we are slowing moving from tribes, to extended families, to families, to single parents living by themselves in their own home.

      I’d like you to consider four things.

      1. Your position is predicated upon the belief, and thus inherently dependent upon the assumption, that the productivity increases will somehow be shared among the population in similar distribution pattern as the past, which experience and theory show will not be the case. If anything, the new distribution patterns will strengthen the need for marriage among the lower classes, as we’ve already seen happen, given the propensity for technological improvements to follow a winner-take-all economic model that flows to the cognitive elite.

      I’ve often used authors as an illustration of the post-Knowledge Economy world. A generation ago, if you wrote a book and it retailed for $30, you would be lucky to get 10% of the cover price, or $3. The other $27 would be split among the publisher, the paper manufacturer, the printing house, the typesetters, the truck drivers, the gas companies that fueled those trucks, the retail store owners, the landlords of the strip malls in which the retail stores were located, the hourly associates helping you pick a book, and the local jurisdiction collecting sales tax on the transaction.

      Today, you can publish it from your house, put it on Kindle or iBook, and keep $21 out of $30 yourself, with the other $9 going the owners of Amazon or Apple, both of whom have to share very little (relatively) with their employees compared to businesses of the past since most of their factories are automated. There is no sales tax generated for the local community unless you happen to live in a state with a nexus to one of the technology companies.

      Now, those former paper makers, truck drivers, and bookstore specialists are forced to make $9 an hour at a call center instead of their formerly, higher paying jobs, leading to dis-economies of scale due to the very productivity increase you are saying will lead to their salvation. Far from a cure, it is their curse.

      2. Even if the economic productivity could be more equally distributed, it does not make these new households immune to the very real force of economies of scale when applied to the other great source of value, which is time. Whether king or pauper, every human has only 525,600 minutes per year. A given percentage of those will be spent on basic survival – sleeping, working, eating, grooming – with the remainder used for offspring, entertainment, and self-fulfillment. Two people in the same household, both of whom have a strong bond to their child that makes their kid different in their eyes from other kids, will have more hours in the day to devote to childcare. Human development follows a fairly predictable pattern where more hours with primary care parents (rather than nannies, extended relatives, or friends) = Better outcomes. While we may praise the “village” for all its good, it is a poor substitute when it comes to developmental advancement. In other words, Mary Poppins, for all of her glory, could not stand in for Mr. and Mrs. Banks and there is a surfeit of data to prove it.

      3. Single parents are not living in their own homes, they are disproportionately renters, unable to build equity, falling further behind as the years pass, while requiring large taxpayer-funded transfer payments (e.g., food stamps, medical assistance, social services) from more successful, better planning households to make ends meet. Successful single parents are exceedingly rare – only 1 in 10 births to unwed mothers is to a woman who holds a college degree. Even then, all other factors held equal, her child is statistically more likely to end up short of where he or she would have been in life. Exceptions exist – Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both became President despite being raised by single mothers – but they do not negate the rule. If anything, they are wonderful examples because they turned around and broke the cycle, joining the ranks of the elite and modeling the traditional two-parent household for all its optimality.

      4. Those likely to experience a rejection of marriage, or who chafe under its expectations, are overwhelmingly likely to come from a home where the marriage example was broken, dysfunctional, or bad in some way. Children of happy marriages, by and large, grow up to desire happy marriages of their own (which is one of the reason you often see non-divorced, content people in clusters of certain family groups of demographics; it’s partially a learned skill set that has to do with learning to live with another person, resolving conflict, and engaging in long-range shared planning by subjugating your own short-term needs to the higher long-term outcome). This wholesale rejection of marriage simply does not exist in the upper classes, where individuals have increased their tendency to get married, stay married, and enjoy marriage relative to generations of yesteryear.

      If anything, you will have one or two lost generations of people who remained single, while the demographics adjust to extended adolescence. Like eye sight, or a sense of smell, marriage is simply too good of an evolutionary adaptation given human biology to not reassert itself every few generations. It’s force for human capital formation is so powerful, it’s one of the first things slaveowners forbid in the United States as they wanted to avoid the ties of loyalty that come from it! Nothing comes close. It’s the nearest thing to a society-wide panacea as exists.

      BTW, in nature a single parent family is extremely common.

      So is ripping the head off your mate after copulation so you can devour their still-writhing body, changing biological sexes under certain circumstances, and flinging your own poop for amusement, none of which are ideally suited to human adaptation. The appeal to nature as a model holds no value in this particular instance as no one is arguing that single parenthood is unnatural or immoral. Rather, they are pointing out that it is sub-optimal given the opportunity cost of most individuals who do not possess unique skill sets that would allow them to circumvent or supersede ordinary economic limitations; a fact backed up by an incalculably large body of evidence across multiple countries, cultures, languages, religions, governmental structures, and eons.

