Parenting by Class

Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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89 Responses

  1. BSK says:


    Isn’t this is as much about generational trends? Twenty years ago middle-class parents did not practice concerted cultivation the way they do now. It was largel a privilege of the upper-class. The style was the mimicked ans it trickled down because it was seen as desirable since i was what the rich folks did. Soon it will trickle down to the working/lower class, by which point the upper-class will have so changed their style that concerted cultivation will no longer provide the skills needed to succeed. On and on and on…

    This is how all trends work. There was a great study done on naming patterns showing this same phenomenon. Elites choose names to set their kids apart, which are then usedby the middle and eventually lower classes who are thinking by using the names of the elites their children will have a dhance at being elite. The elite look at the unwashed masses using these names and abandon them, not wanting anything to do with “poor names”.

    The elite will always drive culture. An unfortunate reality.Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to BSK says:

      BSK – That logic only works if you assume that those parenting styles can leap from class to class via some means of transmission I am not aware of. The research I am reading lately seems to indicate that basic life skills are largely hereditary.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        basic life skills are often cultural.

        Throwing a wild party when you got money is a cultural thing, used to forge/strengthen friendships that you’ll need when times are tough.

        It may seem wasteful to someone from the middle class,b ut it’s actually adaptive.Report

      • BSK in reply to Mike Dwyer says:


        How does anything get transmitted from class to class or culture to culture?  Groups emulate what they see the successful doing.  How do trends develop?

        Soccer moms are a recent phenomenon.  How did that get started?  They weren’t always there.Report

        • Mike Dwyer in reply to BSK says:

          Yeah, but the issue is that the same problems we see in lower-income communities regarding poor life skills now are problems that were documented in Black Metropolis  in 1945. I just don’t see this stuff being passed on as a cultural trait. It seems to be directly linked to moving up the economic ladder.Report

          • BSK in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            Well, it is clear that it has less to do with parenting style and more to do with something else.

            Rich parents are not parenting the same way they did 20 years ago or 50 years ago or 100 years ago or 200 years ago.  Yet, overwhelmingly, the children of rich parents have better outcomes than the children of poor parents.  So there is something else going on that is impacting children’s outcomes than parenting style.  Yet parenting style is the easiest thing to change and gets the most attention.Report

            • Pierre Corneille in reply to BSK says:


              What you say makes sense, but I’m not sure how we really know rich people are parenting differently now from how they did it 20 / 50 /100 years ago.  Of course, practices change, so parenting strategies have probably changed, at least to some degree.  But “how much” and “in what ways” parenting changed is probably very hard to know without more evidence.

              I’m pretty ignorant about this type of history, so I don’t know the answer(s).  As a primary school teacher, you probably know much more about this than I do, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you have at least a working knowledge or better of the relevant literature on how parenting practices have changed, but I still suspect that the empirical question is up for debate.Report

              • BSK in reply to Pierre Corneille says:


                I suppose that is sort of my point… parenting has changed in some ways, but some basics remain the same.  I work in independent schools, so I work with a lot of very wealthy parents.  In the past, children took classes on etiquette and horse riding and other skills that were preferred among the elites and allowed them access to elite circles.  Now they are tutored out the ass and take Mandarin.  So, the basic structure of highly organized, skill-driven focus remains, but the skills have changed.

                There are other ways in which things are very different.  Historically, deference to authority was highly prized by the upper class, in part because they had a monopoly on authority and engendering a wide deference to that was in their best interest.  That has changed dramatically.  It is primarily the upper and now middle class parents who talk of empowering kids and who create long lines at McDonalds while they let little Johnny ponder exactly which Happy Meal he wants for 20 minutes.  It is the lower class parents who, by and large, most favor an authoritarian parenting style.  Traditional education, which used to dominate elite private schools, is now blended or completely replaced with more progressive models (even if they still call it ‘traditional’).  Lower class parents still prefer and push for traditional education.

                The wealthy are at the front of the trend, in part because they drive it.  It is self-fulfilling.  The rest are trying to keep up with the Joneses, who keep moving the goalposts.

                You also have larger societal trends at play.  Natural growth parenting is widely frowned upon in our society, if not illegal.  Try letting your young kids roam the neighborhood without getting dirty looks from neighbors or visits from the police and/or social services.  Look at Lenore Skenazy and her Free Range Kid movement, which has some proponents but many decry as irresponsible and immoral.  So, yes, that movement is going to shift in most areas for most families, regardless of class.

                Obviously, none of this is absolute.  If you are interested in the subject, I can point you towards some readings on the matter.  Some of them are very “clinical”, but a book like “Huck’s Raft”, which tracks the history of childhood (not one in the same with parenting style but obviously heavily influenced by it), is much more accessible.Report

              • Pierre Corneille in reply to BSK says:


                Thanks for the explanation.  Now I have much better sense of where you’re coming from.  Thanks also for the reference to “Huck’s Raft.”Report

              • BSK in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                Not a problem.  I love an opportunity to “talk shop”.

                I will say I am overgeneralizing.  There is a lot that goes into parenting style that goes beyond class/wealth.  And there is a lot that goes into children’s outcomes beyond parenting style.

                In general, though, it is a fairly well-documented phenomenon that the elites of a society lead trends.Report

              • Scrooge McDuck in reply to BSK says:

                Excellent post.   I just ordered Huck’s Raft from Amazon.Report

              • BSK in reply to Scrooge McDuck says:

                Awesome! I love that it goes way back in American history beyond just the contemporary. Enjoy!Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BSK says:

                Huck’s Raft is excellent.  I remember teaching my kiddoes about sex when they were about ten or so, saying

                “Five hundred years ago, there was no such thing as Adolescence.  It’s a horrible, cruel joke about to be perpetrated on you for the next decade of your life.   Your bodies will be physically adult but society will treat you like babies.   Of course, 500 years ago, you’d be dead by the age 40 and few people knew their grandparents back then.    So get ready for it.”

                “Inside this house, you’ll be treated like you would have been back then.   You’re no longer babies and I’ll be damned if I’m going to treat you as if you were.   Outside, well. we’ll have to work this out as it happens, I haven’t got a plan for what they’re likely to do.   Just know this:   until you’re 18 or 21, some things will be off limits for you and though I think it’s stupid, we have to play along with this society.   It will be terribly confusing.”Report

              • BSK in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I took an adolescent psych course in college in wich the prof put forth his theory of an even newer stage of development called emerging adulthood, wherein oung adults weren’t really adults because of how infantilized they have become. While I agreed that there was a problem with this infantilization, I couldn’t help but point out the inanity of proposing that a few generations of questinable parenting could change the developemtal process of a species.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BSK says:

                Society has changed.   Look at the issue of corporal punishment.   Bigbig changes.   It will change us as a species.Report

            • ktward in reply to BSK says:

              Yet, overwhelmingly, the children of rich parents have better outcomes than the children of poor parents.  So there is something else going on that is impacting children’s outcomes than parenting style.

