Friday, October 19, 2007

Our Generational Debt

It's no secret that the dual earner household is on the rise, and that kids are being put in childcare at earlier ages to allow their parents to work. It's too bad we live in a world where the cost of living has risen so much that both parents need to work. I hear about it all the time. I just heard it on the radio the other day--the "need" for both parents to work.

While this is probably true of many individual cases, I don't buy it as an explanation for the overall trend. From 1951 to 2005, the consumer price index, a measure of inflation, rose 751%. Over the same period of time, the national average wage index rose from $2,799.16 to $36,952.94 (an increase of 1220%).

I'm no statistician, but it seems to me that according to these numbers, the average income in 2005 buys a higher standard of living than the average income in 1951--62% higher, to be exact.

We should expect that average incomes should be going up faster than prices. That's progress. If it wasn't for that sort of progress, we'd all be herding goats and living in tents in the desert. The problem is that we are not happy with that progress. We want more. As a result we are building up our generational debt. We will pay for this debt in two ways.

First, just like financial debt, generational debt has a limit. Once all married couples are dual-earner families, where do we go from there? We are then forced to fall back to the normal rate of growth. After we have acclimated to our artificially high progress rate, this will be hard to accept.

Second, and more importantly, we will pay for it in generations of kids whose upbringing was outsourced. It's difficult to measure the affects of this, and surely there are many that would think I am too extreme. But I feel the result will be (and has been) higher crime, lower self respect and respect for authority, less emotional maturity, and less well-rounded children overall. Thus, the future generation will pay our debt, plus interest.

Let me re-iterate that this is not an attack on any family that has chosen, or needs to, be a dual earner family. Nor I am suggesting that the children of dual earner families will necessarily be bad members of society. But I think the overall trend is inexcusable, and the overall affects undesirable.

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