This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

It's All About the Children

Economic inequality is a major global theme, and the recession has created concerns about inequality in the US, especially due to the "hollowing out" of the middle class, as I discussed yesterday. David Brooks of the New York Times pointed out today that the more troubling aspect of inequality is that which seems to be occurring among children in the US. His article draws heavily on the work of Robert Putnam at Harvard (author of Bowling Alone), who just presented his latest research at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
While most studies look at inequality of outcomes among adults and help us understand how America is coming apart, Putnam’s group looked at inequality of opportunities among children. They help us understand what the country will look like in the decades ahead. The quick answer? More divided than ever.Putnam’s data verifies what many of us have seen anecdotally, that the children of the more affluent and less affluent are raised in starkly different ways and have different opportunities. Decades ago, college-graduate parents and high-school-graduate parents invested similarly in their children. Recently, more affluent parents have invested much more in their children’s futures while less affluent parents have not.
Brooks offers his opinion of the source of these trends:

A long series of cultural, economic and social trends have merged to create this sad state of affairs. Traditional social norms were abandoned, meaning more children are born out of wedlock. Their single parents simply have less time and resources to prepare them for a more competitive world. Working-class jobs were decimated, meaning that many parents are too stressed to have the energy, time or money to devote to their children.
Affluent, intelligent people are now more likely to marry other energetic, intelligent people. They raise energetic, intelligent kids in self-segregated, cultural ghettoes where they know little about and have less influence upon people who do not share their blessings.
While this may not tell the whole story, these are certainly elements of it. Note, too, that the story does circle back to the adults, among whom "working-class jobs were decimated." 

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