Tag Archives: Economics

Is cohabitation a better way to prepare for marriage than courting?

Painting: "Courtship", by Edmund Blair Leighton (1888)
Painting: “Courtship”, by Edmund Blair Leighton (1888)

Consider this assessment of cohabitation from the radically-leftist New York Times.

Excerpt:

AT 32, one of my clients (I’ll call her Jennifer) had a lavish wine-country wedding. By then, Jennifer and her boyfriend had lived together for more than four years. The event was attended by the couple’s friends, families and two dogs.

When Jennifer started therapy with me less than a year later, she was looking for a divorce lawyer. “I spent more time planning my wedding than I spent happily married,” she sobbed. Most disheartening to Jennifer was that she’d tried to do everything right. “My parents got married young so, of course, they got divorced. We lived together! How did this happen?”

Cohabitation in the United States has increased by more than 1,500 percent in the past half century. In 1960, about 450,000 unmarried couples lived together. Now the number is more than 7.5 million. The majority of young adults in their 20s will live with a romantic partner at least once, and more than half of all marriages will be preceded by cohabitation. This shift has been attributed to the sexual revolution and the availability of birth control, and in our current economy, sharing the bills makes cohabiting appealing. But when you talk to people in their 20s, you also hear about something else: cohabitation as prophylaxis.

In a nationwide survey conducted in 2001 by the National Marriage Project, then at Rutgers and now at the University of Virginia, nearly half of 20-somethings agreed with the statement, “You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along.” About two-thirds said they believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce.

That’s a nice idea – wanting protection against divorce. But I think these hopeful attitudes that young people have about cohabitation and the utility / harmlessness of premarital sex, is so much whistling past the graveyard. The fact is that cohabitation does not improve marital stability.

The New York Times author assesses the evidence about cohabitation:

Couples who cohabit before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with their marriages — and more likely to divorce — than couples who do not. These negative outcomes are called the cohabitation effect.

Researchers originally attributed the cohabitation effect to selection, or the idea that cohabitors were less conventional about marriage and thus more open to divorce. As cohabitation has become a norm, however, studies have shown that the effect is not entirely explained by individual characteristics like religion, education or politics. Research suggests that at least some of the risks may lie in cohabitation itself.

As Jennifer and I worked to answer her question, “How did this happen?” we talked about how she and her boyfriend went from dating to cohabiting. Her response was consistent with studies reporting that most couples say it “just happened.”

“We were sleeping over at each other’s places all the time,” she said. “We liked to be together, so it was cheaper and more convenient. It was a quick decision but if it didn’t work out there was a quick exit.”

She was talking about what researchers call “sliding, not deciding.” Moving from dating to sleeping over to sleeping over a lot to cohabitation can be a gradual slope, one not marked by rings or ceremonies or sometimes even a conversation. Couples bypass talking about why they want to live together and what it will mean.

Cohabitation is associated with higher risks of divorce because it works to undermine the need for quality communication during courting and the need for commitment that is based on discipline, instead of pleasure. People slide into something that looks like marriage because the sex pulls them in. But they’ve never taken the time to talk about what the relationship is really about, and whether they are intending to commit to the other person for life, and on what terms, and for what reason. Young people find these conversations difficult and scary for a reason – they are not capable of discussing relationships in terms of self-sacrifice, self-control, and self-denial.

The focus on early sex is caused by a focus on wanting to get to pleasure right away. They want relationships to be like a consumer good, where they get their needs met without having to talk about suitability for roles, and acceptance of responsibilities and obligations. In my experience, young people are terrified of the responsibilities, obligations and expectations of a real commitment. They want relationships to be free,easy and fun – where they just get to do whatever they feel like, moment by moment. And somehow, it’s all supposed to work out, without anyone talking seriously about roles and responsibilities and commitment.

But of course that doesn’t work as well as keeping your distance and getting to know each other first. It’s not just compatibility that is important, though – it’s that both people need to prepare for the roles and responsibilities they will have in a marriage, and demonstrate to each other that each is capable of performing those roles.

What’s the answer?

