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Religious Causes and Economic Effects?

Over at Mirror of Justice, Rick Garnett rightly calls our attention to a recent New York Times article by Jason DeParle profiling two families, as the headline says, "divided by 'I do.'" As Garnett reads the piece, it is a morality tale about the tragedy that awaits those who make "less traditional lifestyle choices," and indeed, the article is framed as a piece on the economic benefits of the traditional nuclear family. However, if one reads past the headline, the picture becomes significantly more complex, and Garnett's takeaway: "It's not just that marriage might be 'confined' to the fortunate classes; it's also, it seems, that mobility into those classes (or not) is connected to the decisions that people make -- and that people's parents make -- about marriage and childrearing," becomes less tenable (to the extent that it is not meant to be trivial).

It strikes me that stories like this one that look at trends in domestic life, which seem to be increasingly noting the decline of the "traditional family," often serve as opportunities for those who have "done it right" to receive a healthy dose of self-congratulatory affirmation regarding the choices that they have made. For those who have been guided in those choices by certain religious values, numbers showing the unsurprising practical benefits of living in a two-income household tend to be excitedly, if illegitimately, extended to add metaphysical credence to their "worldview." Yet, in this piece, it is far from obvious that anything like a traditional theology of marriage is driving the upward mobility of our nuclear heros, as Garnett's "values-oriented" interpretation would seem to have it.In fact, the seven times that "church" is mentioned in the article, it is in the context of talking about the upbringing and current "lifestyle" of Ms. Schairer, the "non-traditional" parent in the story. Nowhere in the story do the "traditional" Faulkners talk about their own religious observance. The differences that are cited for their successful marriage are increased education and earning potential, andthough she acknowledges the role of her own decisions,the hardships of Schairer's situation stem from having not finished college due to a pregnancy in her freshman year. The story reports, "Abortion crossed her mind, but her boyfriend, an African-American student from Arkansas, said they should start a family." As you can probably guess, the "they" suggested by her boyfriend eventually became a "she," and now Schairer is raising three kinds on a single, high-school-educated salary.So, it is far from the case that marriage alone is the solution to the economic woes of the "less fortunate" classes, but it is marriage at the right time, which means before children, after college, and after getting a job. Speaking of the Faulkners, DeParle writes, "They did not inherit wealth or connections or rise on rare talent. They just did standard things in standard order: high school, college, job, marriage and children." It is important to note, however, that this order presupposes at least enough antecedent wealth and opportunity to complete college and secure a job as well as the wherewithal to delay childbirth until those prerequisites are met and reliably plan subsequent pregnancies in order to maintain the economic benefits of a two-income household.While I'm sure Garnett would have his own ideas on how to meet this latter requirement, I imagine it would be far more comforting and empowering for those concerned if we saved the sanctimonious speeches about "traditional marriage" and simply gave people access to the practical, material means by which they might build a life. To this end, as Diane Johnson has recently argued, "Perhaps the most seriously useful decision society could make might be that menpoliticians or priests and possibly doctorswould not have the power to decide on things particular to women, beyond their own roles of fertilization and cooperative child-rearing."

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"de Parle writes, They did not inherit wealth or connections or rise on rare talent. They just did standard things in standard order: high school, college, job, marriage and children. It is important to note, however, that this order presupposes at least enough antecedent wealth and opportunity to complete college and secure a job as well as the wherewithal to delay childbirth until those prerequisites are met and reliably plan subsequent pregnancies in order to maintain the economic benefits of a two-income household."There are a lot of issues that this excellent article raises. But the most exigent one for Schairer is that she made some decisions while young that put her in a hole that she is unable to climb out of, and now her children are at a disadvantage, too. Would the trajectory of her and her children's lives have been different had she married the father? It's impossible to say. Perhaps it would have made her and the children's lives even worse. I certainly won't speculate as to whether or not it would have been the right thing to do. In that sense, I wouldn't hold up marriage as a magic panacea that will solve the economic woes of all single mothers. But it just seems to me that decisions before and leading up to marriage are at least as important as the marriage in determining the trajectory of the life.The role of the church, istm, is to figure out a way to preach and teach traditional morality, in as unsanctimonious a way as possible, and in as compelling a way as possible, to women and men who are in the stage of life that college-age Ms. Schairer and the father of her children were in. I've tried, and it's not easy to find the right tone. I'm still searching for it. That it is more difficult for the children of single moms to participate in extra-curriculars is something I hadn't considered before. Istm there are opportunities for families with stay-at-home parents to help their single-parent neighbors by taking kids to and from activities. Something to think about.

