Friday, February 24, 2012

The College Class Has Their Kids Within Marriage

This week's scary demography story is that most children born to women under thirty in this country are born out of wedlock.

The articles note that this is not true for college graduate moms, 92% of whom get married before they have their kids.

One detail struck me as interesting as much as a marker of the shifting class divide as of this demographic shift. 

For a generation the most important class divide in America has been between those who only graduated from high school and those who went to college.  Lately, though, some sociologists have argued that the big gap has shifted upward.  Now the main cleavage is between those who graduated from college, and those who did not.

The new report supports this new place to draw the line.  Child Trends, who conducted the study found that

The fastest growth [of out-of-wedlock births] in the last two decades has occurred among white women in their 20s who have some college education but no four-year degree.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fool's Hell

Centrist Thought of the Day (Source: Me)

Just as there is a Fool's Paradise for people who worry too little,
There is a Fool's Hell for people who worry too much.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Men's Preference for Educated Women is Rising

I blogged a whole series on Christine Whelan's 2007 book, Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women, starting here.  She has a new study advancing this point, with a nifty chart of men's changing preferences in women.
I am particularly struck by the big leap upward for "Education, intelligence," and, to a lesser extent, "Good financial prospect" as something that men look for in a wife.

I believe this change is especially prominent in the educated classes - proving the point that smart men marry smart women in a double sense.

(From "Measuring Mate Preferences: A Replication and Extension" by Christine B. Whelan, University of Pittsburgh, and Christie F. Boxer and Mary Noonan, University of Iowa). 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Creeping Predictive Analytics Are the Price of the Information Age

Charles Duhigg has a fascinating and somewhat creepy article in the New York Times on how corporations can know so much about you through "predictive analytics."  Target can figure out that your daughter is pregnant before you do, to take one example from the article, just from her series of ordinary-looking purchases.

Sellers have gotten so good at figuring out what you will buy and sending you suggestions when you are vulnerable to change buying habits that customers have figured out that they are being spied upon.  So the companies have developed a new layer of subterfuge to hide their suggestions within seemingly random offers, most of which they know you will ignore.

The irony of my reading this article in the online version of the Times is that now the Times knows of my interest in predictive analytics, and can tuck that away in its own database of thing to try to sell me - such as Charles Duhigg's book on predictive analytics and habit formation.

I am reconciled to the fact that in exchange for the thousand ways that I benefit daily from the information revolution, the price I pay is that information providers know a great deal about me. And some of them will try to sell me stuff, based on that information.

I don't see "living off the grid" as in any way an attractive strategy.  So the realistic options in a world in which large corporations and the state constantly spy on me are
1) live a public life; and
2) buy at small local stores.  With cash.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Growing Education Gap Reflects a Marriage Gap

A set of new reports show that the educational achievement gap between rich and poor kids is growing.  These same reports show that the gap between black and white kids is shrinking.  But the race gap is still large.

I think both of these movements point to a crucial third term: the growing marriage gap between the haves and have-less.

Marriage doesn't cure everything.  After two generations of educational assortive mating - brains marry brains - there are growing ability differences between the top and bottom of the educational structure.

Still, people who marry before they have kids and stay that way do invest in their children's learning more, both inside school and out. They can close much of the educational gap by investing their time and improving their own knowledge, for their children's sake.

Most of the education gap is a family gap, which poor families can best address by making stronger marriages. This is a hard project, and not one the government can do much about.  But it is by no means hopeless.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Rick Santorum's Fight Against Satan

Rick Santorum has been criticized for a 2008 speech at Ave Maria University.  He argued that Satan had been attacking American culture for a long time - first through academia, then the elite they taught, then the mainline churches, then the politicians, and then the wealthy.

The line that has been making news this week is his attack on mainline Protestant churches, such as my own Presbyterian Church (U.S.A):

And of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is a shambles. It is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it. So they attacked mainline Protestantism, they attacked the Church, and what better way to go after smart people who also believe they’re pious — to use both vanity and pride to go after the Church.

This criticism of mainline Protestantism as apostate and even Satanic is a common criticism made by all branches of the Christian Right, both Catholics like Santorum and, even more fiercely, by Protestants.  And they make a similar critique of the Catholic Church, especially the peace and justice side of Catholicism associated with the conference of bishops.  Ave Maria University and institutions like it were created by dissident conservative Catholics to have a safe place, set apart from the mainline center of their own denomination.

I urge you to listen to the whole speech, which is on the Ave Maria podcast site. The best part of it is his impassioned story of why it is worth fighting for what you think is a good cause, even against long odds and many defeats.  Santorum, who had just been defeated for re-election to the U.S. Senate, told the students they were lucky to be living in such a bleak time, when Satan had won over so many institutions in America and, of course, abroad.  They had the chance to enlist in God's army.  Which is how Rick Santorum sees himself: an unlikely private in God's army, fighting the Father of Lies.