              That “something else” is called economic advantage. Wealthy parents can afford the very best in advocacy to compensate for any environmental inadequacies that might exist: nannies, easy entrance into the finest educational institutions, whatever.

              The poor and working class have only their own parenting wherewithal, whatever it is, to rely upon. Which is why education and community support/outreach is so critical. This is the very premise behind the whole ‘It takes a village to raise a child” thing.

              Unless you’re suggesting that our economically-challenged parents, collectively, don’t inherently CARE about the ultimate outcome of their children’s lives, then in the main all they’re really lacking are the resources that afford them the opportunities that the wealthy are able to take for granted.Report

              • BradK in reply to ktward says:

                Unless you’re suggesting that our economically-challenged parents, collectively, don’t inherently CARE about the ultimate outcome of their children’s lives, then in the main all they’re really lacking are the resources that afford them the opportunities that the wealthy are able to take for granted.

                I’m sorry but this is just another take on the cookie-cutter leftist blame storming mantra.  “It’s not my fault my child failed, it’s society’s.”  It doesn’t take a village to raise a kid, it takes at least one — preferably two — dedicated parents.  The primary reason so many children end up failing as adults or not living up to their fullest potential is the abdication of responsibility in the home.

                Sure many of our public schools are a disgrace, and most if not all are in the poorer areas.  But when parents regard school as little more than free daycare for their offspring it it really fair to blame it all on the teachers?  Even then, there are alternatives such as charter or magnet schools. Parental involvement and motivation can make a huge difference in how the child utilizes what limited resources they have available.  Scolding them for getting a D or an F on their report card at the end of the semester is too little too late.

                Look at this mother in North Carolina with the lunch box saga.  She is apparently on some kind of assistance in order to be in this opt-in lunch inspection program so it’s probably safe to say she isn’t one of the privileged classes.  Yet she takes the time to not only make a lunch for her child each morning but to follow up on whether the child actually ate the lunch — and then to take on the school system when she considers its actions inappropriate.  Hopefully she does the same with the child’s educational progress.  This is a result of active parenting not “economic advantage”.

                How many “rich” moms even bother to inquire of their kids how their day went or what they had for lunch?  “Oh, you’re in the fifth grade now?  I thought you were still in fourth” as mom breezes out the door to Pilates.  I’m reminded of the tragic nanny shaken baby case in Boston back in the 90’s.  This yuppie couple weren’t fulfilled enough with their high powered careers so they have a baby as a fashion accessory.  Then hire an unqualified, overworked, stressed out child from a foreign country to care for the accessory while out working 12 hour days; then express shock and horror when it all goes horribly wrong.

                It’s a lot more than socioeconomic status that figures into a child’s ultimate success.  Where society has failed is in excusing and condoning the lack of parental involvement in the process.Report

              • Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to BradK says:

                I’m sorry but this is just another take on the cookie-cutter leftist blame storming mantra.

                Sorry, dude, don’t see it.

                There’s a lot more to parenting than simply caring.   And rich parents bring much more to the table than simple advocacy.   They are more engaged;  they transmit more “useful” values–education, negotiation, achievement, goal-setting.   What’s more, rich parents can leverage their financial advantage to provide a richer, and more diverse growth environment to their own children, with travel, activities, positive examples, tutoring, and the like.

                There are volumes and volumes of sociological and psychological studies that demonstrate that there are persistent differences in attitudes, language, and values between the classes.   Most of these are in what they value  (self-control, deferred gratification, education, achievement for its own sake, etc.)    For life outcomes, most of the differences redound to the benefit of the better off.

                So, can the state (or, if you would prefer, The State) intervene in some way?   Absolutely, and when I was growing up, public schools had a freer hand in  transmitting pro-social values.    Since what constitutes “pro-social” is in hot contention, these days, I’m not so sure that this is still possible.Report

              • BradK in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark says:


                Was your response to my entire comment or just the opening (and admittedly provocative) topic sentence which you quoted?

                Reason I ask is that I think we are basically in agreement.  I was certainly not in any way suggesting that the children in richer households don’t fare better or are not exposed to all of the positives you mentioned.  What I was pointing out is that not every rich child is necessary guaranteed these positives just because they are rich.  There are plenty of kids born with a silver spoon that turn out lazy, spoiled, and utterly unprepared to even face life let alone achieve in it.  Do the rich parents blame the schools for that?

                [I might even suggest (and I’m going out on a limb here) that rich kids have somewhat of a handicap as well in that those less ambitious (think Trust Fund Baby) have an expectation that they can simply skate through life without much effort.  Call it negative rich values, or perhaps ‘negative growth parenting’.  Instead of using the vast resources at their disposal to improve and grow, they squander them to simply get by (albeit in a comfortable manner).  While the poor kids across the tracks have to understand at some point they must eventually carry their own weight, and much sooner in life than the richies.  This is how I interpreted what the OP referenced as ‘natural growth parenting’.]

                I would of course expect that the same unmotivated, unnurtured, and lacking in parental involvement child would inevitably do better coming out of a well off schooling than a low grade public school, all other things being equal.  So yes, the rich kids are indeed fortunate in that respect.  Rather, what I was getting at was the positive impact that nurturing and involved parents can have on their child(ren) even without the resources of the rich.  If they can be bothered, that is.

                There are good parents – some even excellent ones – across the spectrum of class.  Unfortunately there are also more than a few bad ones, horrible even.  And that factors (I would say greatly so) into the ultimate outcome of those children.  Also, unfortunately, those at the bottom end of the scale do end up suffering much more greatly in life because of these parental shortcomings than those at the top end.Report

              • Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to BradK says:

                I response to your question:  it was your whole comment I was taking issue with.   It is clear from the OP, and from lots and lots of studies that parenting style matters for long-term outcomes, and for reasons that go far beyond caring / not-caring by the parents.   Values transmission is key, here, and parents don’t transmit “bad” values out of laziness or indifference:   they transmit the values they hold.

                So, if you’re okay with a persistent class structure in the US, you leave that alone.   But key to our ethos of Americans is a notion of classlessness, of continuous opportunity for all.   And for this and many other reasons (see my reply to your next post, as well), I belive that benign intervention can help disrupt this cycle of non-opportunity.

                I might even suggest (and I’m going out on a limb here) that rich kids have somewhat of a handicap as well in that those less ambitious (think Trust Fund Baby) have an expectation that they can simply skate through life without much effort. 

                I really don’t understand attitudes like this, because they are based not on research or systematic observation, but on a deep conviction that the world must be a “fair” place, in which good character is rewarded and bad character punished.    But, if you look at actual research, the sons and daughters of the rich are, in fact, overwhelmingly rich.   And the sons and daughters of the poor are overwhelmingly poor.    And, as a society, we are making it harder and harder to cross that rubicon.


              • BradK in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

                So, can the state (or, if you would prefer, The State) intervene in some way?   Absolutely, and when I was growing up, public schools had a freer hand in  transmitting pro-social values.    Since what constitutes “pro-social” is in hot contention, these days, I’m not so sure that this is still possible.

                [I wanted to respond to this one separately as it’s really a different issue.]

