Saturday, June 01, 2013

Why Lou Dobbs Is Sad About Employed Moms

He elaborated on that today, with a blackboard and all!  So that we can be educated, I guess.

There you have it.  Dobbs is of course overjoyed, elated, even, about the success of those mothers who make more than their husbands.  Weak applause.  But what he is concerned abolut are the single mothers who have very low earnings.  If only those single mothers would get married, they would no longer be poor and all would be well in Lou Dobbs' world!

The lecture he gives us links all this to the boys' school crisis.  It's not quite clear why that link is being made.  It could be because a study earlier this spring speculated that perhaps it is the boys who grew up in female single-parent families who end up with low ambition and no desire to go to college.

Or Dobbs might be saying that the poorer single-mothers are single because men aren't going to college enough and are therefore poor prospects to marry?

Hmm.  It could also be the case that Lou Dobbs has nightmares about a topsy-turvy world where women do the sort of stuff he has been doing for years and where he might have to do the sort of stuff many women have done for years.

I report, you decide.

I'm not making fun of the problems of poverty or of boys dropping out of high school or of not going to college.  But I do want to make fun of the assumption that Dobbs' use of a blackboard and a few income figures is the same as a deep study into the causes behind single-parent families or that the solution of more marriage would work just by every single mother saying "okay" aloud to the world in general.  Reality is much, much more complicated than that.

To give a few examples of those complications,  many female single parents would be poor even if they weren't parents, because they come from poverty and because they have lower average levels of education.

Then there's the fact that it's not only the lack of a second adult worker in the family which causes low incomes among single mothers.  It's also their gender,  in the following sense:

Single fathers have much higher median earnings than single mothers.  In 2010, for example, the estimated median household income for single-mother families was $32,031.  The estimated median household income for single-father families the same year was $49,718.

Thus,  it is not the single-parent status alone that might make a family more likely to be poor.  It is the female single-parent status.  And that could be because the jobs women do are less well paid than the jobs men do.  That, in turn, could be influenced.*

But Dobbs wants these people to get married.  Perhaps we could have a giant auction where all single parents are forced to pick a partner in a lottery?  Because there are many more single mothers than fathers, we could just force lots of unmarried men to also participate in this lottery.  Take one for the team, so to speak.

That's ridiculous.  But the mechanical approach Dobbs has to the whole question boils down to something similar.

I'm also 100% convinced that if Pew came up with a study which shows 100% of husbands earning vastly more than their wives and the percentage of single-parent households at 0% our Lou would be very happy.   He's a traditional kind of guy, right?
*The numbers I quote here are from the census, but they are household incomes.  Some of those households may have earnings by an older child, say, which could explain why the numbers are higher than those based on 2009 worker data or those given in the Pew survey.

It's also possible that the single-father households have higher incomes for reasons other than the gender difference in earnings.  For example,  perhaps single fathers are more common in other income classes than the poorest, whereas the reverse holds for single mothers.