Modern families increase social inequality – Not cool economic analysis

The Economist posted a video a while ago on “How modern families increase social inequality” and it found its way into my YouTube recommendations. I’m sorry, but I have to call them out. Not cool economic analysis guys!

Yes, I’ve decided to start a new section in my blog of basic rants that prove why economists get such a bad name. And this video by The Economist, will work as my exhibit A. I do intend to go around the whole alphabet with all the jewels I’m finding online, but let’s go piece by piece.

On this video published on November 18, 2019 in their YouTube Channel, The Economist posts a series of completely old-fashioned and inaccurate assumptions. Well, as with everything in Economics, someone may have used a ton of data to support them, but that doesn’t mean they represent reality in an inaccurate way. Translation: They are complete lies that support someone’s interests and that someone is not a regular person, or the global community.

Connecting modern families to social inequality is as void as assuming evolution caused humanity’s problems. I’m sure there’s an article somewhere that says precisely that. (BROWNIE POINTS if you can find it and share it with me!).

Families have changed dramatically in the past 50 years in the rich world.

Their premise states:

“Changes to society mean that the old model of a breadwinning husband and a stay-at-home wife has all but collapsed.

I don’t even know where to start debunking this stuff. The model was gone by the 1980s, but I don’t think they got the memo. So… Let me address a little of what they show to talk about the change in the “old model” of the “breadwinning husband” that clashes, apparently, in a dramatic way, with modern families. I really wish they could have shared the data used for this.

They talk about the legalization of gay marriage in 2001 (San Francisco). Showing that it changed the family structure accepted in rich countries, while starting to become legal in developing nations. How that shapes their income, behavior, financial support, patterns, etcetera is not even mentioned. Who cares? It’s not like that would actually shape economic analysis, right? They do use the following quote as if it mattered to prove social inequality somehow:

“Fears that gay marriages would undermine heterosexual ones have proven unfounded. And this is one reason why marriage equality has spread so extraordinarily fast.”

No guys, the fears that gay marriages would undermine heterosexual ones continue. There are tons of people in rich countries protesting and trying to overthrow legislation. The reason why marriage equality has spread so extraordinarily fast may have way more to do with economic incentives. One of which is that they can inherit property, plan and provide for their families. Not to mention adopting children that otherwise would be in care of the state, providing them love and a better life. Plus the obvious… It’s pretty simple to understand that it’s their civil right if you follow the law, and grant them human status. It’s as simple as that!

Across the globe, families are shrinking.

“Nowhere more so than in South Korea. Here a growing number of women are rejecting marriage and having children altogether…”

I’d really like to know if “nowhere more so than in South Korea” is in anyway supported by actual numbers. I’d love to see them! But they focus all of their images and interview on that premise rather than looking into something Go Lee (the young woman interviewed) says right in the beginning.

She says traditional employers make it hard to combine a career with marriage and motherhood.

They provide absolutely no data around this very alarming fact. Which is a reality, not only in South Korea, but almost everywhere in the world. Rich and poor countries alike. Only some countries have made an effort to have similar benefits for men and women in the workforce so that they can combine a career with a family. Not just marriage or motherhood. But actual global efforts to increase paternity leave, as in the EU.

The next section of crazy “economic” analysis is just a kick in the pants to anyone who thinks the world has evolved. So it’s worth its own analysis:

State-funded assimilation in South Korea

A fertility rate of one means each generation is half as big as the previous one and in South Korea this means there are fewer workers to support the country’s ageing population. In rural areas, men are viewed as poor prospects by South Korean women. So the government is helping these men to find brides from poorer countries.

Yes, I do acknowledge that newer generations have less interest in having kids just because they “have to”. They may have more interest in their well-being and the prosperity of society and it can be a choice. Which, could cause a problem in ageing population support, this is true. Particularly in a planet that doesn’t plan for old people, and depleted, or obsolete social security systems, that did not evolve with society. I have a feeling they may have been developed by the same people blaming modern families for social inequality.

That said… Men don’t measure up so instead of education, local economic development policies, or subsidies to increase quality of life… The government is helping them bring brides from poor countries? Why not immigration policies? Get new people in from other countries to boost your own! Really? What century are we writing about?