                As for state intervention, that’s a thorny issue.  As a libertarian I’d have to say it’s none of the state’s business how a parent chooses to raise their children.  But my practical side tells me that adverse (or non) parenting only increases the ultimate burden on society.

                In the immediate, an undisciplined child can further degrade the educational experience of their fellow classmates (in a already overcrowded classroom).  Don’t the rights of the behaving children to receive a public education outweigh the rights of the misbehaving one(s) to disrupt it?  Further down the road there may be involvement with the juvenile justice system and likely a lifetime involvement with the adult one.  I’m being wholly stereotypical here of course, but the gist is “does the state simply look the other way towards a dysfunctional parent/child relationship and hope things turn out for the better?  Or does the state take some action now?  If so, what?

                Then of course there is the ultimate cost of depriving society of a potentially contributing, productive member.

                Does the state even have a right or an obligation to enforce state mandated meals on schoolchildren?  Given the North Carolina child’s healthy home-packed lunch most reasonable people would scream No!  But what if the child showed up with a Twinkie and a Coke in their lunch sack?  The parent(s) that packed that lunch would likely say No! as well.

                LIke I said, a thorny issue…Report

              • Wardsmith in reply to BradK says:

                My wife went to taiwan schools that had a minimum of 60 students per class. You don’t want to see how well they did vs American students.Report

              • Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to BradK says:

                Brad –

                I have some strong libertarian leanings, so I understand its appeal, but have found myself increasingly headed in non-libertarian directions.    So, I suspect I’m in alignment with Dr. Hanley, who seems to support a traditional politics, with a lot of libertarian thought stuck into the cracks where it will fit.

                We are becoming more and more fragmented and polarized, in just about every measure that constitutes a meaninful culture:  income, politics, education, and language.   And that will be the end of America as America if we just let that happen; as there are political, economic and technological forces that promise to accelerate that process for the forseeable future.

                When I was growing up (I’m 54), there were three television networks that everyone watched, four or five magazines of which  just about ever middle-class person subscribed to one or two  (Time, Look, Life, the Saturday Evening Post –and, if you were upper middle class, the Saturday Review.   We really liked Saturdays in the 60s).     We all drove cars made by one of the four American car companies,  and many, many people spent their entire careers at a single company.    And the political parties were not purely ideological, as they are today, but were partially overlapping coalitions that defined and reinforced a concensus “center.”

                I’m not going through this litany just to pine for the old days, but to emphasize that there were lots and lots of things that gave us commonality of experience, as Americans.   We could talk about the same TV shows around the water cooler.   We had similar aspirations, similar incomes, similar experiences, and much more similar values than today.    We all listened to the same pop songs.  There was essential consensus on the welfare state, and on the Cold War.    These are the things that bind us.

                That’s not so much the case today:  we are increasingly isolated and in segregated enclaves with different values, experiences, incomes, and interests.   You can go to a magazine rack and get a copy of “Gay Socialist Skier.”   We choose from 300–not 3–channels.   We don’t listen to the radio:  we carry around music we already know and like.

                Social norms are always in flux, of course, but the last 40 years has brought us more social change–of more radical scope–than any comparable time in human history.   Civil society has less and less glue: we are less polite to one another (think of movie theater behavior as an example), less respectful of social norms and traditions (marriage, religion, and attitudes about achievement and integrity), and feel less obligation towards society as a whole (taxes, consensus).

                There are very few instruments of common culture, and those that remain are primarily commercial (“Just Do It”).    And, I think, this is dangerous to us if we want to continue to exist as a society.  Public schooling is, then, perhaps the only common experience that we share;  and the best and last opportunity to inculcate the values that we, together, hold dear.

                All of this was a just a long-winded way of geting to the point that yes:  I do think that state “intervention” is a positive public good.   I do think that if we want to preserve our core ethos of egalitarianism, civility, opportunity and tolerance, we have to teach it.    I think schools should teach–in addition to reading and writing and arithmetic–cultural and political traditions, self-management, and ethics.    All children should learn the best the culture has to offer–say, Beethoven, Emerson, and Madison.  

                In short, our public education should be as concerned with civilizing us as educating us.   This absoulely can be done in a way that is still respectful of others’ cultures, religions, and personal choices.    But without the binding experiences of common manners, beliefs, and literature, we will cease to be a society.Report

              • BradK in reply to BradK says:


                I appreciated reading your detailed responses.  Thank you for those.

                But, if you look at actual research, the sons and daughters of the rich are, in fact, overwhelmingly rich.   And the sons and daughters of the poor are overwhelmingly poor.

                Overwhelmingly, yes.  And again, I was never suggesting otherwise.  I was simply pointing out that rich/poor isn’t the only factor and that effective parenting can – to a degree – compensate for a lack of resources.  Wouldn’t you agree that a child raised with positive (but not necessarily “rich”) values, a strong work ethic, etc. could be expected to succeed further in life than a child in the same class bracket and the same resources but with non-engaged parents?  Whether the non-parenting is the result of laziness/indifference or a conscious choice to take a hands off approach and allow the child to develop on their own (or by the school system), you would expect a difference in the outcomes, no?  And the poorer kid growing up without much parental supervision and living in a seedy neighborhood would likely be exposed to negative, antisocial behaviors that the rich kid never would be, only further pushing the poor one further away from the likelihood of success.

                Fair or not, that doesn’t abdicate parental responsibility in my book.  This, I think, is where we’ll have to agree to disagree.


                Your state intervention thesis is thorough and well stated and I have a hard time disagreeing with any of it.  But I’ll try anyway.  [:`)

                The mid-century American utopia you describe had one other factor:  racial, ethnic, religious, and linguistic homogenization.  Now before anyone explodes on me about being a racist or a xenophobe, I highlight this only as a characteristic of the fragmentation of present day American society compared to this golden era.  Immigrants in the last century (largely Irish and Italian) wanted more than anything to be Americans and gladly assimilated into the existing cultural norms much more than the other way around.  Contrast that to today where multiculturalism and ethnic heritage are points of pride instead of something to shed for the sake of fitting in.  Again, I’m not positing any ‘good’ or ‘bad’ from this, only difference.

                So if the state (through the public school system) is to try once again to convey basic civics and social mores onto school children the question then becomes “who’s mores?”.  Certainly not the WASP-ish ones from the 1950’s.  I doubt many Blacks, gays and lesbians, or women of any stripe would yearn for a return of some of those “values”.  I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that the harmony of that bygone era had more than a little to do with everyone knowing and accepting their place in society.  When Blacks became the first to stop accepting a diminished position look how things started out, especially in the South.

                So again, who’s mores do we select?  Can we find some commonality among the many and agree to a list of basics like tolerance, fairness, mutual respect, individual accountability?  My cynical side tells me no, that we’d collectively spend more time bickering about what’s in and what’s out and what particular race/ethnicity/religion/language is being given preference and which is being slighted.  I’m afraid this polarization is a one way street that we’ve already traveled too far down to turn around on.  We are deeply divided because we no longer share common social values, and as a result can’t even agree on what those social values should be to get back to where we once were.

