Friday, July 01, 2011

Marriage as a Modest Home

When an unmarried couple with children gets married, it is like when Habitat for Humanity helps a family replace their shack with a modest house.

It doesn't solve all of their problems, but is sure makes a better structure to live in.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Marriage Means More Money, Even for the Poorest

Another dispatch from the Schreyer Seminar on Marriage, Family, and Social Sciences.

Jeffrey Dew, as sociologist at Utah State, shared some findings from his forthcoming paper, "The Relationship Between Family Structure and Economic Wellbeing."

It has been well established the married couples have more income and more wealth than unmarried couples, and married parents have much more wealth than single parents. It is also well known that few households in the lowest income quartile have any wealth at all. However, Dew found married couples in the lowest income quartile still have more wealth than other households in that bottom income group.

Women who grew up poor but got married were no more likely to be poor than other women are. But women who grew up poor and did not get married were a third more likely to end up poor than other women are.

Dew estimates that family structure change accounts for at least 10%, and perhaps 25%, of the growing inequality between the richest and poorest households.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Flexible Work Helps Families and Produces More Work

Another dispatch from the Schreyer Seminar on Marriage, Family, and Social Sciences.

Jeff Hill, now a Brigham Young professor after a career at IBM, had some of the most interesting detailed studies of the seminar, from his work on the effect of telecommuting at IBM.

The white collar professionals of IBM like to work. However, when they had to report to an office during specified hours, they had stresses from not being able to control when and where they worked, and from the rush-hour commute they had to endure. As the expected hours of work rose, Hill found a break point - the number of work hours per week at which half the workers felt the stress was too great to be worth it. With inflexible work space and time, that break point was, on average, 52 hours per week.

However, when IBM - out of dire economic necessity - instituted flexibility, they got more work out of their employees, with less stress.

For one thing, eliminating the commute removed what other researchers have found to be a chronic source of unhappiness that people do not adapt to. Hill found that when people no longer had to commute, they tended to add about half of that previously unproductive time to their work hours.

Second, the number of number of hours that IBMers could work rose until they hit a new break point of 60 hours per week.

Hill also found that women tended to make more use of flexibility in time, arranging work at home around their family schedules. Men, on the other hand, made more use of flexibility in space, working more from locations that were neither home nor office.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The U.S. Has Had Stable Replacement Fertility for Forty Years

Another dispatch from the Schreyer Seminar on Marriage, Family, and Social Sciences

So argues Philip Morgan, an eminent Duke sociologist.

He says that the big decline in fertility has come from the disappearance of the third and fourth children that parents had during the Baby Boomer. There has not been a huge increase in women having no children at all in this country.

There is also the appearance of a decline in fertility because women have been delaying having their first child by about a year per decade. This means that fertility so far of women in their twenties is much lower than it used to be. However, most women will have those delayed kids, eventually.

The United States also benefits from the somewhat higher fertility of immigrants, especially from Mexico and points south. This higher fertility only lasts a generation, and will probably decline as the fertility of the sending countries goes down. Morgan estimates that higher Hispanic fertility accounts for about 9% of total U.S. fertility.

These elements - most women eventually have a couple of kids, and some women have more - has, Morgan argued, actually kept U.S. fertility at about a steady replacement level of 2.1 children per women for more than a generation. Moreover, he believes, we can keep this level of fertility steady, to produce long-term population stability. This would be a new thing in the history of America. Morgan believes it would be a good thing.