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Seriously? New York Times Calls Wall Street Front Group "Center-Left"

Like every Pete Peterson front group, Third Way is dedicated to shredding the safety net and self-destructive austerity.

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(Understandably, because Third Way is really Wall Street on the Potomac, it has no interest in telling this part of the story.)  It is finance, that is the largest single driver in increasing overall inequality arising from greater returns to the wealthy.  It is also finance, through globalization, that aids and abets the portion of the rise in inequality driven by reduced wages and employment for working- and middle-class Americans.  I noted earlier that Autor’s earlier study found that international trade caused serious losses to many U.S. workers.

Third Way’s introduction to the study, and the Autor study, ignore finance and the resultant surge in gender inequality in that field.  Here is the conservative meme that the NYT article emphasized.

“Men who are less successful are less attractive as partners, so women are choosing to raise children by themselves, producing sons who are less successful and attractive as partners.

‘A vicious cycle may ensue,’ wrote Professor Autor and his co-author, Melanie Wasserman, a graduate student, ‘with the poor economic prospects of less educated males creating differentially large disadvantages for their sons, thus potentially reinforcing the development of the gender gap in the next generation.’”

This description is wrong in important ways and it is misleading in its generality because the intersection of race and class drive many of the key relationships.  Women with college degrees who have children overwhelmingly get married.  Their rate of births outside of wedlock has fallen for decades and is lower today than it was over 40 years ago.

Autor agrees with Cahn and Carbone that what is going on among the groups he considers successful — college graduates — is greatly increased “assortative mating.”  The figure he uses is that roughly 70% of college-educated males marry college-educated females.  The comparable percentage for female college graduates is high, but materially lower.  So, it is not accurate that women choose to raise children without male partners when the males available to them are “less successful.”  Successful women often marry “less successful” males.  Successful men are less willing to marry “less successful” women.

The men that women refuse to marry when they have children are not “less successful” — the mothers believe they are not fit partners to marry or to raise children because they would be (net) burdens or even pose threats to them and their children.  Understanding that, somewhat subtle, distinction between “less successful” and unfit is essential to understanding family formation.  Third Way seems to believe that Autor’s argument is that if we could induce poor black mothers to marry the birth father their male children would have far superior outcomes.  But the superior outcomes come from studying what happens when mothers marry or partner with males they consider fit for marriage and childrearing.  To state what should be obvious, but is typically ignored, such studies cannot be used to predict similar superior outcomes were for children mothers to marry or partner with unfit males.  Autor concedes that many adult males are not “marriageable quality.”  Many women who have children out of wedlock are teenagers impregnated by teenagers.  Marrying the father would often ensure recurrent family financial crises.  Autor concedes that the viciously high incarceration of young black males, largely on drug offenses, is one of the principal factors reducing the pool of marriageable males for black women.

The NYT article concludes by pitching Third Way’s views.

“Conservatives have long argued that society should encourage stable parental relationships. Liberals have tended to argue that the government should focus instead on improving economic opportunities. Jonathan Cowan, the president of Third Way, said the paper underscored that addressing social problems was a means to improve economic opportunities.