Instead of denying the documented correlation between prosperity and traditional marriage, why not instead point out that the traditional case for marriage is not that it makes you richer? And why not add that people who wait till their careers are well established to get married, are sexually active long before then, have children only after they marry, and get divorced after they have children are not obviously better examples of Christian sexual morality than, say, a mother who dropped out of school when her first child was born, never married the child's father, but raised her family with him -- and remained poor? The overlap between virtue and success is not as extensive as the successful middle class likes to imagine.

"it's not good for man to be alone" Genesis 2;18" two are better than one, they get a good wage for their labor" Ecclesiastes 4;9nothing there about traditional marriage , just common sense.Even with gays, when together, we see a big difference in their fortunate income level. in my San Francisco.The real problem is that adolescent individualism has now reached to the age of 25.

Matt: I don't think that the "documented correlation" is "between prosperity and traditional marriage." What I call "trivial" and "unsurprising" is the correlation between prosperity and two-parent households, when compared with single-parent ones. The factors that seem to be important for the kind of economic benefits that Garnett is touting are double incomes and shared childcare responsibilities. As many commenters on the Times piece pointed out, gay couples would easily fit the bill as well as unmarried couples that are cohabiting. So, the point is that the ideology of "traditional marriage" has nothing to do with prosperity, and as you seem to agree, it certainly is not causally related to upward mobility, as Garnett seems to suggest.As a side note, I think a stronger claim could be made that virtue not only has nothing to do with success, but in this case, the virtues associated with marriage and sexuality have little to contribute to economic justice. That might be a conversation for another time though.

Eric Bugyis, in my view, seems to have mis-read (or maybe over-read) my post -- seeing it as an "ideology of traditional marriage" post rather than a "some arrangements are better for children" post -- and ascribes to me motivations or attitudes that (I don't think) I have. http://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2012/07/more-on-the-i-d...

'So, it is far from the case that marriage alone is the solution to the economic woes of the less fortunate classes, but it is marriage at the right time, which means before children, after college, and after getting a job.'This statement goes way beyond the implications of the article. Even if Schairer education ended when it did, and the children's father did nothing more than be present in the home, both she and the children would have been much better off. Having anther adult to share parenting duties with is better for both parents and the children on numerous levels. And there was nothing in the article which said anything about gay marriage. To assume that two same-sex adults bring the same benefits to kids in the same home is completely unsubstantiated and unwarranted. Adults conceived through sperm donation searching for their natural parent show those assumptions are completely false.

"She was 25 when the breakup made it official: she was raising three children on her own."What I wonder is: where are her siblings, parents, and extended family? What's family for if not to step in when these situations occur? What about her close friends? What about her church community? What about other parents giving her children rides to and from school? Not having a husband doesn't have to imply being alone to raise children. As to her sick leave after cancer treatment being reduced from 6 weeks to 1 week because of her need of money: one would hope that her employer was easy on her during that time, paying her for not doing much, and that her church community took care of meals and of practical matters.This portrays a very cold society.

"Even if Schairer education ended when it did, and the childrens father did nothing more than be present in the home, both she and the children would have been much better off. "Bruce - with respect, I don't think we're in a position to assess that. It's conceivable that they could be even worse off - e.g. if the father is emotionally or physically abusive. Marriages and relationships need to be evaluated by their own lights, and not merely for their utilitarian benefits.

This reminds me of a homily I once heard in Rhode Island, in which the homilist, as his main point, made the case that parents should take their children to Mass because it's been statistically shown that kids who go to church regularly have better grades in school.There was also a homily in which he said (in passing) that it's good to go to Mass because it's been statistically shown that religious people are happier.But I am still waiting for a wedding homily in which he will make the case that people should get married because it's been statistically shown that married people are richer.But, I wonder: aren't Episcopalians, or Presbyterians, richer than Catholics? Maybe it's time to switch denominations.

Claire - the article reports that Schairer's family did live with her parents for a while. But my observation is that most of those sorts of arrangements don't work out permanently. It's hard on everyone. But you're definitely right that a support network or lack thereof can make the difference between poor-but-making-it and poor-and-really-not-making-it.

