Saturday, June 06, 2009

Alternative Baby Faces

A wonderful image from "Texts from Last Night":

Whenever I'm sad I just imagine if babies were born with mustaches...

Friday, June 05, 2009

Modern Hunting and Gathering

A side thought from the Furstenberg conference.

Kevin Roy reported that among the working poor, men make more per hour, but are less stably employed than are women.

This sounds just like the relationship between hunters and gatherers.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Welfare Dads

At the Furstenberg conference, Kathryn Edin reported on a new study of poor, unmarried fathers. This is the counterpart to her work in Promises I Can Keep on poor teen mothers.

In the teen welfare mom and dad "courtship story," there is barely any courtship - and what there is begins after the baby is born. The couple meets, "get's together," has a baby, and then, if he is still around, begins to know one another. The men describe their relations with the mothers of their children, as well as their child's birth, passively. The emotional high point of the relationship is the birth of the child. The mothers are usually excited about the baby, and normally become emotionally attached right away. The fathers often also fall in love - with the baby.

Poor men and women are usually mistrustful of one another, even if they theoretically are a couple and have a child together. The women don't expect the men to provide for the child, and the men fear that they will be dumped if they don't provide. Edin found that the men would often do things to accelerate the breakup - fooling with other women or getting arrested - so she would no longer expect anything of him.

The most interesting, but sad, thing that Edin found was that these poor fathers never expected to be able to keep the love or respect of the mothers of their children. “They are confident," Edin said, that "they can be good dads because all that good fathering takes is love, not money.”

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Losing Game of Multiple Partner Fertility

One of the major issues at the Furstenberg conference was "multiple partner fertility" - that is, women who have children by different men.

Sarah McLanahan reported that when poor single mothers move from man to man, they are usually trading up, if only marginally. They have a child with the new man to give them a stronger reason to stay together.

However, McLanahan also reported, the more children women have with different men, the less help they get from the extended kin network of any of the fathers of their children.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Family Instability Hurts Boys in School

Sarah McLanahan reported from her continuing study of "fragile families" at the Furstenberg conference. She had some interesting new things to say about the effects of family instability - especially boyfriends passing in and out of the household.

One major effect is that instability increases the mother's mental health problems, especially depression and anxiety.

Another major finding is that instability hurts boys more than girls.

This led me to a thought about why girls out-perform boys in school, when the reverse used to be true: girls may be passing boys because instability hurts boys more, and family instability is increasing.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Working Class Women Are the Most Likely to Live with Multiple Partners

At the Furstenberg conference Andrew Cherlin made a case for studying working class family patterns separately from the middle class and the poor. He doesn't want to use class terms, so instead he treated high school graduates, GED holders, and two-year Associates degree holders as collectively the middle group of his analysis.

Cherlin found that women who live with multiple partners -- whether married or cohabiting -- are more likely to come from this working class/middle education group. College educated women are more likely to marry, and more likely to stay married. Poor women are less likely to live with, and especially unlikely to marry, the men they are connected with, even if they have children with them.

Bad things happen to kids each time someone significant comes or goes from their household. Working class kids are even more likely to suffer these disruptions than poor kids are. This is interesting and not obvious.