Whether she intended to or not, MSNBC host Katty Kay touched on an issue so politically incorrect that you can’t even mention it in polite company — the fact that increased gender diversity in the workplace has resulted in fewer women being able to choose to stay home with their kids. The gender diversity we now see is the result of government policies that, while well-intended, have made it more difficult for mothers to stay home with their children and more difficult to make the choice to homeschool. In his book, The Family in America, Allan Carlson explains some of the history of how we got to where we are today. He notes a shift in the Family Wage Ratio, which divides the median income of the households with working wives by the median income of households where the wives are not employed.
Note that this ratio was quite stable between 1951 and 1969… This was a time when culturally sustained job segregation by gender (“men’s jobs” and “women’s jobs”) reinforced the breadwinner/homemaker family, reserving the higher paid positions for husbands and fathers.
Carlson said that after Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made gender discrimination illegal the ratio changed, but not necessarily to the benefit of the family.
Overall, total family hours devoted to paid employment each week rose by over 50 percent between 1970 and 1998. Yet the real median family income for these dual income households rose by only 31 percent. Among one-income households, average real income declined between 1970 and 1993…It is reasonable to assume that the collapse of the family wage regime contributed.
In other words, when men and women began competing for the same jobs and women left their homes for the workplace, one-income families saw an overall decline in their incomes as higher salaries for jobs traditionally reserved for male breadwinners disappeared. And income for dual-income families rose, but disproportionately with the amount of time mothers now spent outside the home.
Carlson sites several other social factors that have resulted in the decline of the family and concludes that:
There is compelling evidence that these dramatic changes in American social life have been linked, in turn, to a rise in juvenile crime, a sharp increase in the incidence of drug abuse, the decay in the educational performance of youth, a sharp rise in youth suicide, and (in part) soaring levels of health care costs.
Is the idea of mothers leaving the workplace to homeschool their children completely unrealistic? Perhaps not.