Links: Professional vagabonds, why no children?

From Matt: Shallow, selfish, and self-absorbed‘ (Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic): Despite its tongue-in-cheek-title, this article – drawing on a recent book by a similar name – provides an interesting take on why more and more people these days, women in particular, are choosing to not have kids. The article’s (and book’s) objective was to remove some of the stigma associated with choosing to forego children by sharing some personal reflections from people who made this choice. While each of the people seemed to have different reasons for making the choice, there were some clear themes, one of which the author nicely summarized as follows:

Though no one exactly says it, women are voting with their ovaries, and the reason is simple. There are too few social supports, especially given the fact that the majority of women are no longer just mothers now, they’re mother-workers. Yet virtually no social policy accounts for this. Interestingly, women with the most education are the ones having the fewest children, though even basic literacy has a negative effect on birthrates in the developing world—the higher the literacy rate, the lower the birthrate. In other words, when women acquire critical skills and start weighing their options, they soon wise up to the fact that they’re not getting enough recompense for their labors.”

She’s dead on. If we want our highly skilled women to have children, we need to stop kneecapping those that do. This means making access to childcare and parental leave (for both fathers and mothers) a priority. Places that do this (e.g., Scandinavia) have higher birth rates and more gender equality, both in the workplace and in the home (not to mention stronger economic growth). Quebec recently expanded its paid paternity leave, and there is already evidence of this policy creating more equal divisions of labour between mother and fathers at home.

In the U.S., the only guaranteed maternity leave is twelve weeks unpaid – making it, along with Papua New Guinea, the only countries in the world to not have any paid parental leave. Twelve weeks is barely enough time to heal from the birth. What’s more, paid parental leave can be administered incredibly cheaply. New Jersey, for example, funds a one-year paid parental leave through a 0.1% payroll tax. For any country or state that understands the value of human capital to long-term economic prosperity, policies like this should be a no brainer.

Sorry for the short links post! Ian and I are working on companion articles and a new Discussion on the federal budget, to be released later this week!

From Niya: Professional Vagabonds. I found Newsweek‘s article on technology and the shift in hobo culture a fascinating read. It presents a side of homelessness that is rarely seen, likely because marketing it won’t raise dollars for not-for-profit organizations that work to support the homeless. That made me wonder how those organizations are supporting the millennial, connected homeless population, who seem to need access to decent quality wi-fi and accessible charging stations as much, if not more than they need access to food and a safe place sleep. It also made me wonder about how this population uses the technology they can access to support themselves, or individuals within their community who struggle with mental health issues or other chronic conditions that impact their quality of life. I also wonder about the somewhat rosy picture that the closing comment of the article creates – where the principal character explains how his resourcefulness has helped create a lifestyle that he loves – in light of the opening comment from the same individual who makes it clear that he didn’t choose to be homeless. Is he making the most of an unpleasant situation or, has he, in somewhat definitional millennial fashion, taken the best of his life circumstances and converted them into something that seems almost desirable?

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