Research has shown that pre-marital chastity produces more stable and higher quality marriages. And that’s because chastity helps people to focus on conversations and obligations instead of the recreational sex which clouds the judgment and glosses over the seriousness of marriage. Premarital sex rushes the relationship to the point where it is harder to break it off because of the sunk costs of sex and the pain of the break-up. Courtship is the time to discuss the things that break up marriages, like finances and division of labor. It is the time to demonstrate self-control and fidelity. Courting doesn’t allow either person to get control of the relationship through sex, so that they can get their needs met without having to care about the other person. When sex is ruled off the table, the only way to have the relationship go on is by serving the other person and showing them that you have what it takes to do the marriage role you’re assigned. That’s hard work, but young people need to accept that and get on with preparing for and practicing their marriage responsibilities.

Why not go back to courting?

If you asked me, I would tell you that courting is protection against a painful break-up as well as protection against a bad marriage. And the aim of courting is to interview the other person so that you can see whether they understand the demands of the marriage and whether they can perform their duties to their spouse and children. In particular, men should investigate whether the woman has prepared (or is willing to prepare now) to perform her roles as wife and mother, and women should investigate whether the man has prepared to perform his roles as protector, provider and moral/spiritual leader (or is willing to prepare now). Courting is not designed to be fun, although it can be fun. It is not meant to make people feel happy, it is mean to prepare them for marriage. And this is because you cannot translate fun and happy into marriage, because marriage is about well-defined roles, self-sacrifice and commitment. Marriage is about following through for the other person, whether you get what you want or not. You’d be surprised how often people give up on courting and show that their real goal for a relationship is not lifelong self-sacrificial love at all, but just using other people for their own happiness while they keep their distance from the responsibilities, obligations and expectations of the marriage covenant.

And that’s why I encourage men to very gently and subtly guide the relationship in a way that will allow both the woman and the man to practice their expected marital duties, see how they feel about their duties and get better at being able to perform them. Men have the most to lose from the divorce courts, if things go south. That’s why it is the man’s the responsibility to detect and reject women who are only interested in fun and thrills.

The lottery is a voluntarily tax on the poorest people

You need to study math so that you don't end up doing this your whole life
You need to study math so that you don’t end up doing this your whole life

Here is a good article on basic economics by Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute (a free market think tank).

He writes in the Wall Street Journal:

Powerball—the lottery shared by 44 states, the District of Columbia and two territories—is just one of the sweepstakes run by 47 jurisdictions in the U.S. These games produce nearly $70 billion a year in government revenue and enjoy profits of about 33%—much higher than margins in the private gambling industry.

Who are these lotteries’ most loyal customers? Poor people. Lots of folks buy the occasional ticket, but studies have long shown a steady association between poverty and lottery play. Many scholars report that the poorest third of Americans buy more than half of all lotto tickets, which is why states advertise so aggressively in poor neighborhoods.

Harmless entertainment, you may say, but poor people don’t see it that way. They tend to view lottery tickets as an investment. Duke University social scientists Charles Clotfelter and Philip Cook reported in a 1990 study that people earning less than $30,000 a year are 25% more likely to say they play the lottery for the money rather than the entertainment.

[…]Even if someone feels compelled to throw a financial “Hail Mary,” the lottery is a terrible choice. The odds of winning last week’s jackpot were about 1 in 292 million. And the average return from $1 spent on lottery tickets is 52 cents, according to a 2002 paper by Melissa Kearney, an economist now at the University of Maryland.

But this isn’t easy to see for those with low levels of education. My own analysis of survey data from the National Gambling Impact Study Commission suggests that someone who didn’t attend college may think the return on lottery tickets is 40% higher than the estimate given by a person of similar demographics who holds a degree.

If you took a poll of how people who bought lottery tickets voted, I’m certain that you would find that 90% of them are Democrats. This is because Democrats are economically illiterate, judging for their support for minimum wage increases and opposition to free trade. I suppose there would be a fair number of Donald Trump supporters in there, too. People can can do math don’t buy lottery tickets. It’s much better to pay off debt and then start saving for your retirement. Although public schools used to teach math and basic economics, now they are so busy teaching young people to hate their parents, their God and their country that there is no time for teaching math and basic economics. Even if the public school teachers knew math and basic economics, which they probably don’t, judging by how members of teacher unions vote.

Apparently, people on the political left now oppose teaching math, because it’s racist or sexist or something.

The Daily Caller explains:

Is math sexist? One Vanderbilt University professor believes that it is.

Writing in an academic journal last month, the professor complained about the masculinization of math and how it causes the oppression of women.

Describing mathematics as a “white and heteronormatively masculinized space,” professor Luis A. Leyva insists that factors including teacher expectations and cultural norms “serve as gendering mechanisms that give rise to sex-based achievement differences,” per Campus Reform.

