Be Fruitful and Multiply Capitalism: Children as Economic Items

According to a recent online article in U.S. News and World Report, “… one of the great strengths of the U.S. economy, especially compared to Europe and Japan, is a relatively high birth rate.” This statement is pretty clear:  procreation equates to production. Thus, why–or rather, for whom—could birthrate be a problem? Isn’t the angst about fertility hiding the real difficulties faced by population?

Is a falling birthrate a big problem?

Others in the media have also warned that if women don’t have higher numbers of children, the economy could suffer. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat compared the decreasing American birthrate to France’s higher one: “America has no real family policy to speak of at the moment, and the evidence from countries like Sweden and France suggests that reducing the ever-rising cost of having kids can help fertility rates rebound.” But while benefits such the ones in France obviously could help those rates rebound, they aren’t the key to economic growth. [Read more...]

Quick Hit – Gender Inequality and Income

A recent article by Slate Magazine on gender inequality and income depicts the states and counties where the income gap between men and women is the greatest and the smallest in America. The map depicts the median income of women compared to the median income of men and is measured in how many cents per dollar that women make in comparison to men. The article states that the average income for women is 72 cents per dollar of what a man makes.

Slate also reports that even though women make less in all states than men, some states have moved closer to income equality than others. The state with the greatest income gap is Utah (at 55 cent per every dollar), followed by Wyoming and Louisiana. In these states, women’s earnings do not reach 60 percent of men’s. The districts and cities where women’s earnings are around 80 percent of men’s include Washington D.C., Dallas, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Even though we have moved away from many overtly sexist laws that increase and maintain gender inequality, such as restricting women’s rights to own property, women’s right to vote, to attend college, or the marriage bars that banned married women from employment and single women from work once they married, gender inequality is very much alive and well, and women are literally paying the price.

Photo of map depicting the United States of America uploaded by Flickr user Marxchivist and shared under a creative commons license. 

A Declaration of Love to the US, From a European Who Would Vote for Obama

I live in France, and I regularly witness anti-American sentiments. But I believe that the U.S. is worthy of admiration. I feel close to this country, as if it were a zeyde who would tell me, “I started with nothing not so long ago and look where I am today. Go, go on.” This Yiddish grandfather could tell me how people learnt from each other and, with all their dreams and joys, all their differences and fights, built a vast place and entered into the history as best as one can.

If I could vote in the U.S. presidential election, I would vote for Barack Obama. To me, he embodies the ethnic, religious, and cultural mix of so many other Americans. Obama also embodies tolerance; he has the courage and the merit to speak about a woman’s right to choose, even while 50% of the U.S. population identifies as anti-choice. I was moved the first time I saw a picture of Obama praying; I am not a Christian, but I am a believer who is the result of an interracial and interreligious (Muslim-Jewish) marriage. So I am personally touched by the (success) story of President Obama.

[Read more...]

Family Planning: A Great Return on the Investment

A new report from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) shows that development assistance for family planning services in developing nations is a pretty remarkable investment. According to the study, donor nations can see a 4-fold return on their investment if they support family planning services.

  • For 2007, donor countries should have contributed $3 billion of the $17.1 billion total estimated cost for contraceptive services. Yet the actual support provided by donors was only about $500 million – leaving a shortfall of $2.5 billion.
  • In a time of global financial difficulties, donor countries may want to avoid fulfilling such financial commitments. This would be a mistake. The cost of meeting the need for contraception is relatively modest, and an investment now will result in large future savings: Studies show that each dollar invested in contraceptive services will avoid between $1.70 and $4.00 in expenditures . . . but can total as much as $31.00 for each dollar spent on family planning.

Part of the problem is that the United States spent the last eight years neglecting to fund family planning services because of the Global Gag Order (aka “Mexico City Policy”), which prohibited US funds from being distributed to organizations that performed abortions, whether or not US funds were being used to perform them. This means that agencies which provided contraception options for women were woefully underfunded as a result. Thankfully the Obama administration has lifted this ban. But there is still a large financial shortfall that needs to be addressed. [Read more...]