Lets take a look at some unexpected reality that, more and more, visits families who have done things the right way.In order to survive in this economy both parents usually have to work outside of the home. That means that both parents have to also share burdens in the home. From what I read, that is a reality not necessarily realized in way too many cases.Then, of course, there are those families fortunate enough that one wage earner can support the other partner and any ensuing children.What if one (or the only one) of those wage-earners loses her/his job? Or becomes permanently or long term temporarily incapacitated? That family can end up in virtually the same situation of the single parent who has to struggle with lower wages and all of the situations that visit his/her family.Then there are those families who play by the rules, raise their children by the rules, but then see that not all of their children turn out right. What does THAT say about doing things the right way? Then there are those single parent families that end up with children who turn out to be model citizens, successful and all around good people. What does THAT say about doing things the right way? The two parent family did everything the right way, but still can suffer the same as the single parent family. What does THAT say about doing things the right way? It tells me that counting on a formula does NOT guarantee happiness, family success or anything else.All of this tells me that relationship success can be, at best, a crap shoot. No matter the family style, counting on success just because you play by the rules is a fools dream.Relationships of all kinds need constant hard work in the HOPE (not guarantee) that they will work out.

And I'm not even talking about the divorce rate among those traditional couples who did things "the right way." Good Catholics, too.

Matthew: Most "successful" middle class people who delay marriage don't consider their premarital sexual behavior to have been wrong and don't factor it into any virtue calculation they might be doing relative to other less successful people. They have moved on from traditional morality in that sense.

Barbara,That's a fair point. But conservative moralists who herald studies indicating an economic advantage to waiting till one is married to have children rarely mention that doing things in this order is not a proof of chastity or patience or any other virtue, except perhaps prudence -- not when most people who wait until marriage to have children do not wait until marriage to have sex. In other words, the available economic data do not vindicate the traditional Christian understanding of sex and marriage, which is notably silent about the importance of securing two incomes per household.I do think many middle-class people (including those who would laugh at the idea that it's immoral to have sex before marriage) think of themselves as morally superior to those who have children before they are "economically secure" (that is, middle class). On this view, it is not the fault of society or the state that poor children have fewer opportunities than middle-class children; it is the fault of poor adults for having children before they can promise them the opportunities that come with affluence. First you get an education, then you get a job that pays well, and only then do you start a family, so that you can offer your children the advantages they need to flourish in our economy. To do otherwise is irresponsible. And if our economy makes it harder and harder for people to find secure employment until they're in their mid-thirties, then people should wait till they're in their mid-thirties to get married and have children. I have as little patience for this attitude as I do for conservatives who bemoan the recklessness of motherhood outside of marriage.

Matthew, they may feel superior, but I question whether they feel morally superior. Although you may have little patience for the view, and indeed, I think we should strive to do, can do, and have even in the recent past done better by people generally, it is something of a demonstrated fact that in times of distress the age at first marriage rises considerably -- true during the Depression and most other "hardship" eras. The 1950s, where age at first marriage was lower, number of children per family was higher, than in previous decades, is actually an outlier decade (or so): the clear trend over the previous 120 years was higher age at first marriage and lower birth rate, even notwithstanding relativley paltry choices in contraception. A little known fact, John Stuart Mill way back in the 1820s was arrested for publicly facilitating access to contraception.

I dont think were in a position to assess thatJim,You are being much to generous. Only a few men are abusive. In most circumstances, it is possible for the couple to stay together. That needs to be the assumption unless proven wrong; the opposite leads to the disintegration of the family. That is the core of this woman's and her children's problems.Our society wants the couple to split up when problems arise; but that is only an illusory solution which creates far more difficult problems as this article outlines.

What does THAT say about doing things the right way?Jim McCrea,Families with 2 parents have the inherent capacity to deal with changes affecting one because the other can adjust. There is no guarantee that doing things 'the right way' will prevent problems, but doing things 'the right way' creates a situation where adjustments are expected and occur more easily.

I apologize if this is a really dumb question. Inasmuch as the father of Schairer's children never married Schairer, are his legal child-support obligations identical to what they would have been had they married? In other words, does the law put unmarried fathers and formerly married fathers on an equal footing?

Jim: If paternity is established or uncontested, child support obligations are identical. Even dependent SS benefits are identical. Marriage/divorce would change the situation mostly with respect to considering whether the spouse is owed support in his/her own right.