                But I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong.Report

              • ktward in reply to BradK says:

                Sure many of our public schools are a disgrace, and most if not all are in the poorer areas.

                Uh huh.

                And the minute you provide some kind of substantiation that “most, if not all” of our public schools have nothing but poverty-level kids enrolled, then I might consider responding to the rest of your screed.

                Seriously dude. Are you even a parent? Your entire comment screams “I have no kids but I know how best to raise them” in the grand tradition of highly opinionated and critical but childless folks.Report

  2. Kimmi says:

    Probably going to try what amounts to the “lower class” style with my own kids, should I have any.

    Probably because I’m not a liberal arts person. Scientists need the drive to explore, to create — to do things that aren’t engineered by someone else. It’s fine to teach some kids how to fit into boxes… but doesn’t school give ya enough of that?Report

  3. Robert Cheeks says:

    Ah…., and  how is it the modern conservative passes along morality, ethics, faith? I ask simply because I didn’t read any mention of it, unless one’s belief system is not a factor in making ‘successful’ adults?Report

    • ktward in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      Your query sounds like code for, “Where’s the Jesus?”

      Interestingly, you suggest that “the modern conservative'” has no means of inculcating morals and ethics in their children other than by way of religion.

      Must suck to be a modern conservative parent. Just saying.Report

  4. Samantha says:

    This seems to be an adjunct to the broader “nature vs. nurture” argument and could be titled:  “Nature vs. Nurture: How Socio-Econonmic Status Determines Which Will  Be Allowed to Have More Control Over Parenting Styles” In the end, I’ve seen too much “active” parenting amount to absolutely nothing in determining the aptitude (or non-aptitude) of the adult that results from it, and just as many adults who came from laissez-faire households that eneded up either being useless or quite agile at going out into the big world and making something of themselves.  Conclusion:  the world is chaos, with so many factors contributiing to how a person lives their adult life that there is no one thing that can be pointed to and declared:  “That’s why Johhny lives under a bridge!” Or “Yep, that’s why George owns ten laundromats!”Report

  5. sonmi451 says:

    In lieu of this it pains me (as a conservative) to say that we should probably err on the side of caution by helping more, not less of our society’s failed adults.

    Hear, hear!

    I wonder though how much of the difference in parenting “style” is really a function of how much time people have for parenting. I grew up the “natural growth parenting” way too, mostly because both my parents worked (dictated by necessity, one paycheck is not enough to support the family), and they worked the kind of jobs where you can’t really take time off during the day to schlepp the kids to this practice or that practice. Calling it “style” seems a little perverse to me, when it’s more dictated by necessity.Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to sonmi451 says:

      I was parented in the hand-off manner as well but it was simply because my parents believed kids should mostly be responsible for their own entertainment. I rode my bike all over my little community and when I was on my dad’s farm we roamed the woods at will. I think a lot of it was just about parents not thinking that their lives had to revolve around their kids, which is something I see far too much of these days with my friends.Report

  6. Scrooge McDuck says:

    Well, the government could transfer money from those that are well-integrated in society, and know how to play it.

    Or..  we could structure society in such a way that the disparate outcomes are not so extreme.   We could have a strong Labor Board that sets work rules that are not so dependent on negotiation skills and long-term careerism.    We could encourage unionization of low and mid-skill workers, to empower them and reduce the wage differentials between working and middle class.   We could build public policies that allow for greater intergenerational economic mobiilty  in both directions — say, a system of public universities that select from a broad pool, an substantial inheritance tax to reduce lineage wealth.   And public shools could teach not only science and math, but valuels and self-management skills.

    In fact, we tried all of the above, and it worked pretty well.    In the US between 1932 and 1972, known by many economists as “the Great Compression,” the wealth gaps between rich and poor narrowed from year to year,  economic mobility increased, the middle class expanded to become the completely dominant.

    So let’s consider supporting Franklin Roosevelt for president in 2012.Report

    • Scrooge McDuck in reply to Scrooge McDuck says:

      A prize to the person who can best guess how many typos are in that posting…Report

      • Murali in reply to Scrooge McDuck says:

        Only thing is is that in the 70s you had stagflation. I’m unwilling to attribute too much of the compression to the policies of the era. The fact is that in the post war years the US was the about the only industrialised nation to come out of the war relatively unsacthed. When you are at the same time, pretty much the only guy doing the bulk of production and consumption, there are plenty of monopoly rents. And it is in situations where there are many such rents that unions are effective.

        Another factor to take into consideration is that that period of after the war was kind of the log phase of industrial development. During the log phase of industrial development, most of the work doesnt require much more than a highschool cert, something that most people will have. That is why expanding the industrial base is fairly easy. This rapid expansion means that a lot of people shift from farming and fishing to factory work which pays a lot better. Of course, it is this rapid expansion of the industrial base which causes the sudden expansion of the middle class. Pre-information age economies lack the technologies to capitalise on increasing knowledge. So, the premium on higher education can be expected to be lower. So, of course you’re going to  find a lot of socio-economic equality in such a situation.

        Compare to today’s world where many of the new and better ways of doing things requires more and more highly specialised expertise. As Mr Cahalan has written before, fewer and fewer are capable of meeting such high requirements. Moreover as technology increases, small differences in intellectual skill/talent would allow you do much much more. (in terms of things that are demanded by society). It is expected that the inequality in such a situation would increase. The higher the returns on education, the greater the amount of inequality between the more educatedand the less. Also, the higher the returns of education, the financial ability to simply purchase a superior education will contribute to entrenching that inequality.Report

        • Scrooge McDuck in reply to Murali says:

          Well, public policy is about choices, and we made very different choices, then.  Yes, there was stagflation in the 70s, but I’ve never read any non-ideological analysis that blamed it on the Rooseveltian economic framework:   in fact, the consensus seems to be (correct me if I’m wrong) that the stagflation had its roots primarily in the monetary policy of the time, and the unpegging of the US dollar.    In any event, Volker was able to squeeze it out of the economy with 3 years of recession.

          It is true that technical jobs (engineering and programming) require education, and that they are more remunerative;  and professional jobs (lawyer, doctor) require degrees, but I think many policy people overstate the advantages of secondary education.    We should certainly attempt to improve the system we have; but there are still many, many jobs–which we would call semi-skilled–which are in demand and hard to fill.   Public policy could, again, help fill the gap by:

          1. Reducing rent-seeking by professionals through licensing and restriction of competition.
          2. Encouraging and creating a framework for the training and certification of the semi-skilled through training programs (like the apprecenticeship programs in Germany)
          3. Providing a floor to wages, through minimum wages.
          4. Public works programs could reduce unemployment at the margins in infrastructure projects
          5. Increased unionization of workers raises wages;  and labor law could be tweaked so that the kind of toxic logrolling seen in the pre-crisis auto industry or the motion picture industry cannot recur.

          I could, of course go on :  there are lots of public policy options available, but only if economic compression is a policy goal.   When it was, compression occurred.   In Democratic administrations, compression occurs (and economic growth is greater).   

