Friday, January 17, 2014

Oh Well, So Much For Marrying Up

Wait--I understood that if poor people just got married enough that poverty would end? Now, according to David Brooks, it turns out that when people practice "assortative mating" that there won't be enough rich men to go around. I has a sad.

Kathleen Parker a few days ago:

More to the point, we know that being unmarried is one of the highest risk factors for poverty. And no, splitting expenses between unmarried people isn’t the same. This is because marriage creates a tiny economy fueled by a magical concoction of love, selflessness and permanent commitment that holds spirits aloft during tough times.

David Brooks today:

At the top end, there is the growing wealth of the top 5 percent of workers. This is linked to things like perverse compensation schemes on Wall Street, assortative mating (highly educated people are more likely to marry each other and pass down their advantages to their children) and the superstar effect (in an Internet economy, a few superstars in each industry can reap global gains while the average performers cannot).

Emphasis added to remind us all that Brooks' goal posts have left the building, hell, they are in Antigua.  The crushing burden of income inequality is not because the top "five percent of workers" get inordinate rewards (though they do) its that the ownership class of the top 1 percent aren't really workers at all in a traditional sense, and their income and their assets are not the product of their earnings at all. They have nothing in common with labor and neither education nor marriage have anything to do with their power.


  1. Krugman, responding more directly than usual: -- but he doesn't highlight the tricksy bit about "workers".

  2. "...a tiny economy fueled by a magical concoction of love, selflessness and permanent commitment that holds spirits aloft during tough times."

    Yes, and only romantic love contains the pixie dust of permanence and incidentally, romantic love is an unchanging emotion that remains unaltered throughout the lifetimes of the people who experience it for each other. That is why the divorce rate is so very low.

    Myth pushers like Parker have a lot to answer for, because so many very young adults (and not a few older ones) have married while they still feel passion for each other. And they are told that feeling should last forever and it will be a shield and a weapon against any problems that arise.

    But it doesn't and it doesn't and even when the marriage could work after some repairs, they don't know where to turn for help, are ashamed to ask for help, or the kind of help they need isn't available because the elected versions of Parker and Brooks have decided that people don't need money to live, they just need a firm lecture.

  3. Thats an interesting perspective, Julia, I hadn't thought about it that way. Of course Parker, of all people, should know better. I put this up somewhere else but it bears repeating here:

    Imagine a block quote beginning here:

    It's complicated," says Parker of her disciplinarian upbringing. We're in a Georgetown coffee shop, and she periodically glances into her purse, containing as it does a recently adopted, 5-pound blind poodle named Ollie. "My mother died when I was 3. Second mother, married when I was 5, divorced when I was 12. Third mother was just my 10th grade. I knew that one wasn't going to work. The other two came after I left home. I was gone at 17. I skedaddled." She calls herself the daughter of a Yankee pilot and a Southern belle, by which she means that her father was stationed at a U.S. Air Force Base in South Carolina when he met her mother, a local girl. "These guys fly in, they're gorgeous, they're the crème de la crème, and they're Yankees, so they know stuff that these girls have never seen before. And they just swept those girls off their feet."

    In Parker's telling, her mothers were interchangeable, passing through her family's Florida home much like the camera-toting excursionists in nearby Orlando. She speaks of them often in the plural -- mothers -- a nebulous mass of female adults somehow attached to her father, whom she describes with reverence and in sharp particulars. Every night during her high school years, she and her father convened in the kitchen, he cooking and she stationed before a mound of potatoes. Her father lectured. She listened and peeled. "I was not encouraged to express myself," she recalls. "I didn't start expressing opinions around the house until -- well, I never did. I tried it once; I think it was when McGovern was running for president. My father stopped speaking to me for a year and a half."

    Now, here is a person who learned horrendous marriage skills from a pretty awful person, at least in terms of his ability to manage adult relationships with his supposed equals and lovers, and yet she ceaselessly promotes marriage as a cure all.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. "brooks' goal posts have left the building, hell, they are in antigua"

    it's insights/metaphors like these that make you one of my favorite writers in blogtopia* for the last 12 years, aimai.

    *yes, i coined that phrase!