I suppose it wouldn't be difficult to find examples of families in Schairer's and Faulkner's community that complicate DeParle's thesis. A married-couple household in which one of the parents is unemployed for a long enough period to consume the family savings presumably would be experiencing the same economic, if not social, distress that Schairer's family does. I'd think one could trawl through the faculty at University of Michigan or the high-tech startups in the Ann Arbor area and find examples of professors or career women who are single or divorced moms but who earn adequate income to be able to swing child care and care for the special-needs kid.

Barbara, thanks for that info. That seems just/right, and I'm glad to hear that's how it is.

Matthew and Barbara, your conversation is highlighting that our culture seems to have arrived at a consensus of an ideal sequence - first college, then career, then children - that traditional Christian morality doesn't insist upon. Are all three of those elements essential to climb into a secure a hold on the middle class? To what degree does the sequential order matter? Does Christian morality insist upon a middle class lifestyle for all?

Here's a thoughtful reaction to the NYT story by a child of a single mother household. He doesn't recommend sanctimony but he wouldn't be unhappy to see a revival of stigma regarding out of wedlock births to single parents."Just because I turned out fine doesnt mean that everything is fine."http://www.theamericanconservative.com/this-childs-view-of-single-mother...

I don't really think it matters two bits whether Ms. Schairer married the father of her children. He had no interest in fatherhood once it really hit him, and their more permanent union, such as it was, was simply the byproduct of an accident. We like to think of and popular culture portrays happiness as something you can plan yourself out of and most likely to hit when you are least expecting to find it. No doubt you can overcalculate to your detriment -- but it is my working assumption that people whose lives are built around the execution of intentional plans and focused dreams have always had a better shot at happiness than those who fall into things -- jobs, spouses, parenthood and just about anything else. I don't think her life should be as hard as it is, schools should be better funded, the safety net higher -- but it's hard for me to see that dropping out of your planned for course of education because of an accidental pregnancy is ever going to be the road to happiness. And I think that was true in the 1950s as well, where roles were better defined -- people who got married because they "had to" might have grown to love each other, but many did not. You know that fortune will always be as fickle now and in the future as it has been in the past -- why go out of your way to put yourself at her mercy?

As a side note, many women academics in the US buy into the "first college, then career, then children", and for academics, that often translates into blunt advice given by many women who have reached senior positions: "wait until after tenure" (which, even in a hot field like mine, usually means until at least 35 years old), and "have at most one child" - mothers of two are treated with various back-handed compliments, and mothers of three - actually, right now I can't think of any in my field who did their studies and career in the US. That's actually better than in Math, where 25 years ago a potential PhD advisor told his eager female student, a friend of mine: "I don't take female PhD students. If I do, I invest time teaching them how to do research, but then they go off to get married and have kids, and they're lost for science. It's a waste of time." My friend managed to stay on (for a bit) by pledging that she would not get married nor have kids.Certainly, the author of the article should push his thought on step further: to maximize economic benefits, do get married but do not have any children. As long as he is measuring the economic cost of each decision, I bet that having children affects income more adversarially than not getting married. So, no kids is optimal.

Barbara,You write that in times of distress people tend to wait longer to get married. But you also note that the average age of first marriages has been going up and the birthrate falling for the past 120 years. I think this suggests these trends aren't really about economic distress. (Overall, the last century has not been a period of economic distress.) These trends are mostly about changing attitudes toward sex, marriage, and childbirth. When most people agreed it was immoral to have sex before marriage, people married earlier. When most people believed that parenthood was the normal consequence of sex and marriage, people had more children. Material conditions are not irrelevant to these trends -- when infant mortality rates fall, so do birthrates; with greater access to effective contraception comes greater use of contraception, before and after marriage -- but, in general, cultural changes seem more important than business cycles.

I bet that having children affects income more adversarially than not getting married. So, no kids is optimalClaire, There is no data to substantiate your statement. It entirely possible that parents with children are more focused and willing to sacrifice to maintain their employment that DINKs.