They actually go into a conversation in domestic violence, because that is one of the outcomes of this marvelous policy:

50 years ago in most rich countries domestic violence was considered normal. Now, it is universally condemned and rates have fallen sharply by three-quarters in America alone, since the mid-1990s.

Who in the world can say that domestic violence was considered normal 50 years ago?! “Normal”? Would you think it was normal for your grandpa to beat the crap out of grandma? Does that sound about right? It wasn’t sanctioned. People didn’t intervene maybe, but normal?

Today, other factors are more likely to affect the stability of families and these are contributing to a growing gulf between middle-class and working-class families.

This sounds normal, right? Reasonable? Are you excited to read what the “other factors” are? You’re in for a treat!

Babies being born outside of marriage are quoted as one of those factors. Yes, because this is new! Not like there were illegitimate offspring anytime before the 90s… Right?

But as technology advances manual work has dried up and uneducated men have struggled to find good jobs. If the only men available lack steady jobs and don’t help around the home some women feel they are better off alone.

So… let me see. Once again they quote how men are not “good enough” so women would rather not have them around as a factor of instability. These modern women and their modern families! Not poor education, or lack of economic measures to train people (not just men) for more sophisticated jobs. And definitely not economic policies and exploitation that do not allow men and women to combine personal and professional growth with a family. 

Middle-class families have remained solid in rich countries over the past 50 years while working-class families have grown much less stable.

Now this one is just completely insane. May I get a highly visible woman to talk some sense into them? If you want to learn more about her ideas, I recommend this video on “The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class.” She has spent decades talking about commercial law, credit, and the ethical problems that policies and tax breaks can produce in the middle class. By the way, she has numbers to support her claims. This is just in the United States, but not exclusive to this country, nor to rich countries.

Women with a university degree are more likely than women who do not finish high school to be married and raise children with their husband as a team.

Yes, wrapping up this commentary with one of the last claims in their very sophisticated analysis of how modern families increase social inequality. Women are more likely to be married and raise children with their husband as a team. Oh dear… I really, really want to see the stats on that one! Because if we continue the assumption that these lovely people have spilled all over the video, it’s men who are not “living up” to the standards of women, right? Did they research if men in this couples are more educated? Did they research if the positions they hold in their organizations allow them to be more involved?

Well, they did. At least they do mention it. Wealthier parents spend more time with their children than their poorer counterparts. How does this tie into “modern families”? The children of professional families are said to benefit from this interaction. They talk about the “pushy middle-class style of raising kids” as intensive parenting.

Intensive parenting: “investing an enormous amount of time and energy in their children’s development early on.”

As if your child “needed daily attention”. I’m not kidding those are the words used. Now, yes, there is an increased pressure in the middle and top class to “over prepare” kids for the future. I won’t deny that. But, the real difference has nothing to do with the classes or financial resources spent on the kids development. It has everything to do with the most valuable asset we all have: time!

It’s not modern families, it’s a greedy economic system!

Did you notice I emphasized a couple of times the relevance to combine professional growth or a career with a family, and not just fatherhood or motherhood? This is because as part of a family myself, I have noticed that taking care of parents, siblings, offspring, and myself requires time. Such time, is usually not something that modern families find easy to access with un-evolved old-fashioned businesses and economic practices. Which, I suggest, may be the actual cause of the increase in social inequality: Profits first!

All the different elements that they connect to “modern families”:

  • Legalization of same-sex marriage.
  • Women who can’t find compatibility with work and family.
  • Women feeling they are better off alone than co-parenting.
  • Middle class families and their intensive parenting.

Are the result of adapting to the system, not shaping it! When you don’t take into account the social requirements for professional success, because you have to cut costs it goes beyond “modern families”. You are not taking care of the person as part of your business. So you are even less prone to think about kids and the elderly as people who need to be taken care of. Why would you respect the 9 to 5 or develop the 3 to 10? Why would you fight to keep the childcare benefits for your employees? Not to mention increase the quality of public education so you do not have to pay $31,000 USD per year for preschool!

It should be different, and it can be different. If you’re interested in learning how you as an individual or business person can change this, I’d love to share with you some of my previous blogposts:

Welcome to the love economy

3 Reasons to Make LOVE the Core of Your Business

The fight for the obsolete

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