”Hitching Up’ for a Strong Middle Class’

03.17.2013, 1:07 AM

Brad Wilcox and David Lapp have a terrific new piece at the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star on the new Knot Yet report co-authored by Wilcox.

In February, President Obama delivered a speech in Chicago about strengthening the middle class and reducing gun violence. He made an observation that drew little attention but has the potential to bring together gridlocked Republicans and Democrats. The task of rebuilding a strong and secure middle class, he suggested–of rebuilding “the ladders of opportunity for everybody willing to climb them”–does not start with the White House, or the states, or public schools.

It “starts at home.”

“There’s no more important ingredient for success,” President Obama suggested, “nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong, stable families–which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood.” Getting personal, he said, “I wish I had a father who was around and involved.”

You don’t have to be a Democrat, or a Republican, to recognize that President Obama is right.

And appreciating the link between a thriving marriage culture and a thriving middle class is especially important because of the crisis of marriage in Middle America today. more


4 Responses to “”Hitching Up’ for a Strong Middle Class’”

  1. La Lubu says:

    Other proposals from the report worth considering include expanding apprenticeships so that more young men, in particular, have a surer route to steady work (and then perhaps marriage)

    Three points: (1) Apprenticeships are “on-the-job” training. You work 40 hours a week under the supervision of journeymen, and attend evening classes. The years involved depend on the trade. For my trade (journeyman wireman), it is five years. So, in order to increase the number of apprenticeships available in a way that is going to lead to steady employment (rather than just a basic, working knowledge of a trade where one has few opportunities to make a living), the task is twofold: get all the currently unemployed journeyman tradespeople “off the books” and back to work—-steady work, not hit-or-miss; and greatly increase the amount of infrastructure work being done in the United States. One third of the JWs in my Local are unemployed. Most other Locals in the state of Illinois are similarly situated. Journeymen can’t train apprentices if we are out of work (or, not working steadily). In fact, it’s harder to find people who want to enter an apprenticeship program who have the basic skills to do so—the work situation has been spotty for generations, so people who have the requisite qualifications for entry find other avenues to pursue. This year, my Local only had 70 applicants. When I applied (25 years ago), over 430 people were vying for seven spots. Let me be crystal clear—-this means you have to have enough jobs to keep both current journeymen and hopeful apprentices steadily employed for a generation.

    (I sincerely hope you or someone can get this done. Seriously—Elizabeth, if you can get this done in Illinois, I owe you a nice dinner at the Kinsey Chophouse. *smile*)

    (2) Apprenticeships aren’t just for young men. One of the best things about my job? No wage gap. None. Young women need to hear this. A lot.

    (3) This will increase marriages, but not in the way you think. While the tradesmen of my generation married young, the Millenials are not—their trajectory for marriage resembles the college-educated. They want to spend their twenties free and unencumbered (which is a good thing: being of a mind to “settle down” means the actual settling down goes well—it comes from within, rather than being coerced from without). This is part of why they almost always pair up with college-educated women: the timelines and expectations are similar.

    Whoops! Should have made that four points. So, the fourth point is: not everyone is going to go to college, and not everyone can join an apprenticeship either. It’s long past time that this society start recognizing the value of all labor, and cut a decent paycheck for every job—including the menial service jobs that somehow never seem to get mentioned though they comprise the bulk of “growth” jobs in our country. (maybe they’re never mentioned because they’re predominantly female jobs). Come on. My high-school-dropout grandparents were able to earn a decent living for their children. We’ve got college-graduates in this generation who can’t get jobs that use their education or pay worth a damn. Income inequality isn’t sustainable.

    I’d really like to see conversations about the breakdown of marriages and communities framed around the rise of income inequality. You can’t drive through downstate Illinois without seeing that slapped square in your face.

  2. Diane M says:

    My basic reaction is that the solutions called for at the end of the article sound like too little.

    For example, relationship skills classes for inmates are an important and good thing to do, but they’re not likely to make marriage come back.

    Apprenticeships sound like a good thing, but LaLubu has a good point – if there are no jobs in a field, you can’t take on apprentices. How would you fix that? What exactly would the apprenticeships be in and where and how to fund them? (Can we get CRS to work on this?)

  3. Diane M says:

    This bit from the article intrigued me and I would like to hear more about it from the Lapps:

    “But they also describe entering relationships and being wary, even afraid, of marriage. “Marriage ruins relationships,” was one common refrain. So, they put off or forgo marriage. But most of them go ahead and have children in their early 20s, without the security and stability afforded by marriage.”

    Why do they think that marriage ruins a relationship? What is it about marriage that they see as the problem? Taking each other for granted? Falling into roles? Expecting more from your partner? Freaking out over the commitment? Blowing your life savings on a big ceremony? Taking on each other’s debts? Sharing money? In-laws treating you differently? Loss of money in some way?

    Are they right? Do couples who don’t get married have a better chance of staying together? Is breaking up related to time or kids or problems or is it really related to marriage itself? If they’re not fully right, are there ways they are partly right?

    What are the gender differences on this issue? Do men or women think marriage will change things more? Do they both think marriage will change things, but care about different issues? Is one sex more anti-marriage than the other and if so, why?

    Do the young people see any possible good changes coming from marriage?

    What do their parents say about marriage – do they give the message that marriage ruined their own relationships? Do they shy away from marriage, too?

    What do the young people say if you ask them about what it is like to parent together without being married versus while married? How do they see kids affecting the relationship and do they see any interaction with marriage?

  4. Diane M says:

    I’ve been enjoying the pieces up on the Knot Yet website. I noticed that couples who marry early have happier marriages. I wonder how they compare to couples who meet and start dating or living together equally early but end up actually marrying later?

    In other words, how much of it has to do with finding your partner early on?

    Or could it be about never going through the kind of painful break-up that comes with divorce or splitting up after living together?

    Or could it be some completely different factor like more religious people getting married earlier?

    Another factor people might want to look into is where people live. Does when your peer group settles down affect how happy or unhappy you are about when you pair up?