heard around ccf

photo credit: Tumisu via pixabay

On September 9, as the first of two record-breaking hurricanes barreled down on the Caribbean, and North America, President Trump wreaked legal havoc on families through rescinding a program to help young people whose parents brought them to the United States without proper immigration documentation. He followed up on September 24 with new immigration bans that added heat and intensity to the experiences of global citizens. During this maelstrom, I have searched for links that narrate in more detail how the policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and its potential demise, affects families.

Some reading addressed Why is this happening? What could people be thinking? Work I read suggested answers: “They” are here to steal our jobs, why not get rid of them? Why don’t they just get their citizenship? Throughout September, after President Trump announced canceling DACA, these writers focused on debunking myths about this program.

  • Vox’s Dara Lind gives DACA’S history, recalling that Obama created the DACA executive order as a way to protect those who came here illegally as children, for the sake of their future. As Lind points out, it is a lot harder for people with US-born family members to get their citizenship than ever before.
  • At Rolling Stone, Tessa Stuart highlights the myths of individuals under DACA. Stuart discusses how some people believe that DACA is a gateway to citizenship, even though it is not. She also clarifies that DACA is not a shortcut to get federal benefits.
  • CNN focuses on how these DACA youth are protesting this decision and discusses how some critics view the decision as unconstitutional because of lack of due process. CNN, as many others, highlighted that the decision, if it holds, will have a negative impact on the economy over the next decade.

Other articles focused on: What will rescinding DACA mean to families economically and socially? For starters, families will be torn apart, making the U.S less diverse even as it creates an unstable environment for many immigrant families who are citizens with DACA relatives. Economic contributions from DACA are substantial. DACA recipients pay a total in $2 billion in taxes per year in the United States—the loss would be great to the government, the economy, and also to families benefiting from that productive income

  • The removal of DACA will harm 800,000 individuals and their families. On fivethirtyeight.com, Anna Maria Barry-Jester notes that removing DACA will generate unemployment for young workers who support their families and relatives. More than 200,000 people would be unemployed if this decision is made final.
  • Roque Planas, in Huffington Post, shows us the fear felt by people made vulnerable by this decision—much of it fear for the family. Karla Pérez, interviewed by Planas, noted that the removal of DACA “…always weighs heavily on my mind.” Pérez continues, “My biggest concern right now is my parents because DHS has my information… I’m not so much worried for myself as for my family.”

Still another theme in coverage of the DACA announcement is whether this is just about Latinx families. Reporters asked, why are we ignoring Asian families, the fastest growing immigrant group?

  • The Washington Post’s, Vanessa Williams brings up how the fastest growing immigrant groups are not particularly highlighted in the DACA conversation. Williams mentions that Asian immigrants have more than tripled since 2000. Asian immigrants account for 1.6 million out 11 million immigrants in the U.S.
  • Newsweek’s John Haltiwanger profiles these dreamers and discussed the nearly 15 percent of Asian immigrants in detail. His work begs the question, are we ignoring this immigrant group because of their stereotype as the “model minority”?

Luilly DeJesus Gonzalez is a senior sociology major at Framingham State University and a CCF Public Affairs Intern.

Years ago, the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF) gave the United States a “Gentleman’s C” in terms of family policy, and not much has changed since then. CCF scholars have used the international variation in work-family policy to look at how families are doing – inside and outside of the United States. For International Women’s Day, here is a review of CCF research using international populations and the international media that reported on the research.

Supportive work-family policies foster women’s entrepreneurship

UC-Santa Barbara sociologist Sarah Thébaud’s investigation into “What Helps Women Entrepreneurs Flourish?” found that women in countries with more generous work-family policies like subsidized childcare and paid parental leave have more successful entrepreneurial endeavors: they “employ more workers, express more ambitious growth intentions, and are more likely to report introducing a brand new product or service to the market” than in countries without such benefits. There are higher numbers of women entrepreneurs in countries without progressive work-family policies, like the United States, but they don’t really succeed like those in the more generous countries. Their lack of success led Thébaud to conclude that these were cases of entrepreneurship as a “fallback” option in situations where balancing work and family was not possible otherwise.