      • Joshua

        My wife and I have been reading “Poor Charlie’s Almanack” again this past month. When I read your blog I’m amazed how much your method of thought reminds me of Mungers. Thanks for the insight.

      • joe pierson

        1,2) Today the lower class lives better then the upper class did some 200 years ago, so indeed productivity gains do get shared with the lower class, this is undisputable.
        4) I disagree about the appeal to nature, ask yourself this question, if

        • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

          I just don’t think any of the science across a wide range of disciplines backs up any of those conclusions. I’m open to having my mind changed if you can argue it persuasively, but I think it would have precisely the inverse consequences you intend.

          If anything, the data leads me to arrive at the exact opposite opinion – that the introduction of no-fault divorce (which radically overhauled contract law by making marriage the only standard contract that could be broken without the other party’s consent) – resulted in immensely negative economic, political, academic, and sociological ramifications by shortening the effective timeframe of many marriages.

          In fact, I think there are much stronger arguments that the marriage covenants should be strengthened again, making the contract as difficult to break as any other, shifting the incentive system to make it more daunting, not less. The introduction of term-based contracts would provide society with the costs of marriage (tax breaks, incentives, etc.) without some of the benefits (married couples in old age, who are past their prime desirability curve, are less likely to be on welfare or need state assistance from taxpayers). The civilization has a vested interest in making sure a destitute spouse is taken care of by his or her husband or wife, not everybody else through an ever-expanding welfare state.

        • Exquisite Decay

          ” …so indeed productivity gains do get shared with the lower class, this is undisputable.” Eventually, but it may be several generations later by which time the rest of society has moved on.

  • Matt

    Some people take it as a source of pride that they succeeded even though they were born into a nontraditional family (single mother etc). So this is another example of Mokita because while people silently acknowledge the extra challenges of being raised in that type of environment, nobody wants to say it is inferior because it would offend single parents and perhaps show insensitivity to their struggles. I know someone who intentionally became a single mother because she was raised by a single mother and wanted to show that she could do it that way too. Sadly it probably isn’t the best thing for the child even if it’s what the mother wants.

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      The relationship between single parenthood and racial inequality in wealth and income is one of the most studied phenomenon in all of economics and a great place to cut your proverbial teeth if you ever want to dive into societal forces that have multiple variable inputs. It’s such a fascinating area to study.

      For example, going back to the 1970’s, one of the leading causes of poverty among black families was the propensity for women to have children out of wedlock. Yet, these women were having children out of wedlock because there was a dearth of “marriage material” black men, in part, because of a whole range of systematic oppression that was still very much in force in the decade following the civil rights movement when people were lynched simply for asking for the right to be served at a lunch counter or receive equal pay for equal work. For comparable infractions, black men were far more likely to be arrested, convicted, and serve hard time than a white man, making their employment prospects bleaker. They were far more likely to be shut out of hiring opportunities in upwardly mobile career trajectories. They were far more likely to be placed in failing schools in impoverished neighborhoods, resulting in a smaller skill set from the get-go due to the racism of those who controlled the boundary lines. They were far less likely to be able to get a home mortgage, even if they qualified, due to practices like “red lining” in the banking industry.

      Thus, any intelligent, honest reading of the data led a person to conclude you could not solve the single mother issue in black America in 1970 without solving the racism issue against black men, which was the systematic force setting the entire series of sub-optimal decisions in motion. It – the racism – was sort of the “Oz Behind the Curtain” pulling the strings. The single parenthood was a symptom that became its own cause further down the line. It was far more complex than it first appeared.

      Now, generations later, the data seems to indicate that racial oppression is no longer the primary cause of these single parent households, but rather economic, cultural, and social inertia. The forces that were set in motion during the era of Jim Crow now have created a sort of self-reinforcing maelstrom of broken families, single parents, undereducated children, who then go on to repeat the cycle. It’s one of the reasons economists and politicians speak in nuance – overt racism is no longer the cause of these conditions, but past, historical racism set off a chain reaction that is responsible, without question.

      How do we fix it as civilization? We still have 72% of black children born to an unwed mother, which immediately puts them at a disadvantage relative to white, Asian, or Hispanic kids. Time seems to be undoing a lot of the damage if you look at graduation rates of minority students, which has predictive ability to tell us how many of those students will go on to repeat the cycle. Integration also plays a role (fully 50% of the youngest generation of my family tree on both sides is now half black/half white).

