In the current issue of Demography, researchers report that U.S. child poverty rates declined in the 1990s by a bit more than 7 percent (“Child Poverty and Changes in Child Poverty“). Similar improvements occurred in the United Kingdom.

But here’s the bad news: While the UK’s decline was thanks to government programs, the US’s decline was due to economic expansion. In other words, the US economy did well in the 1990s, so child poverty declined. In fact, when researchers looked more closely, they found that US government support for children in poverty had actually declined. Without economic growth, there would have been more, not less, child poverty.

So where does that leave us today? Jobs are disappearing and the economy is worsening by the minute. In the absence of government programs, children will do worse in this downturn, too. Will we see some of that “equity injection” for children’s well being?

For the impact of the economic downturn on families, take a look at Stephanie Coontz and Valerie Adrian’s briefing report to the Council on Contemporary Families, “Family Stress=Economic Woes.” Warning: it’s depressing.

Virginia Rutter

Prop 8, currently called the Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry Act, is on the ballot in California this November.

If you’re looking for a chuckle, watch and share these great ads–a take off on the Mac/PC series–including one with Molly Ringwald.

And just to get into the spirit, listen to this great ode to California.

(Thanks to friends in SF.)

Virginia Rutter
Debbie’s post on presidential masculinity in the XY Files got me thinking. My FSC colleague Lisa Eck studies hybridity and postcolonial literature: at the gym the other day, she noted that in our public discourse we don’t have much language to talk about “hybrid” status (some day it won’t be a buzz word: it means multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-ethnic). Obama=black candidate, McCain=white candidate is how it goes. We don’t know how to listen, observe, or theorize (eek!) about hybridity. So as I was thinking about what you, and Jackson, and Ellen Goodman, and others have been talking about, I thought, wow, Obama offers a kind of hybrid gender performance to go with his hybrid racial identity, and it is working damn well!

Obama isn’t hepped up on cartoon masculinity like McCain…and yet it doesn’t make sense to think of him as using “feminine” styles in any definitive or exclusive sense. (For cartoon femininity, see Palin, Sarah.) Finally, he certainly is not androgynous in that misfit, uncomfortable “Pat” sense (remember Pat on Saturday Night Live?) But his repertoire is wide, and he is using all sorts of masculine and feminine skills that are working well–and he is avoiding the ones that don’t.

Maybe with the rise of Obama (and other leaders like him?!?!?) we will have the opportunity to sharpen our ability to notice how the plot unfolds when we are observing a candidate who contains and is directly influenced by multiple statuses all at once. And that goes for race as well as gender.

One way that I think about Obama’s successful gender expression comes from social psychology. Research on masculinity and femininity shows that children who are androgynous–that is they use skills that are typically associated with being a boy and those associated with being a girl–have greater social intelligence. They are more effective socially, better liked, more accomplished, and more appealing as partners. When you think about the gender (or race) puzzles unfolding in front of us, remember that what you are seeing is not triumph of masculinity or femininity so much as the triumph of something new, something that works.