          The “winner take all” character of our current economy is the result not so much of long secular trends, but of an accumulation of policy choices.   Market fundamentalism results in greater inequality, and greater financial instability:   Markets are great ways to allocate resources “efficiently,” but are not really equipped to be the moral center of our society.   

          And it’s for that reason that I’m not a libertarian.


          • Murali in reply to Scrooge McDuck says:

            but there are still many, many jobs–which we would call semi-skilled–which are in demand and hard to fill

            Given a fairly affluent and educated society like the US, there must be some reason why such semi-skilled jobs are hard to fill. What I’m willing to bet is that the jobs in question are unpleasant compared to the alternatives and the remuneration is not sufficient to compensate for the unpleasantness. (Its not like there aren’t any trade schools or that bosses don’t hire people from those trade schools.)

            Why wouldnt companies increase the wages to attract workers? Because they probably cannot expect to find a market for the extra output. Or put another way, semi-skilled workers are sufficiently replaceable that the current wage is sufficient to attract enough workers. Increasing the wage may attract more workers, but those workers will just be a deadweight loss.

            It is here that we can see how minimum wage legislation will cause problems. The minimum wage increases the marginal cost of hiring and consequently the marginal benefit of firing. Unless you are proposing some kind of command and control economy where the government makes all hiring and firing decisions, the inevitable result of increasing the minimum wages (absent any other compensating factor) is going to be to cause the jobs to disappear or move overseas. There are some exceptions. If there is a floor beneath which demand cannot fall, or demand is sufficiently sticky downwards, then the increased marginal cost would be passed on to the customers in terms of higher prices. But, this is unlikely to be the case. If companies had been able to gouge the customers even more without hurting profits they would have. That indicates that the current prices are as high as they can be without hurting profits. Another feature that must be in place is that the labour cannot be ousourced. In the 70s labour could not be outsourced and so american workers were in a position to extract their fair share of rents. On the other hand, unless you impose draconian restrictions, it is fairly easy to find semi-skilled labour in lots of developing countries at a fraction of the cost. To cut a rather long and involved story short, increasing the minimum wage in a competitive economy will increase unemployment and thus the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

            Public works programs could reduce unemployment at the margins in infrastructure projects

            Public works programs could reduce unemployment at the margins in infrastructure projects. The problem with public works to increase employment is that in many cases, this doesnt create demand so much as shift said demand from the private sector to the public sector. Here is why:

            If public works are to be a permanent feature of the economy, they have to be paid for by taxes. But, the money that is taxed would otherwise have been spent (which counts as demand which creates jobs) or invested (putting money into a bank counts as investing it. Investment finances companies which in turn also create jobs). So, if government were just as efficient as the market, then shifting the demand from the private to the public sector would be neither a benefit not a cost. But, governments are ovten less efficient. The leaky bucket theorem says that only a fraction of the money appropriated for a particular purpose will be used for that purpose. i.e. any jobs so created by the expansion of the public sector would be insufficient to compensate for the loss of jobs in the private sector.

            Even deficit spending during a recession is problematic because people will cut spending and investment in anticipation of future tax increases in order to repay the deficit.

            Now, public works will create jobs if people are jujst stuffing their money in mattresses. But people will only do the latter if there is sustained deflation (temporary dips in prices dont count) or possibly volatility in prices. The taxes take money that is otherwise not doing anything and putting them to better use.

            All that said, infrastructure is a public good which can in the long run, increase the efficiency of the economy. It is therefore a good idea to invest in infrastructure as it is likely to be be under-provided by the market. Nevertheless, the basic point stands, while infrstructure spending may be a good idea in and of itself, public works projects do notcreate jobs directly.

            but only if economic compression is a policy goal.   When it was, compression occurred. 

            It is not clear why we should care about compression/ inequality per se rather than how well the worst off are doing in an absolute sense.Report

            • Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to Murali says:

              You’re making a number of assumptions that I would consider unwarranted here (I’m making a number of assumptions as well, and while I don’t think we’ll end up meeting in the middle, we’ll at least understand each other when this exercise is complete).

              First, a general observation:   you seem to be operating from an abstract idealized notion of the market, and assuming ideal market conditions (e.g. easy entry/exit, perfect information, and minimum friction).   This works for modeling some scenarios, and doesn’t so much for others.

              Most of the semi-skilled jobs of which I spoke remain unfilled because of market frictions:   the workers are not in the same city as the jobs, or special skills are required, or the employer has an unrealistic assessment of the market value for that skill.   In any case, there are specific policies that can be undertaken (job matching sites, relocation assistance, training and apprenticeship programs or support) that can help make that happen.

              In abstract models, raising the minimum wage will reduce total employment.   In actual regression analyses of instances in which the minimum wage was raised, that did not occur (I’m sure there are boundary effects, but not within the range analyzed).   And, given that we have a safety net, there are externalities associated with paying someone $8 / hr:  the taxpayer must pick up a lot of slack.

              It is not clear why we should care about compression/ inequality per se rather than how well the worst off are doing in an absolute sense.

              All I can say in response to this is that we have unbridgeable world views.   I want to live in a society in which the rewards are distributed equitably;   a “compressed” society is more fair, more stable, and has higher aggregate happiness (for you utilitarians, out there).   This is the essence of the liberal world view.    It is not, so much, the conservative or libertarian position.


              •   the workers are not in the same city as the jobs, or special skills are required, or the employer has an unrealistic assessment of the market value for that skill.   In any case, there are specific policies that can be undertaken (job matching sites, relocation assistance, training and apprenticeship programs or support) that can help make that happen.

                I’m actually fine with things like this. Things like this decrease extant inefficiencies in the market. and push towards efficient emplyment levels, but I am not confident of the ability of such programs to make any substantial improvement in salaries. (well except re-training and skills upgrading programs. Those can work if implemented well and the conditions are right)


                 And, given that we have a safety net, there are externalities associated with paying someone $8 / hr:  the taxpayer must pick up a lot of slack.

                I actually think that a negative income tax or universal minimum income (I lean towards the former) would be more efficient and less distortionary than having a minimum wage. (Also your safety net could be made much more efficient than it currently is.)

                All I can say in response to this is that we have unbridgeable world views.   I want to live in a society in which the rewards are distributed equitably;   a “compressed” society is more fair, more stable, and has higher aggregate happiness (for you utilitarians, out there).   This is the essence of the liberal world view.    It is not, so much, the conservative or libertarian position.

                As far as fairness goes, it is arguable that a society in which the worst off are as well off as they can be is fair even though it may be less compressed.

                i.e. if we look at 2 societies A and B.

                In A, the worst off get 40K annually while the best off get 200K a year.

                In Society B, the worst off get 50K a year while the best off get 200M a year.

                (all amounts are adjusteed for purchacing power parity)

                A is certainly more compressed than B. But B is more just (and fair) than A. That is essentially Rawls’s difference principle.


