Thursday, January 04, 2007

Podcast on Marriage and Caste in America

Today, we are talking with Kay Hymowitz, author of Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age. Hymowitz says that marriage and parenthood have more to do with wealth and poverty than vice versa, and offers some suggestions on what we should be doing to encourage responsible parenting. We also discuss whether or not it is good to have a "kid-centered" culture, the pros and cons of gay marriage, the break-down of the black family, and whether the next generation of young girls is headed back to the 1950's.

You can listen directly -- no downloads needed -- by going here and clicking on the gray Flash player. You can download the file by clicking right here, or you can get a lo-fi version suitable for dialup, cellphones, etc. by going here and selecting lo-fi. A free iTunes subscription -- the best way to go -- is available by clicking here. You can visit our archives here.

This podcast is sponsored by Volvo at


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice. You just get better.

9:53 PM, January 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a college-educated woman who was unfortunately indoctrinated to believe that children were burdensome to achieving self-awareness I don't buy the premise that college-educated women are necessarily smarter when it comes to matters of procreation. In fact, most of the women I know who have committed themselves to motherhood are achieving great success without needing an ivory education. Perhaps they are 'old-fashioned' but these woman made the choice to commit themselves the paradigm of marriage and the role of procreation much of which is supported primarily through (dare I say) a religious foundation. Also they would not be considered financially 'well-off' however they never seem to complain about never having enough; quite fulfilled are they.

As one considered to be a modern woman, I find these woman to be icons for having made such brave choices beyond the achievement of self-gratification in a world so easily swayed by momentary satification.

As for the reason why poor women have illegitmate children perhaps we might want to look at our populist culture; the poor have always suffered under the influence of misguided ignorance. On the one hand low income are encouraged to indulge in self-pleasure while on the other allowed to ignore responsibilty. In today's environment why would a poor young black male take responsibility for procreation when the populist culture has educated him to believe otherwise.

In my opinion, it is the 'educated' class which has brought about this cultural enlightment ie., pursuit of self gratification leads to greater knowledge, which has brought about conflict to the impoverished.

As for the topic of gay marriage, unless someone can explain in rational, logical terms the meaning of 'same-sex union between a man and a woman' without the use of emotional blackmail then the debate is void of discussion.

11:13 PM, January 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the point about poor people not being able to live like celebrities without paying a stiff price.

Then again, the celebrities don't seem to be flourishing either.

11:23 PM, January 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not a fan of podcasts as it takes too long to listen. Didn;t you have a transcription service at one time? Try and get it back with Toyota as a sponsor.

Do enjoy the blog. Thanks.

9:24 AM, January 04, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...

Phillip Smith and Mike,

Thanks for your feedback.

1:30 PM, January 04, 2007  
Blogger Chap said...


Drop an email (address on my blog) and I can send 'em to you.

Dr. Smith,
--Concur with the transcript thing.
--Haven't read the book, but I would bet that military families don't fit Hymowitz' categories too easily--but there might be something to learn there. Check out the kids in a DoDDs school, and the performance of those kids does not match what you'd expect from the earning power and peripatetic nature of the families. See how those kids do when they grow up and you'd see something that doesn't match what the economic class might indicate. And that's even with a fairly high divorce rate and extended deployments and pressures.

1:49 PM, January 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Twenty-year USMC brat here. The only useful thing I got from it was enough pride in myself to avoid the drinking, drug use and other idiotic behaviors that fascinated my civilian peers. Other than that, the experience was not positive then and mostly irrelevant now. That had nothing to do with the military or economic circumstances, everything to do with the parents' personalities.

I hope your optimistic view of military family life indicates that the DoD has an interest in taking better care of its dependents these days.

2:57 PM, January 04, 2007  
Blogger Chap said...

For the DoDDs example my guess is there's more parental involvement in the school than anything else--and that is partially because of military culture, which is independent enough of economic status (at least as the civilians put it) to make a difference. Especially if "the only useful thing you got out of it" is the thing that keeps people from falling into bad behaviors.

My thinking isn't DoD so much as it is the people and culture of the families who make up a military community. It's not The Answer, or even useful in the anecdote rather than the aggregate--but there's something to it.

3:10 PM, January 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chap and Bugs,

Bugs, I so agree with you that the personality of the parents trumps everything. I didn't have anyone in DoD schools when I was active duty, but plenty of people who worked for me did, and their experiences were all over the map. I didn't see a clear correlation wiht thier particular personalities and thier kids' behavior and resulting success, but I was young and then too may not have known as much about their personal business as I should have.