While I insist that opportunities should be available to everyone I do believe there is something to say in living within one's means. I know so many people who make half or less than other people and they saved more money and had better living space. Part of it may be American marketing whose number 1 goal is to get people to buy things they do not need. Parents are helping children out who make twice, or even four times as much. This is a matter of discipline and/or bad choices. Secondly, the view that married people are better off because of economics is perhaps an insult to marriage since ideally it is a relationship to have and to hold during all kinds of vicissitudes. So the proper description in this case is when there are two people have opportunities to do more things. More of an economic agreement than marriage. In too many cases the decision to marry is based on income rather than character. Sadly, economic prosperity trumps all. It is the country's Protestant heritage where prosperity is equated with holiness. It is the industrious who are saved. There are many single women with children who do better than married people and they are high school graduates -many of them.

Also, the mistake that Rick Garnett makes is that he makes it a case of all single mothers many of whom are less responsible than the woman portrayed in the article.

Bruce, I asked my search engine, and this is the first thing that came up.http://www.ehow.com/info_7904316_couples-children-vs-couples-children.ht... you, I'm not advocating it.

Families with 2 parents have the inherent capacity to deal with changes affecting one because the other can adjust.Bruce: is that why divorce rates are as high as they are? Weird form of adjustment, dont you think?Patrick Molloy: If you want to proof text ----http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/familystability.htmhttp://www.usatod...

Matthew, both of those things are true. I haven't looked at data recently, but there was a general upward trend for age at first marriage, and downward trend for birth rate over that period -- with marked spikes during real times of economic distress, and then recovery to the mean, with resumption of the general trend, except for the decade of the 1950s in which the general trend was reversed on both measures, until it resumed again sometime in the 1960s.I was referring to the spikes, mostly, in my prior e-mail, but the trend has also been clear, especially with falling birth rate, which occurred well before people began condoning premarital sexual activity, that is, while it was still considered to be immoral. Agree that cultural changes matter more than business cycles, but I just note that (as Ms. Schairer shows) life can be a lot harder when you are countercyclical in your behavior.

Matthew: don't you think that, in days of yore, a contributing factor to people marrying earlier was because total life expectancy was much shorter?http://www.wisegeek.com/how-have-life-expectancy-rates-changed-over-time...

Anne-Marie Slaughter's article in The Atlantic, "Why Women Still Can't Have It all", has proven the most popular from that that magazine. (I wonder if it inspired the NYT article.) She was on the Colbert Report the other night, and the word she used that stuck out like a sore thumb to me was "tired". The young, working, married wife/mothers I know don't seem to get enough sleep either. I wonder how much their ambition for their children has to do with it. Yes, their husbands do work around the house. Are they tired all the time too? What is going on here? http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-can-...

Claire --You're quite right. Single people have less disposable income than married ones without kids because we don't share some expenses, including big ones like mortgages and car payments. But add kids into the mix and expenses go up - e.g., for a good high school and college for two kids. Depends.

Claire, so everyone, including the Faulkners would be economically better off without children. I don't think that was what the article was about. Indeed, although the focus was on marriage, really, the focus should have been on the TREND AWAY FROM marriage and towards single motherhood. I don't think anyone was surprised by how hard Ms. Schrairer's load is -- I certainly wasn't -- it's that an increasing number of women are headed down the same path she is already on. THAT'S newsworthy.

Matt and Barbara: I hear you having two different conversations, which is what I was trying to get at in the post. On the one hand, there are pragmatic concerns for those interested in the material welfare of children and families. On the other hand, there are moral questions concerning sex and marriage. Those who have a moral commitment to a certain "lifestyle" that falls along "traditional marriage" lines will not and, I would think, ought not to be discouraged by the material sacrifices that they have to make along the way. I'm not a consequentialist about morality. However, these material sacrifices may be severe enough to prove impractical and "unsuccessful" to many, which is not strictly a moral judgement. The question is: Should/Can we as a society make up the gap between material success and morality, in particular, for those children who may be disadvantaged in the former category because of their parents' commitments to the latter? This is a difficult question, but I think it's helpful to keep separate the "should" and the "can" because what we ought to do does not always translate so easily into having the ability to do it and vice versa. In the end, of course, I think we should make it easier for people to care for children, and we should do all we can to make it possible for people to live their lives in the way that they feel called. But I think we can all agree that the successful life does not equal the moral life, and the morality of a life is certainly not proven, or even made more plausible, by its being successful.