[…]In the article titled “Unpacking the Male Superiority Myth and Masculinization of Mathematics at the Intersection,” Leyva says that teachers “contribute to the masculinization of the  domain that unfairly holds students to men’s higher levels of achievement and participation as a measure of success.”

In other words, being held to a high standard keeps women down.

Do you ever wonder why Democrats want to halt all education reform? Well, people who can’t do math tend to be awful at earning and saving money. And do you know what happens to people who are terrible at earning and saving money? They become dependent on welfare and they vote for bigger government, i.e. – Democrats.

The Pew Research Center, a liberal organization, actually did a study on this uninformed voter problem.

Excerpt:

So Republicans are more knowledgeable than Democrats, contrary to what many would like to believe.

According to whom?  None other than the Pew Research Center, a left-of-center organization.  Moreover, Pew’s latest survey only reaffirms previous surveys demonstrating the same result.

In fact, the results weren’t even close.

In a scientific survey of 1,168 adults conducted during September and October of last year, respondents were asked not only multiple-choice questions, but also queries using maps, photographs and symbols.  Among other subjects, participants identified international leaders, cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, nations on a world map, the current unemployment and poverty rates and war casualty totals.

In a 2010 Pew survey, Republicans outperformed Democrats on 10 of 12 questions, with one tie and Democrats outperforming Republicans on just 1 of the 12.  In the latest survey, however, Republicans outperformed Democrats on every single one of 19 questions.

[…]Those Pew results are confirmed by some surprising other sources.  According to a New York Times headline dated April 14, 2010, “Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated.”  Shattering widespread myths, that survey revealed that Tea Party supporters were more likely to possess a college degree than their counterparts (23% to 15%), and also more likely to have completed post-graduate studies (14% to 10%).  Tea Partiers were also more likely to have completed “some college” by a 33% to 28% margin, and substantially less likely to have not completed high school than non-supporters (3% versus 12%), or to possess only a high school degree (26% versus 35%).

I hope no readers of this blog drop math before they go to college or trade school, and you all better be studying something that pays if you do go to college. I don’t want to catch any of you buying lottery tickets as your retirement plan. I want to encourage you all to make a long-term plan for your retirement, and make sure that the pieces in the short-term fit with that long-term plan.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse lectures on basic economics

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Here is a podcast on basic economics from Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse.

About the speaker:

Dr. Morse is the founder of the Ruth Institute, a global non-profit organization focused on keeping the family together, protecting the rights of children and helping the millions of people who have been harmed by family breakdown.

She has authored or co-authored four books and spoken around the globe on marriage, family and human sexuality. Her work has been translated into Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Polish. Her newest book is The Sexual Revolution and Its Victims.

She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Rochester and taught economics at Yale and George Mason Universities.

A bit more about her economics credentials: Dr. Morse served as a Research Fellow for Stanford University’s Hoover Institution from 1997-2005. She received her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Rochester in 1980 and spent a postdoctoral year at the University of Chicago during 1979-80. She taught economics at Yale University and George Mason University for 15 years.

The MP3 file is here. (49 minutes)

Topics:

  • The study of economics is anti-postmodern – there is objective truth independent of what people think
  • The study of economics believes in fixed principles of human nature
  • Economics studies the allocation of scarce resources that have alternative uses
  • Economics studies how people exchange resources
  • How both people who engage in a voluntary trade always believe that they will be better off
  • How both people who engage in a voluntary trade both benefit from the exchange
  • How incentives motivate people to act
  • Understanding supply and demand
  • Understanding how “free” government services are rationed
  • Understanding opportunity costs
  • How prices signal producers to produce more or less, and consumers to buy or not buy
  • Market-driven prices versus price controls
  • The role of substitution
  • The necessity of allowing failure in a free market

The requirements of economic growth:

  • private property
  • contracts
  • the profit motive
  • competition
  • free trade
  • entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation
  • the rule of law

If you want to learn more about basic economics, I recommend picking up a book or two by Thomas Sowell – the first book I usually give away is “Intellectuals and Society”, and then next “Basic Economics”. A shorter introduction is “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism” by Robert Murphy. You can find a good list of books on the website of The Institute for Faith, Work and Economics.