Supportive work-family policies help men and women split up housework and childcare:

Economist Ankita Patnaik reports in “’Daddy’s Home!’ Increasing Men’s Use of Paternity Leave,” that in Quebec, after the implementation of a new non-transferrable, paid five-week paternity leave policy that paid parents seventy percent of their income (Quebec Parental Insurance Plan), fathers were more likely to take advantage of paternity leave than were fathers in Quebec before the policy implementation in 2006 or in provinces without the new policy. Eighty percent of fathers eligible for the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan utilized it, compared to less than twenty percent of those taking advantage of the previous policy, which paid fifty-five percent of income and was transferrable from fathers to mothers. After participants’ paid paternity leave had finished, participating fathers and mothers had a more egalitarian division of household and market labor than couples in which the father did not take the paid paternity leave. This research was profiled to Canadian readers in the National Post, and to Sri Lankan readers in Viva Lanka.

Patnaik’s encouraging finding is important, because in the United States – where paid paternity leave is not guaranteed—parents tend to revert to “traditional” family roles after the birth of a child. Arielle Kuperberg’s research, outlined in the CCF brief “First comes love, then comes…housework?” was profiled in the Australian edition of the International Business Times. Kuperberg, a sociologist at UNC-Greensboro, reported that it was not the transition to marriage, but the transition to parenting that increased gender inequality in household labor among couples.

Balancing market and non-market work leads to happier couples and families:

What are the implications of policies that allow parents to share work and family obligations? Well, for one, couples who share housework have more sex, and couples who share childcare have better sex, according to Cornell’s Sharon Sassler in her CCF brief, “A reversal in Predictors of Frequency and Satisfaction in Marriage.” This report was covered by The Daily Mail in the U.K., The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, and Edizione Italiana in Italy, among others.

More broadly, variation in work-family policy accounts for the “happiness gap” between parents and non-parents. Jennifer Glass (UT-Austin), Robin Simon (Wake Forest University), and Matthew Andersson (Baylor University), in “Parenting Happiness in 22 Countries,” review that in the United States, where work-family policies are lacking, the happiness gap is wide – parents tend not to be as happy as non-parents. But in countries with “good parental policy ‘packages,’” made up of paid parental leave, guaranteed time off, affordable childcare, and “work schedule flexibility,” the differences are less stark. In Norway and Hungary, where there are generous parental policy packages, parents are even happier than non-parents. In addition to many English language articles around the world, this report was covered in a Spanish-language article entitled ““La paternidad y la infelicidad” at Proexpanción, and in “Un buon welfare può rendere felici i genitori,” in the Italian news outlet Internazionale.

Braxton Jones is a graduate student in sociology at the University of New Hampshire, and serves as a CCF Graduate Research and Public Affairs Scholar.

photo credit: Taco Hoekwater via Wikimedia Commons

This month in the media, Council on Contemporary Families (CCF) scholars made some good points about how social context contributes to the diversity of families and relationships in the United States and abroad.

TIME: Marriage rate decline over time yet strong relationships increase

The University of Texas Daily Beacon covered a popular issue – Millennial sex and dating. Media often latches on to (decontextualized) statistics about lower marriage rates of millennials, tsk-tsk-ing all the way. But the UT Daily Beacon pointed out some less-talked-about generational differences. More millennials are “sexually inactive” at age twenty, for instance, than those born in the 1980s. And, even though millennials might have lower marriage rates, there is reason to believe that they have closer relationships than those of previous generations with higher marriage rates. Stephanie Coontz suggests (as she has elsewhere) that this is in part due to rising gender equality that has empowered many women to resist coercive relationships.

PLACE: Around the world and around the U.S. great varieties and change in divorce

The BBC recently discussed the current state of “Divorce in the Islamic World,” where divorce activists are pushing for reform because of the inherent gender inequality in many divorce laws. To unfamiliar listeners, thinking about divorce in the Islamic world may be exotic. But Stephanie Coontz shows that there has been variation in divorce practices – and their impact on family life – by place within the United States, too. States adopted no-fault divorce individually starting during the 1970s, and up until 2010 in New York. This makes it possible to determine that despite initially high divorce rates following the adoption of no-fault divorce, divorce rates tend to decrease in the long-term. Fewer instances of domestic violence and suicides by wives are also related to the adoption of no-fault divorce. Coontz suggests that many of the problems people associate with divorce are not necessarily caused by divorce as much as caused by the stigmatization of divorce.