"Matthew: dont you think that, in days of yore, a contributing factor to people marrying earlier was because total life expectancy was much shorter?"Yes, Jim, I do. (I also think that birthrates fell partly because of the sharp decline in infant mortality -- as Barbara points out, birthrates began to fall before attitudes toward premarital sex changed.) It's hard to know how the shift in cultural attitudes relates to medical advances. Perhaps we have just made a virtue of new possibilities.My main point is this: Those who would uphold the Church's traditional teachings about sex and marriage ought to oppose economic arrangements that, by discouraging people from marrying young, make chastity more difficult than it should be. To paraphrase Dorothy Day, a good society is one in which it does not require heroic virtue to obey the precepts of the Church. Now, most cultural conservatives do not oppose these arrangements and seem generally untroubled by the fact that people are marrying later and later.

Another reason for marrying young was that many wanted to indulge in sex without the stigma of sex outside marriage. This new practice is due to the sexual revolution. The advice on marrying older followed the new sexual mores. It did not produce them.

This really is more complicated than it appears at first blush.We've been kicking around the morality of the newish middle-class ideal sequential pattern of three elements, "first college, then career, then children". Now we're introducing a fourth element, marriage.For my parents, who were married in the '50s, the ideal sequence would have been "first college, then marriage, then children, then career". My aunt and uncle, who are of the earlier part of the baby boom and graduated from college sometime in the late '60's, tell me that they were invited to something like 19(!) weddings the summer after they graduated from college, which I take as some strong evidence that at least the college-marriage part of the sequence was extremely well-established, not only as an ideal, but a norm for the middle class.Thinking about it a little more, I guess we've also introduced a fifth element, sex. For my parents, the ideal sequence unquestionably would have been college-marriage-sex-children-career. The upwardly mobile dad of those times didn't wait to start a family; he dragged his wife and children from state to state as he advanced his career. Career might have "come first" in terms of priorities, but children came first, temporally speaking.I suppose that, in theory, any possible combination of college-marriage-sex-children-career could happen (well, except for sex-children), but the ordering that must be avoided at all costs is to have children before college, as Ms. Schairer's life bears witness. How interesting that none of these combos from a generation or two ago are the same as college-career-children that seems to be the ideal today. Or, to add in the other elements according to Matthew's reasonable suppositions, sex-college-career-marriage-children (perhaps with minor variations to that order).I guess the lesson of the article is, use the Pill correctly, as the Faulkners might have. Result: middle-class comparative bliss. Or, use the Pill incorrectly or forget to use it, as Ms Schairer may have. Result: Lower-middle-class misery.

You all seem to be assuming that most everybody should go to college. I doubt that is so, unless the skills to participate in the new technological economy are so difficult that 4 more years of schooling is needed after highschool. I don't think this is true. For some kids, high school will be enough. Many others will need another year or two of learning specific skills for the job opportunities in their own area. (Job opportunities will alwas vary by the business there.) Also, there are many highly intelligent kids who can skip a grade or two. I guess my message is that school in the U. S. is too lock-stepped.I am assuming, of course, that high schools and "community colleges" can be improved mightily. The brains are there. Note: trade schools (for electriicans, mechanics, etc.) have historically seemed to keep up their standards high. I wonder how they did it.

"You all seem to be assuming that most everybody should go to college."It's the middle-class ideal. Ideals aren't always realized.

Whether everyone should go to college or not is another debate. If you plan your future around going to college, dropping out because you are pregnant is definitely problematic. I understand that there are people who pine for the early marriage + children model, but if you want that you need to advocate for the social structures and policy supports that made it possible. They have all but vanished. Even in developed countries with much stronger safety nets, age at birth of first child is much later than it used to be.Also, Jim, I really resist the notion that Ms. Schairer lives in lower middle class misery. No doubt her life is hard on a day to day basis, but I didn't get the sense that she or her children are miserable, and what seems hardest for the boy doesn't seem to relate so much to money as it does to the fact that he is on the specturm (for autism).

Barbara - yes, you're right, her family doesn't seem particularly miserable. It seems to me she's handling what life has dealt her better than a lot of other folks would.

-- You all seem to be assuming that most everybody should go to college. Its the middle-class ideal. Ideals arent always realized. --If I had a child who isn't wild about college, the efforts required, nor the daunting future bills, I'd encourage her/him to go to a good trade school.Where I live, plumbers get $95 per hour, portal to portal! What liberal arts grads can expect that kind of money - even if they can find a job? Good reliable plumbers are worth their weight in gold. Electricians also do very well. But the hardest thing to find (and quite costly when you do) is small jobs generalists.