One advantage that that sub-culture offers is that however peripatetic you may be, you always move to some new place that is just like the last place - your dad or whoever has the same rank, may know some of the new people from past assignments, and all the customs and social expectations are the same as before. Basically military life is an archipelago of identical shtetls as far as the families are concerned. This helps any tranisition associated with family moves.

Soething else that may skew the stats is that whatever the parents' class background, if they are NCOs or officers, they are self-selected upwardly-mobile types. This doesn't guarantee that the kids will be ambitious achievers; in fact the kids may decide to be the exact opposite, but it helps the poverall tone.

6:20 PM, January 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DOCTOR Helen !

Er, I see you took my advice and had her on a podcaste.

Seems to know her Position and stays "On Point" in spite of Glen's allusion to being raised by an Absent Father so who needs 'em really. Did Glen really have an absent father. (Like he sorta kinda turned out O.K. --- he thinks) but he still -- he's pretty good with baby daughters.

Anyway, Gay people raising kids ? Not my primary experience with them here in the bay area, but some of the older ones who are lawyers do it. The rest, are moving on to partner number 7,876 then 7,877.

Truth be told, I'm all for "Gay Marriage" in the Netherlands where it's been the law for a coupla decades they have it down, average length of gay marriage there about 2 years

--- now THAT is great for the kids too eh ?

What I'm really for is GAY DIVORCE. I mean why shouldn't equal Opportunity lawyers make money from the misery of gays divorcing too ?


12:22 AM, January 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And By the way ...

Ditto on doing the Transcripts,
really 35 minutes ?

and Happy New Year to You and Insta-Prof

and Here's a "Red Hot Poker" in the eye


12:29 AM, January 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I listened to your Podcast—nice work, and I had one comment. During the interview, your guest cited that 70% of black infants are born into single parent households and that this has a significant effect on the development of children (primarily through lack of a father or that a father’s role is unimportant).

With nothing more than anecdotal evidence to offer, I would say that minority communities have been slow to accept the role of the father as an integral part of the family. To illustrate this point, I recently read an article about Philadelphia’s violent crime problems that included comments from a community leader in the inner city who felt that the problem was an economic one. He said that residents in the inner city have “no good income opportunities”, and that crime will continue to grow until more high-paying jobs are available.

I think the community leader failed to grasp that the absence of strong families produces children who lack values and direction; that the economic problems of inner cities could be reduced by better educated children, motivated to succeed and create their own economic opportunities, while being supported by invested parents.

6:28 AM, January 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...I would say that minority communities have been slow to accept the role of the father as an integral part of the family.

Starting at what point in history? Weren't minority family units intact, as compared to today, as recently as the U.S. Depression era, if not even more recent?

By definition, there weren't exactly a lot of good income opportunities during the early 1930's.

2:06 PM, January 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know what the book has to say about DoD schools and military brats, but as an AF brat who knows other military brats, I think we grow up better adjusted than other kids with respect to certain factors, racism being the first thing that comes to mind.

In the military, the only thing that matters is your dad's rank. Color really doesn't matter -- rank is the defining element in the social structure. It determines where you live -- not just neighborhood but location (how high on the hill -- literally) of your house. My dad was a captain, my best friend's dad was a colonel and the wing commander (highest rank on base). We were in the middle of a long street, Julie lived on top of the highest hill. The houses were identical, but they lived in a better location.

I have a friend (black) whose dad was an army chaplain. His dad retired when Michael was 14 and they moved to Memphis. Michael says that was the first time he ever experienced racism -- the black kids thought he acted too "white" and the white kids shunned him for being black. In the army, all that mattered -- for those who cared, and really, most kids didn't -- was that his dad was a lt col.

2:45 PM, January 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An excellent article in city journal succinctly summarizes this author's theory.
I find it to be absolutely bang on. The role of fathers in the minority community was the norm prior to the 1960's. With the advent of any number of factors, the societal norm changed dramatically.

4:49 PM, March 04, 2007  
Blogger Eowyn said...

It's all about values. I grew up poor, but with parents (who divorced when I was small) who never missed an opportunity to make each experience meaningful, in terms of right or wrong, or kindness versus apathy, etc. They didn't go to college, but we did, all six of us. No accident there.

7:33 PM, May 31, 2007  
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