RACE & CLASS: Not family structure

NPR further illustrates the way that immutable contextual factors can impact family outcomes: “Black and Latino Two-Parent Families Have Half the Wealth of White Single Parents.” The report discussed on NPR references a CCF brief report by Philip Cohen, Heidi Hartmann, Chandra Childers, and Jeffrey Hayes. In “Moynihan’s Half Century: Have We Gone to Hell in a Handbasket?” Cohen, Hartmann, Childers, and Hayes discussed how, since 1965, anti-poverty efforts have mistakenly focused on changing individual behaviors, like getting black single mothers to get married. The much larger source of much economic inequality, find these studies, is racial inequality. Poor families often have lower rates or marriage because of economic inequality. Coontz, in her BBC interview, cautions against using blanket statements that almost half of married couples divorce. Those who are highly educated and who put off marriage – who tend to be wealthier – have significantly lower divorce rates.

The take-away? The theme is family diversity and family change. The evidence supports it. Ignore at our peril. Policy that draws on the “mythical” traditional family is not going to work if the goal is to reduce inequality in all these elements of family: generation, place, race, and class (and many others, too!)

Braxton Jones is a graduate student in sociology at the University of New Hampshire, and serves as a CCF Graduate Research and Public Affairs Scholar.

photo via Pixabay
photo via Pixabay

Why are families less economically secure today? After all, there’s been four decades of families seeming to have the opportunity to earn more and do better—this largely due to women’s movement into the U.S. workforce. According to a new report, women’s increased earnings and hours have been vital in the American family’s search for economic security. How has that search gone? Heather Boushey and Kavya Vaghul’s new report “Women have made the difference for family economic security” offers some answers.

Boushey, Executive Director and Chief Economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, and research team member Vaghul used data from the Current Population survey to focus on changes in family income between 1979 and 2013 for low-, middle-, and professional-income families. They delved into the difference between men’s and women’s earnings regarding greater pay, as well as women’s earning as a function of more hours worked. They also looked at other sources of income between 1979 and 2013.

Boushey and Vaghul had three main findings:

  • Low income families lost, while middle income and professional families gained. “Between 1979 and 2013, on average, low-income families in the United States saw their incomes fall by 2.0 percent. Middle-income families, however, saw their incomes grow by 12.4 percent, and professional families saw their incomes rise by 48.8 percent.”
  • In all social classes, women’s hours of paid work increased. “Over the same time period, the average woman in the United States saw her annual working hours increase by 26.4 percent. This trend was similar across low-income, middle-class, and professional families.”
  • Women’s contributions saved the day for low and middle income families. “Across all three income groups, women significantly helped family incomes both because they earned more per hour and worked more per year. Women’s contributions saved low-income and middle-class families from steep drops in their income.”

What about men? Between 1979 and 2013 men’s earnings fell while women increased both their working hours and pay per hour. That made women’s growing movement into the workforce even more important. Women’s work meant that the average annual income for low income families rose by $1,929, $8,948 for middle-class families, and $20,274 for professional families.

By pointing to women’s dramatic increases in hours worked and wages as well as men’s surprising decline in those same areas, Boushey and Vaghul demonstrate that women’s time at work make all the difference –across all income groups.

It is about finding time. While women’s entry into the workforce has significantly changed the make-up of family incomes, the U.S. still lacks proper policies to make such work manageable for families. The pressure being placed on workers to manage their family while making enough money to support them is examined in detail in Heather Boushey’s new book, Finding Time: The Economics of Work-Life Conflict.

Originally posted May 17, 2016

Molly McNulty is a CCF public affairs intern at Framingham State University. She is a joint Sociology and Education major.



John Lester via flicker Commons
John Lester via flicker Commons

So, things change. In March, Stephanie Coontz commented on the popular concern that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt had been “leading young couples astray” through their premarital cohabitation and childbirth, pointing to Council on Contemporary Families (CCF) research that has demonstrated that both premarital cohabitation and having a baby before marriage actually don’t make a couple more likely to divorce than those who begin their families after marriage. Research has shown that the concern about premarital cohabitation addressed by Coontz in her 2016 revised and updated book, The Way We Never Were, has abated – Americans now hold more favorable views about cohabitation.

Nonetheless, Jolie and Pitt did divorce later this year, though probably not due to their pre-marital cohabitation. Pitt’s divorce is, remarkably, a “gray divorce.” Media coverage concerning gray divorce, or divorce of those over 50, has given the floor to CCF scholars to set the record straight about divorce, a trend about which the general public is becoming less accepting: the percentage of respondents to the National Survey of Family Growth who said that “divorce is usually the best solution when a couple who can’t seem to work out their marriage problems” declined by almost 9 percent for women and 5 percent for men, to 38 percent and 39 percent, respectively, between 2002 and 2011-2013. These beliefs are reflected in practice, too: couples who married in the twenty-first century have lower divorce rates than those who married earlier. (Keep in mind: fewer people marry these days.)