              • Scrooge McDuck in reply to Murali says:

                A is certainly more compressed than B. But B is more just (and fair) than A. That is essentially Rawls’s difference principle.

                I disagree (surprise!)

                Studies suggest that people would rather make $50,000 a year in a neighborhood of people that make $50,000 a year, than $100,000 a year in a neighborhood where their neighbors make $200,000.   We are not purely economic or rational creatures:   large status differentials are painful and stressful.

                So what you’re saying is rationally true, but not emotionally  true.

                As for the “fairness” issue, that’s 100% world view.   And ours are different, you and I.Report

              • Murali in reply to Scrooge McDuck says:

                As for the “fairness” issue, that’s 100% world view.   And ours are different, you and I.

                Yeah, I mean its a different world view, but mine is better supported by reasons than yours.

                Insofar as justice is a moral concept and morality refers to principles which at least at the fundamental level are valid for all possible beings capable of reasoning, the principles of justice are those that would be chosen by rational, mutually disinterested beings behind a thick veil of ignorance. And there is no way in which such parties in the riginal position would choose strict equality over leximin.


              • Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to Murali says:

                Yeah, I mean its a different world view, but mine is better supported by reasons than yours.

                I’m sure  you’re the only person to feel that way…

                I think my view is better informed by human nature, which is, after all, what societies are for.   Less compression may theoretically lead to a bigger pie (and there’s really not much evidence that it does), but I would consider that secondary.    Economies are wonderful things, but boiled down to their essence, they are simply life support systems for societies.    Not all worthy values are to be found in the marketplace.

                Given the diminishing marginal return of money on happiness (which peaks near $70k / yr), and the deleterious effect on happiness and quality of life of great inequality, I think that compression (not flattening) is a worthy public policy goal.Report

  7. dhex says:

    one of the other downsides to cultivated concern is you get the extreme runoff i call “generation veal”; helpless, yet petulant.

    ask anyone teaching college freshmen about it.Report

    • ktward in reply to dhex says:

      I’ve not clicked your link, but your cap-less writing style suggest you’re an academic, so I can believe that you do, in fact, teach college frosh.

      Relative to thread context, what’s your point?
      I mean, college frosh are tricky. Their birthday grants them some seriously consequential access into the adult world — e.g. they can vote and serve in the military — yet, we’ve learned that, in terms of psycho-neurological development, they are not adults.

      However it is that one might characterize their abilities (helpless?) and sensibilities (petulant?), it’s no more indicative of their eventual adult faculties than a seventh-grader’s behavior is of their upperclass HS faculties.

      College freshman are still very much a work in progress. They’re not the endgame to adulthood that, I think, you’re purporting them to be.Report

      • dhex in reply to ktward says:

        better than an academic – i married one. try not to be too jealous. i’d show you my hot roll of singles but i need them to do laundry later.

        anyway, i have oodles of buckets of anecdotes. which combined with about two fifty gets me a ride on the bus. and it’s obviously not all college freshman, just about a third or so. depending on someone’s political sensibilities, they tend to either blame it on parents not punching their kids enough (it’s easier to study with one eye shut, apparently?) or wall st (because something something cheating, something something bankers).

        i knew someone who worked at nyu for a number of years; the letters from parents trying to simultaneously subvert ferpa and threaten him were both truly side-splitting and a bit creepy. my partner’s not taught at quite such an elite institution (yet? probably not.) but in addition to the very lazy plagiarism*, it tends to be less parents adding pressure and more a general “i should get an a in this class because i always get an a” combined with a bit of “this hard – can you walk me through it step by step, like the book does, but with less reading by me?”. with some variations like “why are you making a big deal out of [late hand-in / unattributed quotation / writing my american literature final exam essay on the illiad**]?”.

        *they really should go back to expelling people for that. really. plus it’s so incredibly simple to search for plagiarism these days – profs can dump the word doc into a program that does it for them. students have access to the same thing, yet they continue to lazily cut and paste.

        **also a true story. i think that was a bit more sad than funny simply because an injured college athlete in a very unpopular sport has fewer life options than even comm majors do.Report

  8. BlaiseP says:

    I don’t have kids around the house anymore.   I remember being made to pick up my toys and getting my fingers slammed in a toy box so I built mine a bookshelf with a big catch-all shelf on the bottom, with a backstop two feet high so they could just throw their toys at it to put them away.   On reflection, my kids were raised in reaction to how I was raised.   My parents were authoritarian and deeply religious and moved every few years.   Swore I wouldn’t make the mistakes my parents did.

    I suppose you could call us middle class, though there were quite a few things their peers had our home didn’t, at first anyway.

    My kids were raised to be independent thinkers.  I spoiled them no end.   I figured those kids were my Cause so as long as they did well, I’d keep on making them happy.   I seldom had to interfere in their lives and told them I hated doing it.  So we made a deal:  if they acted like adults I’d treat them that way.    Both sides had their little breakdowns in that deal but it held.  They didn’t always act like adults and I wasn’t always such a great parent and that’s how the arguments went.

    If they wanted to join an activity like soccer or music lessons, they’d tell me and I’d make arrangements.    I was not going to be one of those guys who drove my kids to succeed.   Kids want to succeed anyway.   Kids want to make their parents happy for the most part.  Give them the tools to do so and you’ll be surprised how well it works out.

    Do parents carry the overwhelming share of the burden?    That, I suppose, depends on the burden.  I carried my babies in a little Gerry backpack almost until they were three.   I coded with those kids on my back.   I took them everywhere. They simply didn’t interfere with my life.  In that backpack, they cried less than other children and when they did, they had a reason.  It quickly evolved into a little grunt, crying wasn’t really needed to get my attention, I was already there.

    But when they came down from that backpack and began to walk around in earnest, they weren’t much of a burden.   And it didn’t last long, parenting.

    I was intimidated enough by the upcoming responsibilities (and gunshy enough from my own childhood )  to take parenting classes before my first arrived.   They were worthless.   Taught by people who had no children, all it gave me was an abiding image of how most people view their kids, as an onerous burden and a limitation on their lives.   I swore I wouldn’t let that happen and it didn’t.Report

    • Scrooge McDuck in reply to Just John says:

      Just John –

      I have to admire the economy with which you express yourself…Report

      • Just John in reply to Scrooge McDuck says:

        Sorry.  My post failed because it was just four jpegs of cover art for Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, Eloise and Penrod and a line saying that I wasn’t sure what I was trying to say by posting those.  I think that I felt a need to express that kids have never just been parented by their parents, and that the parenting style that a kid grows up under is one part of the childhood experience.  I think that the impact of parenting style on child development has more to do with the parent(s)’s personal style of interaction and self-expression than with broadly based cultural or class-specific shared practices.  Consider Blaise P’s notes from the field and it seems clear that he was informed more by heartfelt intuition than by theory or instruction, and I think that’s the general rule — parenting is mostly doing what seems to be the thing to do at the time.  My daughter is going on 20 now and she continues to be the source of greatest joy in my life.  All my adult life I’ve had an intense interest in child development, and I’ve studied it quite a lot and benefited from that study, but at any given time I’ve always only done what seemed the thing to do.  There was a period in her early adolescence when she very often asked me for permission even for the most inconsequential things, and when she asked me I’d simply say yes (or sometimes no) — when friends and family would raise an eyebrow questioning why she’d ask for permission so much, I’d tell them that I thought it was because my style with her emphasized her freedom and individuality and that left her feeling a sometimes for externally defined boundaries, so she’d ask me for permission and I would just give it (or occasionally deny it) in the interest of giving her what she needed — I certainly wasn’t going to make a big deal of telling her to stop asking for my permission for things.  She’s a self-directed and motivated person; valedictorian of her high school graduating class, national-level fencer, doing quite well in college now, a kind person, supportive friend, and reasonably happy.Report

