Family Structure is Overrated as an Explanation of Inequality, Part 2 on DeParle
|Written by Shawn Fremstad|
|Tuesday, 17 July 2012 09:30|
In Sunday's New York Times, Jason DeParle contrasts the economic security of Jessica Shairer, a single mother of three who works at a child care center in Ann Arbor and makes under $25,000 (despite having an A.A. degree, being a manager, and working six years with the same employer), with that of her boss, Chris Faulkner, who is married to a man who appears to makes around $60,000. (DeParle says Ms. Faulkner makes $25,000 a year, and that her family income is near "the 75th percentile", so their total income is probably around $85,000).
DeParle's uses Shairer and Faulker to tell a story that pins a big chunk of the rising income inequality among families with children on changes in family structure. As the story's title puts it, when Deparle looks at Shairer and Faulkner, he sees "Two Classes, Divided by 'I Do.'" As I pointed out in my previous post, the reality-based, rather than anecdotal, evidence for his framing is weak. Yes, the increase in single-parent families between 1975-1985 had some affect on inequality among families with children, but long-term increases in women's employment and educational attainment far outweight any effect family structure trends have had.
When I read DeParle's story, the big questions that came up for me mostly had to do with gender inequality and how poorly we compensate workers like Ms. Shairer (and Ms. Faulkner for that matter) whose job it is to take care of children, seniors, and people with disabilities.
Alas, DeParle doesn't ask these questions, maybe because Charles Murray hasn't written a book about them.
I should add that these are not small questions, and that they will only get more important going forward. Currently, some 4.15 million workers are employed in two major care occupations—child care workers and direct care workers (nursing aides, personal and home care aides, and home health aides). All of the major care occupations are on the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s list of the occupations with the largest projected job growth by 2018. Overall, the major care occupations are projected to grow by nearly 1.3 million jobs between 2008 and 2018, a 28 percent increase. By the way, this projected increase is considerably larger than the miniscule decline in the share of children living with both parents over the last decade (69.1% in 2001 to 68.9% in 2011).