When someone speaks of the lifestyles of the wealthy a number of images may come to mind involving luxury cars or big houses, but what about a traditional, stable two-parent family? Wait, what? Consider this article (by a self-described feminist) about how feminism has been co-opted as a wage-suppression tool – the labour pool is larger if both parents work and at the same time, if the expectation is that both parents in a family are in the workplace, then why should one person’s wage be large enough to support a family anyway? Then there’s Japan where young people are giving up on having families in part because the expectation of the husband to be a breadwinner is intense and, for many, unfeasible in an economy that has been stagnant for a couple decades now. It has been observed that those in the upper classes are more likely to marry and stay married, have children later and, by doing all of this, pass their opportunities on to their children.
Why are the working classes not following the same patterns? Charles Murray thought that this could solved by a stern lecture and the example of their betters, but David Frum thoroughly debunked Murray’s finding that not much else is needed. The reality is that our economic system privileges flexibility in production of goods and services, and family life makes flexibility difficult. Try making a parent-teacher interview working two jobs, or even shift-work. What if the better jobs are elsewhere? If one spouse is unemployed but the other is not, should they move? Should one spouse go where the work is and the other stay and effectively become a single parent? I do not know if anyone in our readership has considered that no-fault divorce has this sort of benefit of improving labour market liquidity, but it surely does.
It is natural for a Christian to point out that they know a family from their own church perhaps who have stuck together in spite of economic challenges. The reality is it is possible to make such a thing happen, just like it is possible for someone of modest means to make other luxury purchases by scrounging and cutting back in other areas. By such means one can find working class car collectors, watch collectors, world travellers and so on. What we need to ask is whether it is wise or beneficial to be living in a society where people come to view these types of life choices as luxuries.