Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Parenthood and Poverty

Just a quick post tonight, because I'm busy commenting at Crooked Timber.

What has bothered some about the Alstott book is that her proposal of a $5,000 grant to care givers is not mean tested. Madonna would get the same $10,000 for Rocco and Loudes, as a mother of two in Cabrini Green. (Is that hell-hole still around?)

Alstott says that a means tested program would be difficult to administer and would be politically unpopular. Also, even wealthy mothers economic situation can be reversed if their cheating husband gets a good lawyer. So, just give the money to everybody. It will have a bigger impact on the lives of the poor anyway.

Given the fact that we have few resources, I think it would be better to not give Madonna a payout. She's just going to spend it on more Kabala lessons.

But let's not lose sight of the fact that economic and social inequality is tied very closely to having children. The poor are overwhelmingly single mothers. And even middle class mothers face enormous discrimination and obstacles in the workplace.

My husband works for a big Wall Street company where everbody sits on long desks. On one side of him, is one woman, M. M is married and childless. Between her and husband, they pull in about $300,000. M shops for SUVs on line, flies to Norway for weekends, and lives in a posh apartment over looking Central Park. The woman on his other side, P, is the office secretary. She's a single mother of a 7 year old girl. She has had to move two or three times in the past year, looking for affordable housing near good public schools. She is always exhausted because she has to commute an hour to her affordable apartment, pick up her daughter from school, make dinner, and help her with homework. She'll never have the time to get an MBA or a law degree to secure a higher salary. She's probably not getting any support from her former husband.

Parenthood is enormously expensive and is at the root of most social inequality today. If you are at all concerned with these issues, then finding a way to lessen the gap between M and P is essential. In this context, Alstott's $5,000 grant seems very small indeed.

UPDATE: Chick tells me that Cabrini Green still exists and points me to this article.

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