  9. chitownmama says:

    When comparing adults from a single social class, almost none of the variation between individuals can be explained by shared family environment, i.e. the behaviors of the particular parents you grew up with have very little effect on your personality, IQ, and fate as an adult (if you hold socio-economic status of the household constant.)  For full details, see Judith Rich Harris’ The Nurture Assumption.  Her ideas were hotly debated at the time within psychology, but are in fact standardly assumed now within that field (controversial though they may be outside the field.)

    If parenting doesn’t make any significant difference when you are comparing middle-class kids with other middle-class kids (where the variation is actually quite large—think of how your friends grew up differently than you did), then do we really think that poor and working-class kids turn out the way they do because of specific things their parents do to them?  Attributing the behavior of poor/working class people to personality attributes and learned behaviors that they acquired in childhood is just a way to make middle class and rich people feel good about themselves —“I’m successful because I was taught by my parents how to behave correctly! If only everyone could have been so blessed to have learned this stuff!”

    The truth is probably far closer to the theory explored in this article: “Standard theorizing about poverty falls into two camps. Social scientists regard the behaviors of the economically disadvantaged either as calculated adaptations to prevailing circumstances or as emanating from a unique “culture of poverty,” rife with deviant values. The first camp presumes that people are highly rational, that they hold coherent and justified beliefs and pursue their goals effectively, without mistakes, and with no need for help. The second camp attributes to the poor a variety of psychological and attitudinal short-fallings that render their views often misguided and their choices fallible, leaving them in need of paternalistic guidance.

    We propose a third view. The behavioral patterns of the poor, we argue, may be neither perfectly calculating nor especially deviant. Rather, the poor may exhibit the same basic weaknesses and biases as do people from other walks of life, except that in poverty, with its narrow margins for error, the same behaviors often manifest themselves in more pronounced ways and can lead to worse outcomes.”

    This becomes pretty obvious if you read something like Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nicked and Dimed.  Did she really forget all the important stuff about ethics and morals and asserting yourself when dealing with authority and putting off immediate rewards, etc etc while she was working as a housecleaner, a waitress, and a Walmart employee—things that she presumably must know to be a successful PhD-educated journalist in her real life?  Really?

    Poor people don’t need morality lessons; they need money.Report

    • MFarmer in reply to chitownmama says:

      I think I agree with this if it’s meant in terms of economic opportunity.Report

    • Christopher Carr in reply to chitownmama says:

      A truly awesome comment.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to chitownmama says:

      Did she really forget all the important stuff about ethics and morals and asserting yourself when dealing with authority and putting off immediate rewards, etc etc while she was working as a housecleaner, a waitress, and a Walmart employee—things that she presumably must know to be a successful PhD-educated journalist in her real life?

      If she had done those things, she might not have failed so miserably. And then she wouldn’t have a book. Or at least not one with the message she wanted to send.Report

    • chitownmama in reply to chitownmama says:

      If anything, it appears we should be more paternalistic towards the education of the rich:

      ” In fact, a number of new studies suggest that, in certain key ways, people with that much money are not like the rest of us at all. As a mounting body of research is showing, wealth can actually change how we think and behave—and not for the better. Rich people have a harder time connecting with others, showing less empathy to the extent of dehumanizing those who are different from them. They are less charitable and generous. They are less likely to help someone in trouble. And they are more likely to defend an unfair status quo. If you think you’d behave differently in their place, meanwhile, you’re probably wrong: These aren’t just inherited traits, but developed ones. Money, in other words, changes who you are.”Report

  10. Jaybird says:

    I was raised in a way that my weekends and summers were vaguely analogous to crate training. I was taken to the library once a week and if I was not reading one of the books I got from there, I was invariably told that I was driving everyone nuts, get out of the house, and be back in time for dinner.

    My friends who have kids all tell me that they had some sort of similar experience. They had bikes, they had friends with bikes, they had the whole city before them.

    I ask them if they’d *LET* their kids do what we were *TOLD* to do. “Oh, hell no.”, they tell me. “Oh. Hell. No.”Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Jaybird says:

      I would. Kids, get out of the house, be back before dinner. Or you’re cooking! (so this works better with seven year olds than with five year olds, yes?)Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:

      Generally speaking, my kids are tracking degrees of freedom roughly equivalent to mine.  There is some correction for the fact that when I was a kid, my neighborhood was more than 2 miles from any marginal neighborhood, and that’s not my case now.

      With cell phones, I can’t see why parents don’t let kids old enough to carry a phone have a lot more freedom than we had at a similar age.  If they get into trouble, they can call…Report

  11. It seems when Lareau discusses the “middle class” here:

    “Parenting styles have a huge impact on future outcomes, says Lareau. She speculates that concerted cultivation creates adults who know how to challenge authority, navigate bureaucracy, and manage their time — all the skills needed to remain in the middle class. The working-class kids lack that training.”

    …she really means the corporate cog wing of the American middle class. Her abtraction excludes professionals like doctors, lawyers, and engineers, whose remaining in the middle class depends on skill and whose getting there in the first place depends on suitcases of parental cash or periods of indentured servitude at banks or branches of the military. Her analysis also excludes members of the middle class from other countries with different values – i.e. places where deferring to authority, cooperation, or avoiding responsibility may be more instrumental to remaining in the “middle class” than skill at filling out paperwork or multitasking, to offer just one falsifying example.Report

  12. As one who does not consider himself a “conservative” I wish those who do would be more thoughtful and introspective when assessing the likely outcomes of their preferred policy choices.
    “In lieu of this it pains me (as a conservative) to say that we should probably err on the side of caution by helping more, not less of our society’s failed adults.”-MIKE DWYER

    Upon closer inspection Mr. Dwyer may have to dispense with many of his priors and biases. He just as I have, would find that dogma has a tough time with reality checks.Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to Keith Beacham says:


      To elaborate, I would help more adults BUT the kinds of programs I would subscribe as a conservative would look radically different than those that would be proposed by the average liberal.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        oh, this I’ve gotta see!

