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Another Economic Must-Read

Current Atlantic cover story, Can the Middle Class be Saved?, expertly lays out the special economic dilemma facing men. Especially compelling are the sections about the social implications:

In a national study of the American family released late last year, the sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox wrote that among "Middle Americans"--people with a high-school diploma but not a college degree--an array of signals of family dysfunction have begun to blink red. "The family lives of today's moderately educated Americans," which in the 1970s closely resembled those of college graduates, now "increasingly resemble those of high-school dropouts, too often burdened by financial stress, partner conflict, single parenting, and troubled children."

"The speed of change," wrote Wilcox, "is astonishing." By the late 1990s, 37 percent of moderately educated couples were divorcing or separating less than 10 years into their first marriage, roughly the same rate as among couples who didn't finish high school and more than three times that of college graduates. By the 2000s, the percentage in "very happy" marriages--identical to that of college graduates in the 1970s--was also nearing that of high-school dropouts. Between 2006 and 2008, among moderately educated women, 44 percent of all births occurred outside marriage, not far off the rate (54 percent) among high-school dropouts; among college-educated women, that proportion was just 6 percent.

The same pattern--families of middle-class nonprofessionals now resembling those of high-school dropouts more than those of college graduates--emerges with norm after norm: the percentage of 14-year-old girls living with both their mother and father; the percentage of adolescents wanting to attend college "very much"; the percentage of adolescents who say they'd be embarrassed if they got (or got someone) pregnant; the percentage of never-married young adults using birth control all the time.

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