Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘family’

The Giving Season… and Era

Every time I cash in on being (just barely) a senior citizen – at the movie line, on the subway, for example – I feel a twinge of guilt. The elderly, on average, can better afford such items than can young adults, especially those raising small children. Yet the system of discounts for age, like much else these days – say, Medicare vs. Medicaid – is slanted toward seniors. The logic is rooted in an earlier time.

Back in the day – say, before the ’60s – the assumption was that most old people could make it through their sunset years only with financial and personal help from their grown children. In last few decades, the flow of money and of energy has been largely going the other way (see earlier post).

In two new overview papers (pdf and pdf), sociologists Judith Seltzer and Suzanne Bianchi document the help many American seniors are giving their adult children long past the school years, be it directly with money or through help such as babysitting. (Bianchi, a terrific scholar of American family life, passed away recently, much too soon.) Among the less well-off, parents might largely help by re-opening a bedroom at home or providing after-school care. One study found that about 3 of 10 pre-schoolers are with grandparents when the parents are at work. Among the most affluent, parental help can include buying 20-somethings their own Manhattan apartments (see here and here).

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Back Home

arithumb_903ffa984c4e13825e3d6ee815874b44_250_188

Studio (source)

One of the major lifestyle changes of the twentieth century was the dramatic increase in the proportion of Americans who lived alone. [1] Virtually outlawed in Early America, rarely done in the early twentieth century, it became a stage of life for many Americans, especially for elderly women, by the end of the century. (In 2000, about one-third of American women 65 and older were living alone.) The question of whether this trend is a good or bad thing has been a matter of concern. Eric Klinenberg’s recent best-seller, Going Solo, conveys the positive side of the discussion (see also this earlier post).

Another side of the discussion is trying to make sense of why Americans increasingly chose to live alone. Is it because Americans became increasingly disaffected with family or because Americans became increasingly able to afford their own living spaces? The recent economic shocks we have gone through provide a way to contrast people’s “tastes” for solo living versus their budgets for solo living.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

The ’60s Turn 50

We have a commemoration going on about the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the great social changes, such as the Emancipation Proclamation, which accompanied it. There’s another anniversary coming up over the next 12 months or so: the 50th anniversary of “The ‘60s,” by which I mean the 1960s as a distinct social, cultural era. It did not really begin in 1960 nor end in 1970. It began, culturally speaking, roughly in 1963-64 and petered out in the early-to-mid 1970s. If one is looking for a start date, perhaps the March on Washington, August 28, 1963, is a good marker (video); or President Kennedy’s assassination, November 22, 1963 (video); or the Beatles’ arrival in America, February 7, 1964 (video). Somewhere around then.

People often think that their time – particularly the period of their youth – is the fulcrum of history (see this study). Everything before we were about 14 or 15 is old, everything after is totally new. (Novelist Willa Cather famously wrote that “the world broke in two in 1922 or thereabouts”; historian Warren Sussman preferred 1905.) We are usually wrong. Some periods, however, are distinct and fateful for different reasons. For the generation that grew to adulthood in the 1960s, it was about rapid cultural change, a change apparently set off by earlier, rapid demographic change.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Paying Attention to the Kids

Whether Americans are doing right by their kids is a recurrent subject of often bitter debate. With controversies about the “tiger mom,” or “helicopter parents,” or career women “dumping” their children on others, or men doing their share, there is no end of worry about whether 21st-century American parents are properly committed to their children.

Some recent data suggests that American parents in the last generation have been at least trying harder than parents did decades ago. They are spending more money on their kids and, given their work schedules, spending more time with their kids. This trend developed in the face of other trends have made attending to kids more and more difficult: the growth of single parenting, the entry of most mothers into the labor force, and the exacerbated financial strains on middle- and working-class families. While parents are making the effort, as is so often the case these days, widening inequality makes it harder for some parents and kids than others.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

The Elderly and Their Children

An item from the Global Times of Beijing:

On Dec. 28 [2012], China passed a law requiring adult children to visit their elderly parents “often,” or risk repercussions. The law is a response to the increasing difficulty of caring for an aging population that will reach 200 million this year. The law does not specify the number of required visits or possible punishments.

Old couple and their granddaughter farming in hilly Ozark country, Missouri

Ozarks (Source)

American social historians and sociologists have devoted much time to studying Americans’ ties to their elderly parents – a way of assessing what may have changed in family feelings and family values over the generations, and also, it turns out, of assessing how government policies affect family life. We haven’t reached — and are unlikely to — the Chinese condition.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Out- and Insourcing

Need a date? Log in to a dating service. Need to feed dinner guests? Call a caterer. Your kid is applying for college? Hire a counselor. Have a worry? Sign up with a therapist or life coach. Don’t do it yourself, buy it – whatever “it” is.

Ryokan.edu

Sociologist Arlie Hochschild, the author of innovative, path-breaking books such as The Managed Heart, The Second Shift, and The Time Bind, has another one coming, The Outsourced Self, which she previewed in May 6’s New York Times (here). In the article, she points out the many personal goods and services that one can buy these days. And she worries that something is being sacrificed for the convenience and efficiency of the market, that by outsourcing we are losing a part of our selves and of our intimate ties.

My small contribution in this post is to add – as I often do in conversations with Arlie, who is a long-time friend and Berkeley colleague – a historical dimension. Outsourcing personal services is not new in this or even the last century. More striking still, Americans have in recent generations turned to insourcing critical family goods and services that we once outsourced.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Spinsters No More

Among the familiar characters in 19th century novels are the spinsters – the “spinster aunts” who lived with a brother or sister’s family; also the “spinster daughters” who stayed home with their elderly parent(s). These characters seem to have decamped from modern fiction. No wonder, there are a lot fewer of them in modern life. To be sure, many adult American women today remain unmarried for life, but they rarely inhabit either of these two classic spinster roles.

Some of the disappearance can be credited to demographic changes, but more to other developments that have allowed women once destined to be such spinsters to avoid that fate. American women’s escape from these roles, like most other social changes, came with a price.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 261 other followers