It looks as though the dad pitching in with the kids and housework is not quite as recent as people, particularly on the right, often claim. While GI fathers show decent evidence of being hands-off, it appears things had changed for the fathers who came along a decade or so later.
During the 1950s and early 1960s, there were a lot of excited demographers studying the lower age of marriage and relatively higher fertility, and thrilled at the idea that a new pattern of family growth even in urban areas via natural increase might be the new normal.
One of those studies was done in two parts in 1957 and 1961 and it involved over 1100 white collar and blue collar couples in the eight largest major metropolitan areas at the time. It involved white couples who’d had their second child in 1956. They further narrowed the group with technical requirements beyond the scope of this post, but the upshot was that they got some interesting data that Catholics, Jews and Protestants alike all wanted 2-4 children (90% across the board) and less than 10% wanted 5+.
Another interesting detail of this study is the post title. Many of the mothers were still housewives, but fully 2/3 of them could count on their husbands to take care of the children as a norm. Fully 1/3 of these urban women mostly living in apartments could also count on someone who wasn’t their husband (and by definition for the study not one of their own children) to help them around the house as a norm.
If one includes “sometimes”, 85% of the 1100+ wives could expect some recurring level of help with the kids from their husbands. And including “sometimes”, it was 60% of those wives. So by 1957, the husband was already viewed as a major source of help by urban wives.
They did a follow-up study covering whether a third (or) child had been born, and I haven’t gotten far into that one yet. But I found the detail about help that the wife felt she could count on reliably very relevant to 60(!) years later.
Source: Family Growth in Metropolitan America, 1961, Princeton University Press.
Ivanka Trump has a new book out and I’m never going to read it, because in the news articles and her own little social media bits about it, I learned all I need to know:
She has two nannies for three kids.
She was happy to not only admit it, but even acknowledged their work by name.
This has gotten her excoriated by the press of course, but the thing is, Marissa Mayer of Yahoo built a multimillion dollar nursery in her office and was feted by that same press. This is utterly unattainable for the average American mother, who is increasingly professional-class and in the top 10-20% of household incomes nationally. Ivanka’s nanny setup, however, is attainable for two professional class mothers splitting the cost for 2-4 children, and possibly as many as 4-6 combined.
I think that is worth noticing and paying attention to. Simply admitting that three closely spaced children just might take a lot of help from other women to manage reasonably is absolutely huge. Thanks for brightening a housewife’s day, Ivanka!
These are heat maps of where people decide to have the marginal third child that breaks the “family of four” paradigm that is reflected even in consumer goods and packaging because it’s become such a core part of post-Vietnam American culture.
For all races, about 30% of births for 2014 were third kid or higher.
For whites, it was about 25%
A starting point for discussion is that while the coasts with good jobs where both parents can potentially earn 75-100k apiece are punching a little below the national average, they are nevertheless putting up third babies in the double digits in many high-cost counties.