        Elaborate, my good gentleman…Report

        • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kimmi says:

          I’m imagining something that would look like the WPA but with trade unions aggressively grabbing kids out of high schools, teaching them trades and putting them to work fixing our infrastructure.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            as one of the liberals on this board, I’d be down with that. And it’s far less conservative than some of the stuff they do in Jersey (or Germany, for that matter).Report

          • greginak in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            I’m not sure why you think liberals wouldn’t go for a big public works program aimed at repairing our infrastructure and giving job training. Heck there are still people on the Lib side criticizing Obama for not putting a lot of money into infrastructure and who would have loved some sort of WPA style program.Report

            • Mike Dwyer in reply to greginak says:

              Maybe I was confused by all of the OWS folks demanding free college educations. I wasn’t under the impression that they were willing to accept trade over higher ed.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                College is a rite of passage.

                But so far as I’m concerned, having stayed in CCC cabins, those too can be a rite of passage.

                Both seem to serve a relatively good thing: finding a way to demarcate “kids to adults” transition, and giving people a peer network to flourish in.Report

              • greginak in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                So you are taking some OWS protesters as the complete and total story of what liberals support??? Come on, thats weak.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to greginak says:

                No – I was being crass. However, I don’t think the OWS folks were that far off the mark from what liberal policy-makers seem to think. There is a real disconnect between reality and the social programs they propose. For example, the notion of a ‘living wage’ for every worker. Or the card-check law so many of them favor. Or a failure to understand why manufacturing jobs have disappeared and why wages have fallen so much for those that remain.Report

              • Keith Beacham in reply to greginak says:

                Real weak!

                I am getting the impression that you don’t have a clear idea of the differences between liberal and conservative notions of political economy. It seems to me that both OWS and the Teaparty are incoherent. They amount to IMO nothing more than homogeneous tribes of folks whose economic outlook is bleak (real or imagined). I’ll go out on a limb and say there is no useful/ politically feasible policy coming out of either camps.Report

              • Liberty60 in reply to Keith Beacham says:

                The point of OWS was not to propose a bullet-pointed prgram or policy.

                The point of our protest is that the entire system of laws and regulations has been perverted and hijacked by a tiny class of interests.

                Proposing a specific program is absurd, if it is predicated on playing by the rules. Its like trying to beat the dealer in a rigged game of blackjack.

                Once the public accepts that the game is rigged, and the system corrupted, specific policies will follow.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                … if you walked over and told them. “Here, it’s an education you get paid to get! And a living wage.” I think they’d listen.

                Of course, I’m in Pittsburgh — it’s Steel City for a reason.Report

  13. MFarmer says:

    If you don’t mind me asking, why does it pain you (as a conservative)? I’m not sure what you meant by this.Report

    • wardsmith in reply to MFarmer says:

      Mike, it is the last paragraph of the other Mike’s OP:

      To be fair to both sides the correct answer no doubt lays in the gray areas but it is quite nearly impossible to build a social policy around individual assessment. To make the system fair the government would have to employ an army of social workers that reviewed each case to determine either parental malpractice or simply a kid that turned out rotten. In lieu of this it pains me (as a conservative) to say that we should probably err on the side of caution by helping more, not less of our society’s failed adults.Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to MFarmer says:

      MFarmer – because as a conservative I would generally prefer a smaller social safety net and less adults on the dole. However, in the interest of stability for the country, we’ve got to catch as many individuals as we can before they end up in permanent poverty or worse, as wards of our massive prison system.Report

  14. wardsmith says:

    Growing up with the baby boomers, I got to witness a number of successes and failures (and still do) of my generation. I’ve seen the poor kid from the large family with a dysfunctional parent (alcoholic father) succeed against all odds. I am that success, and just to turn anecdote into anecdata, a good friend of mine who suffered under a more alcoholic father and an even larger family ended up more wealthy than I did. A childhood friend whose father was a highly successful physician is a current alcoholic and would be homeless except his father bought him a house years ago and monitors to make sure the bills are paid. The wealthiest kid in our private school eventually got to see his blue-blood father end up in prison for embezzlement. Outcomes are ever random, and I readily concede we all had a much higher leg up than our brethren who went to public schools.

    I do not believe that the way we were raised has as much to do with our success or failure as the decisions we constantly made (and still make). I can agree that the “poor” make things more difficult for themselves constantly for exactly the reasons given, their margin for error is almost nonexistent, therefore optimum behavior is to keep the nose perfectly clean. Unfortunately as we can all witness that virtually never happens. Man’s nature after all cannot be ignored and believing that man is inherently good is the triumph of hope over experience.

    I often think my children get to succeed or fail in spite of themselves. They have a huge safety net provided by yours truly and a tremendous head start over many from their own generation because we paid for their education and they have no loans to repay. That didn’t stop my youngest from flunking out of his first college, nor my oldest from failing a CPA exam because he was distraught over a girlfriend who broke up with him while he was supposed to be studying. Shit Life happens. My children have the opportunity to succeed because they make a conscious effort, on a daily basis to be successful. If they don’t make that effort they do not stay ahead on the economic treadmill that is our society. Even worse, they might do all the right things and still end up with a bad outcome due to simple bad luck. This is life and this is the lesson I’ve tried to teach them. Yes I can leave them an inheritance, but it might be worthless by the time they see it due to inflation or worse. I don’t get to live their lives for them, as a parent I can only give them the tools to succeed and the attitude to overcome the invariable dark clouds they’ll have to face. As far as “achieving” happiness? That’s a non-starter for the rubes at the carnival. The best we can hope for is the opportunity to pursue it, and recognize those faint glimmers when it is in the neighborhood. It never lasts, but it can be magical while it visits.Report

  15. Philip H. says:


    Sorry I didn’t catch this one sooner – but I am glad that I did.  My own growing up was a probable melding of the two styles you document – as the kids of a university prof and a school teacher my brother and I were under definite expectations about academic success, extra-curricular involvement, and many of the things that you describe were middle or upper-middle class cultivation parenting.  At the same time we could ride our bike all over town (and did going to the University, downtown, to the next neighborhood, and even out to the rural parts of the Parish to visit friends), we could spend as little or as much time in the library as we felt warranted, and it was well known that we had about 8 or 9 mothers each because of the porches and back yards we all migrated to.  I’ve tried hard to parent both of my sets of kids the same way, and I am always gratified that the teenagers are fairly self-reliant while the little ones can and do regularly occupy themselvesfor periods of time while I’m working.

    As to how its transmitted – lots of parenting books were written in the 1970’s when you and I were younger, and most of them were based in the upper class (and white) parenting approach.  My mom still has many of them, and they were an influence ion how she and Dad approached us.  Being in a university community also helped, as the economic class lines were often blurred by a preponderance of cultural activities associated with the faculty.  And my folks were good liberals, who (among other things) kept us in public school as busing and desegregation started in 1980.

    And finally,  I need to scold you a bit in that today’s “liberal policy makers” are mostly centerists or moderate Rightists, and not true liberals.  Thus their disdain for your trades proposal.  I’d add too that a college education is probably worthwhile for folks heading in to the trades as well, since even HVAC is now a computer driven industry.  Thus this died-in the-wool liberal would think that dding trade requirements, or community college general ed coursework to trade schools would be the best way to go, and could take advantage of existing educational infrastructure.Report