Tuesday, July 17, 2012

They're Not Supposed to Shoot Back

Here's a good illustration of why a lot of people favor concealed-carry laws.

Two thugs burst into an internet cafe in Florida expecting to steal money they know to be there for the taking. What they didn't expect to be there was 71 year-old Samuel Williams armed with a .380 semi-automatic handgun. Mr. Williams rose from his seat discharging his weapon in the general vicinity of the young miscreants, and teaching them a lesson about the wages of sin. Both were later apprehended and hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. No charges will be filed against Mr. Williams:
More details of the incident can be found at The Blaze.

I Do

There's a story by Jason DeParle in the New York Times that should be read by every girl of high school age who doesn't want to wind up struggling with poverty all her life. DeParle writes that the difference between the haves and the have-nots in America really comes down to two words: I do.

Women who marry before they have children and stay married afterward are much more likely to avoid poverty than those who have children out of wedlock or who find themselves raising children pretty much by themselves. This, of course, seems almost self-evident but so many girls have to learn it the hard way. DeParle contrasts the lives of two women who are similar in almost every respect except that one is married and the other is not. The marriage makes all the difference:
Jessica Schairer has so much in common with her boss, Chris Faulkner, that a visitor to the day care center they run might get them confused. They are both friendly white women from modest Midwestern backgrounds who left for college with conventional hopes of marriage, motherhood and career. They both have children in elementary school. They pass their days in similar ways: juggling toddlers, coaching teachers and swapping small secrets that mark them as friends. They even got tattoos together. Though Ms. Faulkner, as the boss, earns more money, the difference is a gap, not a chasm.

But a friendship that evokes parity by day becomes a study of inequality at night and a testament to the way family structure deepens class divides. Ms. Faulkner is married and living on two paychecks, while Ms. Schairer is raising her children by herself. That gives the Faulkner family a profound advantage in income and nurturing time, and makes their children statistically more likely to finish college, find good jobs and form stable marriages.

Ms. Faulkner goes home to a trim subdivision and weekends crowded with children’s events. Ms. Schairer’s rent consumes more than half her income, and she scrapes by on food stamps.

“I see Chris’s kids — they’re in swimming and karate and baseball and Boy Scouts, and it seems like it’s always her or her husband who’s able to make it there,” Ms. Schairer said. “That’s something I wish I could do for my kids. But number one, that stuff costs a lot of money and, two, I just don’t have the time.”

The economic storms of recent years have raised concerns about growing inequality and questions about a core national faith, that even Americans of humble backgrounds have a good chance of getting ahead. Most of the discussion has focused on labor market forces like falling blue-collar wages and lavish Wall Street pay.

But striking changes in family structure have also broadened income gaps and posed new barriers to upward mobility. College-educated Americans like the Faulkners are increasingly likely to marry one another, compounding their growing advantages in pay. Less-educated women like Ms. Schairer, who left college without finishing her degree, are growing less likely to marry at all, raising children on pinched paychecks that come in ones, not twos.

Estimates vary widely, but scholars have said that changes in marriage patterns — as opposed to changes in individual earnings — may account for as much as 40 percent of the growth in certain measures of inequality. Long a nation of economic extremes, the United States is also becoming a society of family haves and family have-nots, with marriage and its rewards evermore confined to the fortunate classes.

“It is the privileged Americans who are marrying, and marrying helps them stay privileged,” said Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University.
There's much more in the article that should be read and digested about the importance of marriage in the quality of life it affords women and their children. Not only does having two parents give children an enormous advantage over those who have only one, but, something DeParle's piece doesn't mention, those children also often have two sets of grandparents who are an enormous resource in helping with kids and with finances.

Here's another excerpt:
About 41 percent of births in the United States occur outside marriage, up sharply from 17 percent three decades ago. But equally sharp are the educational divides, according to an analysis by Child Trends, a Washington research group. Less than 10 percent of the births to college-educated women occur outside marriage, while for women with high school degrees or less the figure is nearly 60 percent.

Long concentrated among minorities, motherhood outside marriage now varies by class about as much as it does by race. It is growing fastest in the lower reaches of the white middle class — among women like Ms. Schairer who have some postsecondary schooling but no four-year degree.

While many children of single mothers flourish (two of the last three presidents had mothers who were single during part of their childhood), a large body of research shows that they are more likely than similar children with married parents to experience childhood poverty, act up in class, become teenage parents and drop out of school.

Sara McLanahan, a Princeton sociologist, warns that family structure increasingly consigns children to “diverging destinies.”

Married couples are having children later than they used to, divorcing less and investing heavily in parenting time. By contrast, a growing share of single mothers have never married, and many have children with more than one man.

“The people with more education tend to have stable family structures with committed, involved fathers,” Ms. McLanahan said. “The people with less education are more likely to have complex, unstable situations involving men who come and go.” She said, “I think this process is creating greater gaps in these children’s life chances.”

Ms. Schairer’s life offers a vivid example of how rapidly norms have changed. She grew up in a small town outside Ann Arbor, where her life revolved around church and school and everyone she knew was married.

“I thought, ‘I’ll meet someone, and we’ll marry and have kids and the house and the white picket fence,’ ” she said. “That’s what I wanted. That’s what I still want.” She got pregnant during her first year of college, left school and stayed in a troubled relationship that left her with three children when it finally collapsed six years ago. She has had little contact with the children’s father and receives no child support. With an annual income of just under $25,000, Ms. Schairer barely lifts her children out of poverty, but she is not one to complain. “I’m in this position because of decisions I made,” she said.
The two women in DeParle's column are personifications of the theme of Charles Murray's book Coming Apart which contrasts the evolution of marriage in the white upper and lower classes.

My only quibble with the essay is that he seems to suggest that the difference in how people value marriage is a function of their class and education, as though the correlations showed causation. But one doesn't have to be well off or well-educated to value marriage. In fact, as the lives of the women in the article suggest, being married is almost a sine qua non for women with children to become well-off.

Read DeParle's article on how things often go for those women who find themselves in Ms Schairer's circumstances. My heart goes out to this woman who works hard, takes complete responsibility for the choices she's made, and who fully recognizes, unlike some in her situation, that her children really do need a father.