      Personally, the only thing I’ve seen that comes close to the miraculous is Geoffrey Canada. He brought all his brain power to reversing these trends in a 100-block radius around Harlem, New York and managed to take entire generations of kids from the lower class to the middle and upper classes through his Harlem Children’s Zone organization. The statistics are clear that, once the cycle is broken, people rarely relapse. There will be children born 20 years from now who will grow up to be doctors, dentists, attorneys, and Senators because of the work that man did. I wish he’d take over the Kansas City School board. Heck, if I had control over the Federal budget, I’d give him $50 billion to setup a system of national programs in every major impoverished area to replicate his results because society would get dividends that were exponentially higher back from it, though it would take a few decades to see the payback that would come in the form of higher tax revenue, lower crime, lower medical expenses, lower food stamps, higher human capital.

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      Found it! Here is a chart showing the birth rates of out of wedlock children by the educational attainment of the mother. When you cross reference it with the data on racial inequality, it becomes clear that the gap in education is one of the primary drivers of the differential in birth rates, which itself drives inequality (reinforcing the very thing that makes attaining an education so difficult; it’s a cycle).

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      While being a single parent is challenging and shouldn’t be seen as a sign of inferiority for the parent or child, it would be best if society acknowledged if this was suboptimal rather than pretend that it is another equal lifestyle choice. I think it would do much good to open this to public discourse and not sweep it under the rug for the sake of protecting feelings or making everyone feel equal.

      That really is the heart of the matter. Anyone who is concerned about poverty, social justice, and / or racial inequality should absolutely take this approach. There does seem to be a Mokita effect as the educated and wealthy don’t want to appear judgmental so they preach one thing to their own children while remaining silent to the general population, further widening the gap and hurting the poor. It’s a case of good intentions leading to bad results.

      If you’re interested in studying it further, and want to see some of the breakdowns in how various demographic traits correlate with the propensity to have a child out of wedlock, here is a wealth of charts and graphs based on very sound underlying data.

      When you cross-reference the numbers with the Census data on educational attachment (Source PDF here), it becomes clear that education plays a major role. To illustrate: It isn’t an accident that 50.2% of Asian Americans have a bachelor’s degree or higher, while enjoying the lowest out-of-wedlock birthrate at 17.2%. It’s correlated. Cross-reference this further with the Federal Reserve data on family wealth and income and you start to see the self-reinforcing patterns (e.g., Asians have far more wealth and income than their share of the general population would indicate). Success begets success, which begets more success. It’s another form of compounding.

  • Dipsy

    I just had a look at the following entry on wiki
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legitimacy_(law)

    It seems that Europe also has a large percentage of illegitimate birth. For instance, Sweden and Norway are both above 50%. Latin America is even higher. This is surprising to me. I come from Eastern Asia and it’s considered very very shameful to have children outside of marriage in my country.

  • Dan

    It would be interesting to see the differences between children raised in a “just staying together for the kids” scenario (i.e. one where there are 3 children and the divorce just so happens to come when the youngest is 18), vs. children in a single parent household.
    Basically what I am wondering is a child better to be raised by parents in a “loveless” or at least tense/unhappy marriage or better the parents just get divorced and be raised in a single parent household. It would be hard to determine, but interesting to see the results.

    • Alexis C

      There’s a good book Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce by Elizabeth Marquardt that addresses this. The findings appeared to be that unless the marriage was a “high conflict” one, e.g., physical abuse and/or frequent high-tension high-volume arguing, the quality of the marriage didn’t make much difference. In other words, you were much better off in a family with a loveless marriage than a single parent.

  • R

    This does have some value in judging personal decisions. At a statistical level I don’t think it’s that consistent though. It’s well-documented that many families are easily able to come up with expenses that match or exceed their incomes. Anecdotally, this thread that I read last week shows the potential downsides: http://gailvazoxlade.com/blog/?p=5872.

    At a personal level I decided that staying in my marriage was likely to lead to the outcome demonstrated above. So far things are working out as I expected, but as you said my economic position is a very important part of this. My income, assets, and terms of work are all unusually favorable for my age. Someone who takes the time to prepare themselves with the right assets or career can be in a position to support children without having a spouse. It just won’t be very common.

    There are a lot of support programs for lower incomes though. For example I could get a daycare subsidy that covers 2/3 of the costs at low income levels. Combined with a few other programs that could come very close to covering my living expenses, given that I am already very conscious about not over-spending. Someone who is very disciplined financially could increase their wealth even as a single parent with a low income. It would be slow because they are already very leveraged.

