2006/04/23

A war of each (plus parents) against all

This is a pretty interesting article about how parents in the USA are increasingly subsidizing their kids well into adulthood.

The Bank of Mom and Dad

There are some pretty surprising numbers here, including these: "Parents pay $2,323 a year to help support children 25 and 26 years old, said Dr. Schoeni, and $1,556 annually for offspring 33 and 34."

Disappointingly, the reporter does a half-assed job exploring what might be causing this trend. She gestures toward unfavorable economic conditions - "paychecks have stalled, housing costs have risen, education costs have skyrocketed and credit has become so available as to be dangerous" - but then settles on a different explanation. Namely, today's youth are more choosy, so "extended education, the exploration of career options and delayed marriage are the causes of the long transition to self-sufficiency".

My own suspicion is that this represents an adaptation to the realignment of capitalism that began 30 years ago. The postwar settlement that created equitable growth and secure if powerless jobs for the nation's workers has been steadily torn down and replaced with steep inequality and fierce competition. Those parents with the means to do so are trying to preserve a middle class life for kids who simply can't do it on their own, and trying to give them a competitive edge in the increasingly bitter struggle for the dwindling number of jobs that can financially support lives considered respectable and comfortable.

This brings up an issue that the reporter was curiously silent on - what happens to all those kids whose parents simply can't afford to give them the financial space they need to explore careers, attend business school, law school, med school, or grad school, or accumulate the low-wage experience on which they can build successful careers? This seems like far the more interesting story, where we can see the naked class struggle going on beneath the generosity of parental love.

1 comment:

jenny said...

there are also kids who won't take handouts from their affluent parents, but i guess they're less interesting...