Where are the young Christian marriage partners?

Evangelical Christian private schools.  There is a great blog that tracks research and what data exists on homeschooling, and in this link there’s a discussion of some research into whether homeschooled kids marry and have kids differently than kids educated other ways (particularly public school kids).

In a nutshell, evangelical Christian private school attendees end up marrying before 25 and having their first kid a few years later.  Catholic school attendees marry around 28-30 and have their first kid ASAP.  Homeschool and public school kids have higher rates of teen and early 20s pregnancy and marriage (still fairly low in raw numbers) and higher rates of being unmarried at 39.

Without extreme religiosity, which drives most of the homeschool early marriage, homeschool family formation and childbearing is pretty much the same as public school family formation and childbearing, which is useful information for homeschoolers to have now that the extremely religious are a much smaller minority of homeschoolers these days.

I haven’t cross-referenced this with lifetime births per woman, but I suspect based on demographic patterns that this means homeschoolers and public school kids have slightly fewer lifetime children per woman and probably per man than religious private schoolers of either Catholic or Evangelical Christian persuasion.

Anyway my rapscallionate brood is going to evangelical Christian schools, I guess!


Shift Toward Greater Educational Attainment for Women Began 20 Years Ago

In the mid-90s, black, white and Hispanic women aged 25-34 all pulled ahead of men in getting bachelor’s degrees or higher (or multiple, etc).  Asian women pulled ahead about ten years later.  Two decades of this has resulted in all women over 25 being likelier than all men over 25 to have a college degree.

Now since we’re talking about all adults over 25, and further, since it’s painfully obvious that college education doesn’t improve women’s financial earnings capacities reliably or consistently, we have to consider the longer-term implications of this on marriage and family formation.  Men still do earn more on average, *if they bother to work*, but they are increasingly not bothering to work.

Source: Shift Toward Greater Educational Attainment for Women Began 20 Years Ago

I am Shirley Jackson and Shirley Jackson is me

As T.W.O. would put it, that’s overegging the pudding a tadge.  I’ll never publish the most notorious and universal short story in American history.  More intimately, my husband is not a Kavorka Man.

But she and I both are housewives with strong intellectual drives living in whitopias where household help is only for weird inferior women who can’t manage entirely on their own or micromanage the bleep out of that poor cousin they did have come by a few days a week.  She couldn’t get nice college girls because mother’s helping was beneath them in 1950 and non-college girls were from families that hadn’t moved in 50-100 years and so they didn’t have anyone “strange” come help.  People tend to think college towns are all the same, but they operate along a continuum.  And Jackson was not in a college town where the degree was a MRS.

She also put her kids in preschool, which was called “community nursery school” and which 10-20% of women used back then.  Exact data is had to come by because of terminology and lack of collecting data issues.  And even back then it was the middle and up stay at home mothers who used it part-time and the smaller pool of working mothers using it full time.

I have her sense of anxiety and frustration, but not her pretty solid domestic skills. Our children find us odd but loving.  There is a sort of weirdly beautiful e-drama online somewhere where one of Stanley Jackson’s coed affairs is bragging about it on salon or something similar and Shirley’s kids post comments defending their mother and whaling on the smarmy coed selling the only interesting thing about herself. I was touched by the love her kids (one of which I think was a grandparent by now) had for her and their respect for her hard work keeping their home so it could be an entertainment vehicle for dad.

Stanley Jackson was a literary critic and professor who tomcatted around and expected his wife to produce both domestically and intellectually, but was jealous of her ability to get thousands of dollars for a handful of stories about women and children and often the domestic sphere.

I 100% do not think I can compete with the mad literary skills of Mrs. Jackson, but it’s reassuring in a strange way to know that this literary ninja had some of the same struggles I, a much more ordinary housewife, have sixty or so years later.

It also brings me back to wanting to smash conservatives in the face for chronically declaring that there was no widespread frustration among average women in the 1950s and during the WWII era and that anyone talking about it was just a loser who was unhaaaaappppy or a communist.  Shirley Jackson wrote for Good Housekeeping, for pity’s sake.  She was not writing some edgy scandal stuff like Peyton Place.  And yet there remain in both sets of writing much the same sort of struggles of women trying to adapt to the rapid shifts in technology, social roles and relationships with men.

One of the anecdotes in her domestic memoirs is about a pregnant woman she meets at the hospital when she has her third baby who is running late on delivering and is relieved and happy to be free of household tasks for what in the anecdote is about two weeks and heading into a third.  General audiences of women wouldn’t have wanted to read about stuff like that if it didn’t seem real.  They were very quick to write letters where they believed something to be unrealistic in its slicing of life.

Anyway I’ve only just begun reading her domestic memoirs and that sensation of being drawn close in time to a writer across so many seismic changes in daily life is dizzying.

About 55% of American women 40 and over have 1 or 2 children.

Given biology, this percentage is much the same for American women 35-39 as well.  About 20% have exactly three and a bit under 8% have exactly 4.  Hispanic women have three at noticeably higher rates than other ethnic groups, which has kept the percentage of women having 3 pretty stable over the last couple of decades.

The numbers were a little lower 15 and 20 years ago, but not by much.

Adding all that up, over 80% of women have 1-4 children in their lifetimes.  Nearly all the rest do not have kids at all. About 3% have five or six.  More than six is, statistically speaking, a rounding error.

Sometimes you hear that “80 or 85% of all women reproduce”.  Well, yeah, but in practice, this is what that means as far as actual children born.