But gray divorce is becoming more common. Today, it’s estimated that 15 percent of people over 50 have been divorced, and that almost 25 percent of divorces in the United States are between people over age 50. When put in historical perspective, this shouldn’t be surprising: Vicki Larson of Quartz recently wrote,

Our current contract—“until death”—might have worked when people didn’t live all that long (according to the American [historian] and author Stephanie Coontz, the average marriage in colonial times lasted under 12 years); or when many women died in childbirth, freeing men to marry multiple times (which they did); and when men of means needed women to cook, clean and caretake, and women needed men for financial security. But that isn’t why we marry nowadays.

In an article about Sarah Jessica Parker’s new HBO program Divorce, CCF historian Steven Mintz pointed out in Time that the freedom to divorce has long been an American ideal, whose justification can be traced to the ideology of the American Revolution. Ronald Reagan, a famous conservative, helped to change divorce laws so that people could do so when they had “irreconcilable differences,” according to Stephanie Coontz.

Vicki Larson of Quartz suggested, in light of a longer history of divorce in the United States and more recent social changes such as increasing life expectancy and gender equality, that it might be appropriate for us to “rethink ‘until death’ [do us part].”

Braxton Jones is a graduate student in sociology at the University of New Hampshire, and serves as CCF Graduate Research and Public Affairs Scholar.









Photo via VelvetTangerine, Flickr CC.
Photo via VelvetTangerine, Flickr CC.

Reprinted from Beggruen Insights, Issue 4, with permission.

Nostalgia often arises out of a real experience of loss. It needs to be addressed and redirected, not ridiculed or denounced. And that applies to the nostalgia that motivates a considerable number of Trump supporters.

I have spent most of my career pointing out the dangers of imagining a Golden Age in the past that we should try to recapture. Nostalgia offers a warped explanation of what actually did work in the past and airbrushes out what did not. It leads to the scapegoating of those who supposedly ruined “the good old days” while providing no tools for coping with the new realities that underlie contemporary challenges.

That said, nostalgia often arises out of a real experience of loss. It needs to be addressed and redirected, not ridiculed or denounced. And that applies to the nostalgia that motivates so many Trump supporters.

Before you tell your intimate partners, “It’s not you, it’s me,” take a look at the media reactions to two new reports from the Council on Contemporary Families released this month, one on parenting the other on sex, and both relating to policy.

Journalists at several outlets including New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and AlterNet reported that there was a reason—that didn’t justify blaming parents—to explain the “happiness gap,” or the fact that parents in the United States, particularly when compared to parents in other countries, were less happy than non-parents. According to CCF expert Jennifer Glass, “The negative effects of parenthood on happiness were entirely explained by the presence or absence of social policies allowing parents to better combine paid work with family obligations. And this was true for both mothers and fathers. Countries with better family policy ‘packages’ had no happiness gap between parents and non-parents.” Boston Globe writer Duggan Arnette identified “paid sick and vacation leave, child care costs, and work schedule flexibility,” or lack thereof, as specific factors that were shown to influence the “happiness gap.”

Yet the happiness gap is not a universal problem, and some countries have addressed it. Quartz journalists Solana Pyne and Michael Tabb created a video that compares the United States to 22 other countries in terms of parent and non-parent happiness, as well as the availability of various kinds of social supports. The narrator says that “if you’re a working parent,” the reason for the happiness gap “is basically what you’d think.” The happiness gap will seem less inevitable, and its solutions more achievable, however, after seeing visuals comparing the presence of specific policies in countries in which parents are just as happy, if not happier than non-parents, with the absence of those policies in the United States, where the happiness gap is the largest.

What about romantic relationships? Emma Lousie-Pritchard of Cosmopolitan UK reported that, “To have more sex, couples have to agree to this one, brilliant rule.” That rule is dividing household work equally between men and women. CCF expert Sharon Sassler reported that couples in which men did between one-third and 65% of the housework tended to have more frequent sex. As personal as this sounds, though, there are still policy implications in that progressive work-family policies are a twofer: they are both family-friendly and promote equality in couples.

The notion of the policy twofer was made by Fusion’s Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy. She cited a Department of Labor report to connect Glass and colleagues’ findings on parental happiness with couples’ relationship satisfaction: “families with fathers who take more leave also share chores and childcare more equally between mothers and fathers. So paid leave and equitable paternity leave policies not only give dads the time to be parents, but cause a trickle-down effect of creating greater gender equity.”

