According to all of the experts, the great housing debacle of 2008 that triggered a second great depression in 2009 is all but over. The national economy, once on the skids, has rebounded. The vast majority of the jobs lost during these difficult times have been replaced. Or so we’ve been told. It’s as if the powers that be are of the mindset that, if we say it aloud over and over, maybe the populace will begin to believe. With all the public proclamations about the housing industry having been revived, I was beginning to hope for the best. And then a front page headline in the Atlanta Journal Constitution caught my attention: College grads face uneven job market. My goodness. If college grads are catching hell in the job market, what does it mean for the vast majority in our society who are not college graduates? And, most importantly, what does it mean for the family?
In an earlier article, we talked about the changing face of the American family. But no matter what your idea of a family looks like, it’s inarguable that economics play the major role in the well-being of that family. In the absence of a solid jobs outlook, people just don’t get married (as much or as soon) as otherwise. And it’s the presence of two parents that forms the foundation for the most healthy (mentally and physically) family unit in our society. A sociologist with the University of Virginia, W. Bradford Wilcox (author of “Even for Rich Kids, Marriage Matters”), reports that even the children of upper-income households – when dealing with family breakups – don’t fare as well as their two-parent family peers. And this cuts across the entire spectrum (educationally, emotionally, and psychologically).
Make no mistake about it. A poor jobs outlook doesn’t stop people from starting families; procreation will always win out. A poor jobs outlook just makes people start families in situations that are far less than ideal. According to a new government study that tracks the continuing climb of cohabitation in our society, nearly half the women in first unions with men moved in together unmarried. Considering that other studies have long shown that nearly 41 percent of all children are born out of wedlock, it’s not difficult to match up the long-term poverty rates of the vast majority of these children with the reasons why.
Sometimes, however, raw statistics can be misleading. In just released figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (from their annual “Employment Characteristics of Families Summary”), the share of families with an unemployed member was unchanged at 80 % in 2013. But here’s the rub. Everything that we’ve been reading indicates that, to the extent that we’ve replaced jobs lost in the recent depression, we’ve replaced them with lesser paying and/or part-time jobs. And that takes us back to our initial quandary. If the best prepared in our society (college grads) are having difficulties finding jobs, where does that leave the rest of us? It just doesn’t look good for the family.