On a related note, Scandinavian birthrates are mostly below replacement and they are only as close to it as they are because of social and government pressure to get women over 35 to have a marginal extra child.  The Scandinavian model of family formation is to have one child in your early 30s, and occasionally a second in your mid or late 30s.  It’s really a disastrous approach long-term for reasons I’ll leave as an exercise.

The American model is much more diverse, but tends towards closely spacing births and having as many as you can handle mostly alone, which appears to max out around 3 or 4.  But because child spacing varies so much among Americans having kids, it’s difficult for people who had three kids five years apart over two marriages to understand the travails of someone having three kids in three years in one marriage.  Or having one kid out of wedlock in one’s early 20s and then two more in marriage ten years later.

It’s interesting that for several decades now women have been starting their families in their 30s in America more and more often and trying to have as many as they can then, but they can’t outrun biology, so the overall TFR doesn’t shift much.


Homeschooling is not a Swiss Army Knife

It is, of course, treated as such by conservatives.  No matter what the family situation, homeschooling is presented as the cure to lack of money, lack of community, multicultural conflict, bad marriage, no marriage, the list goes on and on.

Homeschooling is increasingly used as another way to retreat into a private but not domestic sphere.  I used to be very “you do you” about homeschooling, but now when I hear about yet another friend or family member opting to homeschool, I just see another couple who won’t be bringing anyone meals, who won’t be volunteering, who won’t be sitting up with the sick old lady at church, who won’t be participating in local civic life.

It is understandable to protect what is nearest to you, but it’s not a movement.  Or an all-purpose fix-it solution for the loss of posterity and social life.

Real Talk for SAHMs: Why Christian mommybloggers need to put down the shot glasses

It’s practically a trope among popular Christian mommybloggers like Simcha Fischer to promote liquor drinking among SAHMs as a coping mechanism.  It’s increasingly hard to tell how much of it is is haha only serious or just serious.  And it’s got to stop.  It’s incredibly alienating to the average SAHM because most people don’t drink, much less drink at the bingey rates implied by some of those ostensibly Christian mommybloggers.

And it’s especially the case that most women don’t drink.  Alcohol tastes gross or smells gross to most women during the time in their lives when they get pregnant and nurse (ask me how I know!), so the kind of conservative Christian housewife reading these bloggers for commiseration is going to feel weird that she doesn’t want to turn to drink when things are overwhelming and wearying.  She’ll wonder what’s wrong with herself for not being able to consider such a cheap and easy means of short term respite.  Or she’ll wonder if all the other SAHMs do that and she’s just the puritan weirdo who’s too uptight.

Or she’ll take a chance and try it, and end up like this dame.  Before she broke up her marriage, she was big on posting pictures of her drinking and doing “Girl’s Nights Out” as a SAHM.

That’s the other poisonous aspect.  It positions having a few drinks as the only respite housewives are allowed that’s socially acceptable, so support among friends and family shifts to providing “Girl’s Nights Out” rather than actual help when they need it during the day.

It’s insidious even though it looks like joking, but it’s way too frequently thrown about to feel very funny.

Trump, Cruz, and the Parent Tribe vs the Red Tribe

In the current year of 2016, the Republican Party is faced with a serious challenge in its nomination process.  Do they pick the guy the supporters of the Tribe of Parents want or do they pick the guy the supporters of the Red Tribe* want?

Trump voters are parent tribalists more often than Cruz voters, who are rock-ribbed Red Tribers.  Palin is relevant here as an example of a pure-outsider to the Red Tribe.

Members of the Tribe of Parents are interested in practical natalism and improving conditions for people who have children (implicitly, married people).

The Red Tribe is strivers.  Red Tribe folks are much more interested in affinity clubs/groups.  The Tribe of Parents is more interested in local community groups.

Trump talks like a parent, making practical and tangible promises.  Cruz talks like a striver, emphasizing in-group jargon and abstraction as a sign of superiority to the outgroup.

Palin was criticized within the right for being vulgar and interested in financial security for her family after her moment of fame passed.  She was criticized for thinking and behaving like a parent.  Now the same people are bringing very similar criticisms to bear on Trump, that he is a huckster and con artist and vulgar and just trying to use this race to increase his personal wealth.  In other words, that he is committing the crime of being a parent instead of a striver devoted to higher abstract principles than his own children.

Red Tribe strivers tend to engage in SJW style projection about how wanting to preserve something for people who aren’t bound by affinity is hucksterism.  Red Tribe strivers use the fact that Trump supporters aren’t articulate as a proof that they’re being conned by Trump.  But being inarticulate about basic beliefs in God, family and country are normal and human…and average.  Strivers are defined by their insistence upon and investment in the notion that they’re above average.  So the Red Tribe loves a wonkish personality selling them their comforting beliefs but presume that a non-wonk isn’t sophisticated enough to learn how to join their club.

This is a concept I’m working out in real time, but I think it’s key to understanding larger cultural shifts going on of which Trump is just one piece.


*The Red Tribe is most classically typified by conservative political beliefs, strong evangelical religious beliefs, creationism, opposing gay marriage, owning guns, eating steak, drinking Coca-Cola, driving SUVs, watching lots of TV, enjoying American football, getting conspicuously upset about terrorists and commies, marrying early, divorcing early, shouting “USA IS NUMBER ONE!!!”, and listening to country music.  This definition from Scott Alexander at Slate Star Codex is not exactly right, but it’s not all that wrong either.  What it mostly gets wrong is the striver aspect of Red Tribe folks, who have buckets of strivers in their midst.