I think it’s important for Christians to understand basic economics, because so much of the impact we have depends not only on our personal finances, but on our ability to promote economics policies that will affect our personal finances. For example, whether you have a job or not depends on economic policy. Whether you can get food and other required resources depends on economic policy. Often, big-government regimes with poor economic policies (e.g. – North Korea) will make it impossible for you to have other liberties, like religious freedom.

Just think about how hard it would be for you to pursue a Christian life plan in a place like Venezuela, where your priorities would not be apologetics, but just finding food and avoiding death and theft at the hands of criminals. Closer to home, we are now seeing Seattle restaurant workers having their hours cut and even losing their jobs – because they decided to raise the minimum wage rate (bad economics).

Excerpt:

This latest study from the UW team looks at the effects of both the first and second jumps. The second jump, in January 2016, raised the minimum wage to $10.50 to $13. (The minimum wage has since gone up again, to the current $11 to $15. It goes up again in January to $11.50 to $15.)

The team concluded that the second jump had a far greater impact, boosting pay in low-wage jobs by about 3 percent since 2014 but also resulting in a 9 percent reduction in hours worked in such jobs. That resulted in a 6 percent drop in what employers collectively pay — and what workers earn — for those low-wage jobs.

For an average low-wage worker in Seattle, that translates into a loss of about $125 per month per job.

“If you’re a low-skilled worker with one of those jobs, $125 a month is a sizable amount of money,” said Mark Long, a UW public-policy professor and one of the authors of the report. “It can be the difference between being able to pay your rent and not being able to pay your rent.”

The report also estimated that there are about 5,000 fewer low-wage jobs in the city than there would have been without the law.

As I blogged previously, 93% of economists agree that raising the minimum wage hurts job seekers. It actually hurts young and/or minority job seekers the most, because they are the ones looking for entry-level jobs. That is why in countries that have embraced bad economic policies, the unemployment rates for young people are at or above 50%.

Youth unemployment in socialist countries
Youth unemployment in socialist countries

Look at what the far-left UK Guardian says:

In Greece, 59.2% of under-25s are out of work. In Spain, youth unemployment stands at 56.5%; in Italy, it hovers around 40%.

[…]In the words of Enrico Giovannini, Italy’s employment minister, this is a disaster all the more shocking because it is hitting Europe’s best-educated generation: in Spain, nearly 40% of people in their 20s and early 30s have degrees; in Greece it’s 30%; in Italy, more than 20%.

Having an education isn’t what gets you a job. What gets you a job are the economic policies that make it viable for an entrepreneur to risk their capital in the hope of being able to keep more of what they earn – instead of paying it to the government so that bureaucrats can spend it on social programs.

Imagine it was you who lost your job or couldn’t find work due to bad economic policy. Think of how that would affect your ability to even drive to church on Sundays, or purchase a Bible, much less being able to organize an apologetics event at the university and pay for a speaker to fly in and stay in a hotel. Economics is important for Christians to understand, because so much of our influence and effectiveness depends on it.

Economist Walter Williams explains how to not be poor

Economist Walter Williams
Economist Walter Williams

Here is his article on wealth and poverty on Creators.

First, there is no real poverty in the United States:

There is no material poverty in the U.S. Here are a few facts about people whom the Census Bureau labels as poor. Dr. Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, in their study “Understanding Poverty in the United States: Surprising Facts About America’s Poor”, report that 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning; nearly three-quarters have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more. Two-thirds have cable or satellite TV. Half have one or more computers. Forty-two percent own their homes. Poor Americans have more living space than the typical non-poor person in Sweden, France or the U.K. What we have in our nation are dependency and poverty of the spirit, with people making unwise choices and leading pathological lives aided and abetted by the welfare state.

Second, the “poverty” is not caused by racism, but by poor choices:

The Census Bureau pegs the poverty rate among blacks at 35 percent and among whites at 13 percent. The illegitimacy rate among blacks is 72 percent, and among whites it’s 30 percent. A statistic that one doesn’t hear much about is that the poverty rate among black married families has been in the single digits for more than two decades, currently at 8 percent. For married white families, it’s 5 percent. Now the politically incorrect questions: Whose fault is it to have children without the benefit of marriage and risk a life of dependency? Do people have free will, or are they governed by instincts?

There may be some pinhead sociologists who blame the weak black family structure on racial discrimination. But why was the black illegitimacy rate only 14 percent in 1940, and why, as Dr. Thomas Sowell reports, do we find that census data “going back a hundred years, when blacks were just one generation out of slavery … showed that a slightly higher percentage of black adults had married than white adults. This fact remained true in every census from 1890 to 1940”? Is anyone willing to advance the argument that the reason the illegitimacy rate among blacks was lower and marriage rates higher in earlier periods was there was less racial discrimination and greater opportunity?