Taking turns and “get[ting] out the toilet bleach and your sexiest pair of rubber gloves” might be good relationship advice, but improved work-family policies will make it easier for couples to do so equitably, and still have the time and money to spend with their children.

Read the full reports here:

“Parenting and Happiness in 22 Countries,” by Jennifer Glass, Robin Simon, and Matthew Andersson.

“A Reversal in Predictors of Sexual Frequency and Satisfaction in Marriage,” Sharon Sassler.

Braxton Jones is a graduate student in sociology at the University of New Hampshire, and serves as a CCF’s Graduate Research and Public Affairs Scholar.

Photo via Flickr
Photo via Flickr

“Why this? Why now? And what does this say about the state of the feminist zeitgeist?” That’s the focus of the newly launched #SignsShortTakes. In April, the platform used Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family to address “broader questions of reach and resonance” about work/family policies in the United States. The symposium was hosted by Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, which has been a leading journal for critical examinations of feminist issues since 1975.

A number of reviewers from the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF) joined in the dialogue, with insights that are expanded upon in CCF’s briefing paper series on housework, gender, and parenting.

Several commentators highlighted concern about what was interpreted as an elite target audience for the approaches Slaughter recommends. Nancy Folbre, University of Massachusetts’ economist and a CCF scholar, argued that wealthy women already have “much better family-friendly policies in their workplace than others do.” Improvements secured by privileged women who are most able to demand them might not be enough for low-income women and their families. Calls for women to simply demand time off from an employer, for example, “are premised on the notion that workers are indispensable,” and “wield some leverage in the workplace,” even though “the problem of women’s economic advancement is largely one of working-class women and occupational segregation,” according to Premilla Nadasen. Proponents of what Tressie McMillan Cottom named trickle-down feminism imagine that, “caring about the well-being of elite women means elevating powerful women who will take care of the interests of less powerful women.” Cottom suggested that wealthy white women may be just as antagonistic to the needs of low-income and non-white women and their families as are wealthy white men. more...

photo via pixabay.com
photo via pixabay.com

Last month, the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF) released a brief report, “The way we still never were,” to coincide with the new, revised, and updated 2016 version of Stephanie Coontz’s classic book, The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap. As a result, journalists identified many trends they saw as positive:


photo via pixabay
photo via pixabay

Fifteen percent and 22 percent: These are estimated rates of white and black Americans born in 2010 who will not ever marry by age 85. These numbers, though, are not (so far) warranting a national reconsideration of the way that we treat unmarried people–socially or legally. As demonstrated by several recent editorials, the benefits to inclusivity for unmarried people would extend well beyond the large group of people who are unable to enjoy the many legal benefits of marriage. In February, three Council on Contemporary Families (CCF) scholars showed the variety of ways that everyone—married and unmarried alike—will benefit from a reconsideration of the place of the unmarried in America.

Stephanie Coontz, CCF Director of Research and Public Education, gave a demographic update showing that an increasing number of people will be harmed if our current social policies regarding unmarried individuals do not change. An estimated 25 percent of today’s young people will remain unmarried until their 40s, and perhaps 40 percent of those currently married will divorce, leading to the question, “Single or married: Does it really matter anymore?” Because a significant portion of this large group of singles will eventually marry, there are fewer differences between those who are married and those who are single.

Bella DePaulo, CCF expert and Project Scientist at UC Santa Barbara, wrote that, “Everything you think you know about single people is wrong.” In reviewing many of the negative stereotypes that work to legitimize a system that privileges married over single living, DePaulo reminded readers that singles are often the ones picking up the slack in their various communities—they are more likely to help family, friends, and neighbors, and are more likely to “value meaningful work.” And by many measures, single people are just as well off as those who are married.

Donna L. Franklin, past co-chair of CCF, and Angela D. James, CCF expert, discussed the negative repercussions for everyone when the specter of the single takes a front seat to bigger public policy issues. Fifty years ago, Daniel Patrick Moynihan talked about the supposed “tangle of pathology” that was black (single mother) family life, and these negative stereotypes still hold. Today, amid poverty and police brutality, encouraging black women to marry is a top priority for policy makers. Franklin and James asserted that “Black families matter,” and recommended social policy responses that benefit the growing number of single mother families by addressing the real structural inequalities facing black families.

Combined, these perspectives converge on the idea that providing singles and their families with the rights that offer parity with other family structures—especially married families—will benefit all of us.

Braxton Jones is a graduate student in sociology at the University of New Hampshire, and serves as a CCF Graduate Research and Public Affairs Scholar.