    The only other alternative I can see is traditional family structures where there are less distinct households and grandparents (or relatives with less responsibilities) are a lot more involved. That effectively creates the same pooled resources.

  • PTGDUDLEY

    It’s no coincidence that Mr. Buffet states the two best investments he ever made were marriage licenses.

  • Andie

    My parents have a good bond; but with a schizophrenic brother causing violence and chaos in the household for over 12 years, i can attest to the fact that broken households lead to broken futures. But i keep moving forward everyday like there is no other route available. Marching on. One day i will be right there on top with the kids from advantaged families.

  • innerscorecard

    I’m not sure if the following is symptom or (minor) cause, but I really despise how the celebrities featured in the media (especially the media most accessible to the working class) are entertainers who often come from and have broken families. There are so many positive role models that most working people don’t know about when they think about the relationship between success and family- Sam Walton, Walter Schloss, hell, even Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs to some degree.

  • Caleb Hutson

    Joshua, I am always impressed with the vastness of your interests and knowledge. Do you just read books on all topics that interest you?

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      Yep. Anything and everything. Just my most recent few Amazon orders include a book on the economics of the movie industry, a book by a feminist about gender equality between men and women, a chocolate cookbook from Switzerland, a business book about the influence of thinking patterns, the writings on naval warfare strategies from AT. Mahan, a biography of people detailing first hand accounts of those who have escaped from North Korea, a book about the societal reaction to the AIDs crisis in the 1980’s, a new translation of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, The Problems of Philosophy of Bertrand Russell, a book on Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a book on human mating strategies in evolution, Hitler’s Mein Kampf (which I’ve been meaning to read forever given that Churchhill said the man spelled out his strategies in it but it always gets shoved to the back of the pile so one of these days), the biography of the Marriott hotel founder, some software books, a sociological history of the lives of sexual minorities in the steel industry in the United States, a book of vignettes into the lives of artists and how they spend their work day, books on competitive advantage by Michael Porter, etc. On the trip to California a couple of weeks ago, I picked up several books on the journey, too, including one on customer service management, another on the financial crisis.

      I get curious about things and then throw myself into them to the exclusion of everything else. I like seeing how it works together, how everything interacts with everything else. Books, I’ve found, are the most efficient way to gather as much information from the widest sources on any given area. Nothing comes close as a replacement.

  • Jack Scheible

    Just to nit-pick a little (and please just delete this — I do not mean to distract, but to get you to remove a distraction):

    “This leads to a sort of Gordian Knot, bound by social niceties, where the
    desire to avoid individual injustice is leading to a system-wide failure
    that ultimately harms women and children in tangible ways that will
    follow them throughout their lifetime.”

    Forgot the “LY”.

  • Anon

    A lot of people are talking, and it seems to be gaining traction, but I fear it will fizzle out very soon. I hope I’m wrong.

    http://video.foxnews.com/v/3387039695001/paul-ryan-attacked-over-poverty-remark/?playlist_id=86923#sp=show-clips

  • Jeff Robison

    As usual, awesome article. I just wanted to ask a quick question. You and I are similar in age and we both seem to have played all the same video games growing up. Did you learn the word panacea from Final Fantasy? :-D

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      No, but I did learn from Chrono Trigger that the word “Chrono” involves time as it is a reference to Chronos, the god / personification of time. As a kid, it was so cool to encounter it everywhere and suddenly get it (words like chronic, anachronism, chronicle, chronology, synchronize, expensive watches called chronometers). And the reference to Janus, the god of doors, gates, passages, beginnings, and endings.

      That game also made me inherently distrustful of secret government projects to build things under the sea … though that ship has already sailed. Let’s just hope they don’t wake something that shouldn’t be awoken ;)

      • Jeff Robison

        Haha, my wife has always found it funny how much I learned from video games.
        I loved Chrono Trigger btw. I spent many hours going through the game multiple times to unlock everything.

  • joe dias

    Before one becomes a parent its hard to understand the amount of work it takes. From first hand experience raising three boys ages 5, 3, and 1 so far, I can say without hesitation that it’s both the toughest and most rewarding work of my life. My wife is a stay at home mom by choice and I feel lucky that she wants to do that. She could easily take her degree to the workforce in lieu of the harder job she does 24/7 raising our kids. It would be too hard for me personally to do what she does raising our kids. I a have a MBA and have been through enlisted and officer military training and still I could not do it. The job of raising kids is just so all encompassing, time consuming, and taxing no matter how much one loves their kids. Two parent are always going to have the advantage over one parent. That is the simple fact of it. One parent can only do so much especially without an education and ambition.

  • krystal

    YES, Wedding Rings Are the New Indicator of Social and Economic Class. It is true

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