Saturday, April 11, 2009

Inequality, family life and religiosity

In my post on Stephanie Cootz’s Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage I noted the results that tertiary educated women are now more likely to be married—and more likely to have happy marriages—than low-income low-skill women (Coontz pp 286ff). The pool of potential husbands for the latter being of higher risk and lower benefit (Coontz pp 288ff).

This is one of the several ways that increased higher education increases inequality—by increasing skill differentiation, by compounding household differentiation (high-income women tend to marry high-income men) and by increasing life cycle inequality (low-income students in their 20s becoming high-income professionals in their 40s).
One of the great ironies of contemporary politics is that many progressivist policies—increased investment in higher education, encouraging women to work, high migration intakes, high refugee intakes—all tend to increase inequality by increasing skill differentiation and/or putting downward pressure on wages. Yet the same progressivists have often opposed the economic liberalisation reforms that have allowed capital growth to increase to a level that has ameliorated these effects (given that the ratio of labour to land+capital determines average wages). Hence the centre-left of politics often being the keenest economic reformers—they want the welfare state to work and support the aforementioned policies.

Hence also income equality being a much bigger issue in “Blue State” cosmopolitan America and inner urban Australia/Canada/New Zealand … where such effects are particularly strong and much less of an issue in “Red State” parochial America and provincial/outer urban Australia/Canada/New Zealand … where such effects are much less powerful.

In “cosmopolitan-land”, the higher level of migrants leads to restrictive land-use policies that favour housing-land incumbents, since housing market entrants are disproportionately people with little or no connection to the political-regulatory process. This in turn makes inequality worse and, in the US, encourages young marrieds with children to head to “parochial-land”, which breeds faster due to internal migration, greater child affordability and greater social reinforcement. Hence the baby gap.

It also leads to other forms of differentiation. In Virginia Postrel’s words:
The unintended consequence of these land-use policies is that Americans are sorting themselves geographically by income and lifestyle—not across neighborhoods, as they used to, but across regions. People are more likely to live surrounded by others like themselves, creating a more-polarized cultural map.
Including more religiosity—since that both resonates with, and reinforces, the family-based networking and economic life—in “parochial land” and more secularisation—since folk live more fragmented lives—in “cosmopolitan land”. Which in turn encourages more environmentalism in “cosmopolitan land” since their economic activity is much less connected to the pointy-end of resource-based industries (the things green campaigns want to close down are wildly disproportionately in rural/provincial areas) and conventional religion is less competitive as a source of meaning.

Hence the socio-economic-political clumpings across which political battles are fought. Different experiences of life leading to different outlooks. Which is only difficult to understand if one is committed to belief that your experience of life, or your outlook, or both, is some how morally and intellectually privileged. Then the world will keep surprising you.

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