Video of the day

Absolutely stunning time-lapse visuals in this very short film.  Definitely watch full screen in HD

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Photo of the day

Love this Wired gallery of “ancient and magnificent” trees:

The Great Western Red Cedar of Gelli Aur. Llandeilo, Wales, 2006. This grand multi-trunked Great Western Red Cedar is thought to have been planted in 1863. BETH MOON

Single motherhood

I kept meaning to post a chart or two from this excellent Wonkblog post from a month ago on the rise of single motherhood, and damn it, now I have.  Anyway, it’s pretty fascinating to see the rise in single motherhood across races and how this relates to education:

 

McLanahan and Jencks

Research has also begun to confirm Moynihan’s fears that children of unmarried moms face more obstacles in life. They’re far more likely to live in poverty than children of married parents. McLanahan and Jencks have found in their research that they experience more family instability, with new partners moving in and out, and more half-siblings fathered by different men. The growing number of studies in this field also suggests that these children have more problem behaviors and more trouble finishing school. The data is less conclusive, McLanahan and Jencks caution, on how absent fathers affect a child’s test scores or future earnings.

Simple– we just need to get more of these parents married– right?  Ah, not so simple:

Here McLanahan and Jencks are clear: None of these findings mean that children would necessarily be better off if their biological parents married.

That’s because children of unmarried moms are more likely to have a father in prison, or who’s unemployed, or who sells drugs or abuses his partner. “Furthermore,” McLanahan and Jencks write, “even when a child’s absent father is a model citizen, the mother often has problems that marriage cannot solve.” She has less education than married moms, or she’s more likely to have mental health challenges.

Okay, then, the not simple solution?

As a policy problem, this means that the rise of unmarried moms demands a solution far beyond marriage. So what would it look like? A key insight from McLanahan and Jencks:

Unmarried parents are not that different from married parents in their behavior. Both groups value marriage, both spend a long time searching for a suitable marriage partner, and both engage in premarital sex and cohabitation. The key difference is that one group often has children while they are searching for a suitable partner, whereas the other group more often has children only after they marry.

That implies that we should give less-educated women more reasons — like educational and career opportunity — to postpone motherhood. And we need to improve the economic prospects of those suitable partners they’re searching for. These are both incredibly complicated tasks. And they point to the conclusion that the rise of single motherhood charted above is an economic story as much — if not more so — than a cultural one.

Hmmmm.  In fact, we do know this is in part an economic story, as lower class whites are also far more likely to be single moms and not have successful marriages.  Yes, we can absolutely do more, but we are always going to have lower classes, I do wonder if there’s not anyway to try and change the culture (probably not).  I am certainly not advocating a return to shotgun weddings and a huge stigma on unmarried moms, but it does seem as there was likely some real benefit from that.  The question is can we get far more who should not yet have children to postpone doing so without making a stigma out of it.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Loved this NPR story about a 19th century doctor who figured out long before the rest of the medical establishment that washing hands between delivering babies was the key to the insane rates of maternal infection and death in hospitals.  Alas, nobody really believed him and countless more women needlessly died.

2) File under not surprising– CIA’s own internal investigation found that the intelligence value of torture (or “brutal interrogation”) was way oversold.

3) Mount Holyoke does not want “The Vagina Monologues” on campus because the famed feminist production is not fair to women without vaginas.  Seriously.

4) Really like Harold Meyerson’s take on the SOTU and the Democrats’ message:

Democrats have long sought to represent the interests of both business and labor. At times, this has led them into cul-de-sacs of self-negation (something that the president’s simultaneous advocacy of pro-worker tax policies and yet another trade treaty sadly exemplifies). But they seem to be finding a new ideological and political sweet spot: They’re the party that rewards work, that seeks to increase labor income even if — and you’d better believe they’ve polled on this — it means taking a bite out of capital income. Given the weight of money in politics, theirs will be a halting and incomplete conversion, but the signs of their new faith are too numerous to dismiss. Their new emphasis may also help them win back a share of the white working-class voters who have increasingly been electing Republicans. It likely won’t be a big share, but the Democrats don’t need a big share to build an electoral majority.

Indeed, the new Democratic focus puts Republicans in a bind. The GOP would be happy to increase workers’ incomes if it didn’t involve diminishing the ability of wealthy investors and CEOs to claim the lion’s share of Americans’ incomes for themselves. Alas, for the Republicans, that’s arithmetically impossible. Once the national discourse turns to economic inequality, Republicans, already averse to the claims of science, will also have to dismiss the validity of math.

5) I would totally pay a premium for a charging cable that charged my devices twice as fast.

6) How alcohol-soaked college Greek parties might be a lot safer for women if they occurred in sororities instead of fraternities.

7) Funny little take on the SOTU and Obama’s tan suit.

8) I’m an Aaron Rodgers fan.  We need more of this

“I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome,” Rodgers said. “He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.”

9) Nice Chait article thinking about Obama’s legacy.

10) Are liberals to blame for our modern over-incarcerated America?  I’d say no, but here’s the case that they are.

11) It is so cool that honey basically lasts forever.  Here’s why.

12) I think I had something on Invisibilia last week, but I especially liked this profile in the New Yorker.

13) I have to admit, I found this Vox post on human feces incredibly fascinating.  Especially (of course) this bit about bacteria:

It’s tempting to think of feces as simply the used-up remains of the food you ate — the stuff that makes it through after digestion.

In reality, this stuff is present, but 50 to 80 percent of your poop (excluding water) is actually bacteria that had been living in your intestines and was then ejected as food passed through. Many of the bacteria in poop are still alive, but some are dead — carcasses of species that bloomed as they fed on the indigestible plant matter you consumed, then died shortly afterward.

14) Loved this Josh Marshall post on Constitutional Conservatives.  Kept meaning to give it its own post and failed:

At the end of the day, though, the federal constitution was created to battle and overpower the political ideals and devotion to limited, weak government that today’s Tea Partiers and ‘constitutional conservatives’ embody. The history leaves no other possible conclusion. The central belief of the men who spearheaded the constitution was that only a strong central government could make America great and strong and thus safe. There’s a lot in those ideas that today’s liberals would not find welcoming at all. And the anti-Federalist, anti-constitutionalist strain in American history, which the Paulites and Tea Partiers of today embody, has played an important role as a counter-force. But the constitution, the aims, beliefs and goals of the constitution-makers are the polar opposite of what the Rand Paul types and Tea Partiers believe.

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