Third, avoiding poverty is the result of good choices:

No one can blame a person if he starts out in life poor, because how one starts out is not his fault.

If he stays poor, he is to blame because it is his fault. Avoiding long-term poverty is not rocket science. First, graduate from high school. Second, get married before you have children, and stay married. Third, work at any kind of job, even one that starts out paying the minimum wage. And finally, avoid engaging in criminal behavior. It turns out that a married couple, each earning the minimum wage, would earn an annual combined income of $30,000. The Census Bureau poverty line for a family of two is $15,500, and for a family of four, it’s $23,000. By the way, no adult who starts out earning the minimum wage does so for very long.

Fourth, what stops people from making good choices is big government:

Since President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty, the nation has spent about $18 trillion at the federal, state and local levels of government on programs justified by the “need” to deal with some aspect of poverty. In a column of mine in 1995, I pointed out that at that time, the nation had spent $5.4 trillion on the War on Poverty, and with that princely sum, “you could purchase every U.S. factory, all manufacturing equipment, and every office building. With what’s left over, one could buy every airline, trucking company and our commercial maritime fleet. If you’re still in the shopping mood, you could also buy every television, radio and power company, plus every retail and wholesale store in the entire nation”. Today’s total of $18 trillion spent on poverty means you could purchase everything produced in our country each year and then some.

Walter Williams is one of my two favorite economists, the other being Thomas Sowell. By sheer coincidence, they both happen to have grown up poor, and they both happen to be black. They understand what causes poverty very well. I recommend their books to you if you want to understand economics.

New study: in 2017, minimum wage increases will cost 383,000 low income jobs

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

Is raising the minimum wage a good idea? Where would the money come from for the higher wages? Would job creators be able to afford to pay people more for the same level of productivity?

Investors Business Daily discusses a new study about the minimum wage increases that will take effect in 2017:

One of the most vexing economic issues today is the minimum wage. For many, the failure to raise the minimum wage to $15 or higher is a sign of our nation’s stinginess and an essential part of the fight for income equality. However, the truth, sad to say, is quite different, as a new study shows.

The study by the American Action Forum, a nonpartisan think tank led by former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, looked at minimum-wage hikes scheduled to take effect in the coming years in 14 states and the nation’s capital and found they will “cost millions of jobs across the country and each lost job only leads to total wage earnings rising by a few thousand dollars.”

The reason is simple: When you raise the minimum wage of low-skilled, low-productivity labor — a group that disproportionately includes young minority males — you inevitably destroy jobs. No business will hire someone and pay him more than he’s worth.

So all those states might think they’re helping the downtrodden and the poor, and striking a blow for equality by mandating higher wages, but they’re doing just the opposite: Pricing many young people out of entry-level jobs.

The study estimates that minimum-wage hikes in just 2017 will kill off 383,000 low-end jobs. When phased in over a series of years, the losses become truly big: 2.6 million jobs. But wait, won’t the minimum-wage hike at least boost incomes?

Yes, but not much. For each job lost, earnings for the employees affected by the increase would go up just $6,900.

“While proposals to raise the minimum wage are well intended, it is important to consider the negative labor market consequences,” the report said. “A 10% increase in the real minimum wage is associated with a 0.3 to 0.5 percentage-point decline in the net job rate.”

What will happen when all of these young workers come out of high school and cannot find entry level jobs? Answer: they will have to get money through crime or black market or by collecting welfare. That’s how you earn money if you can’t get employment through legal means.

If we left the minimum wage low, they would be able to find entry level jobs and move up the ladder, perhaps by taking classes at night, like my parents did. My Dad was able to earn his Bachelor’s degree by working in a flower shop and as a security guard for minimal pay. Then he was able to find full-time work that allowed him to have another child, i.e. – me. My parents married first, got jobs, then had children later. But they relied on the availability of entry level jobs in order to work that plan through.

It’s very important to understand that not everyone who INTENDS to help the poor really ACHIEVES helping the poor. I really hope that Americans start to understand from disasters like Obamacare that you cannot let economic illiterates drive policy decisions. No matter how good the happy-talk sounds when read off of a teleprompter, there is no getting around the laws of economics.