Watch ninme fight for the Have-Nots.
Not many people share my enthusiasm for statistics. That’s fine by me: it means that I and a few like-minded wonks get early warning of how the world’s changing. Those who have not yet read a paper recently published by the Federal Bank of Boston entitled “Additional slack in the economy: the poor recovery in labour force participation during this business cycle” will be unaware of a puzzling trend in the American labour market.
The economy is healthy and unemployment moderate; but there are a lot of people who do not appear in either the employment or the unemployment figures and seem to have opted out of work altogether. Had the labour market followed its usual pattern during an economic recovery, there would be a further 5.1 million people, or 3 per cent of the workforce, at work – nearly 4.1 million of them women.
Are women giving up work? Those who can afford it are, says Anne Applebaum, a journalist friend living in Washington. She has a son at a fairly smart school and another at a really swanky one. At the first, a third of the mothers are working; she is the only one at the second. Delivering hand-crafted cakes for the school fair and putting in the hours at the PTA are taken as evidence not just of the stay-at-home mothers’ moral superiority but also of their wealth.
Gloomily, I consult my son, who goes to an expensive south London school, on whether it’s happening here. Sure, he said. Only a third of his classmates’ mothers work – and none of those who live in the nice big houses in the suburbs where he hangs out in preference to our inner-city grit. He didn’t need my labour-market figures. He knew it all already. Maybe I should talk to my son more.
So: the Haves decide they want to work and force the economy to change to accommodate them and then when it becomes absolutely necessary for a Have-Not’s house to have two incomes to survive in this new economy the Haves decide they don’t want to work anymore.
Or, as RC2 puts it (ninme blushes):
Last year USA Today reported the new trend among the wealthy: having a fourth child. Now, having gotten the rest of us dependent on double incomes, wealthy women have decided they don’t like work after all. You’re ahead of your time, Catholic Moms. (Except for the poverty, of course.) Click here for ninme’s take, plus her link to the original article. (Ninme reads the Telegraph so you don’t have to).