The Myth of the Empowered Working Class Single Mother

An excerpt from this article:

I’ve been coming across a lot of articles about how working and lower middle class women are better off raising their kids “alone.” It’s a bit baffling, really, because taking care of a baby alone is a special kind of hell — even for women: you’re practically guaranteed sleep deprivation for months, there’s no way you could reasonably do so and hold a job, and even if you could, without at least an upper middle class salary daycare for infants is unaffordable ($20,000/year in Seattle last I checked).

You’d think that having someone around to help, even if he isn’t bringing in much income, would sure beat the alternative.

So what gives? Why are all these women going it alone? Actually, they aren’t. What is happening in the working class is the ghettoization of working Americans. We are seeing a family model that first arose in the northern urban black community become more and more the norm throughout society.

When I was growing up, I had some friends from the nearby projects. One kid, Ernest, lived down near the community swimming pool at Rainier Beach High School, so after swimming lessons we’d sometimes hang out in his neighborhood. I never recall seeing Ernest’s mother — it was his grandmother who took care of him. All told, she did a respectable job. He was a nice kid and, unlike most of the others stuck in that lousy situation, had a grandmother who actually bothered to teach him the basics (like how to swim). These little things add up to a lot over the years.

Over time, I found out that Ernest’s family arrangement was the norm in that neighborhood. I have no idea what most of the mothers were doing, but they were definitely not “empowered single mothers” by the commonly understood definition. They were hardly mothers at all. It was their mothers who were doing the heavy lifting.

Lest some say that this is a natural family arrangement for blacks dating back to Africa, it really isn’t. Africa may be different from Europe in important ways, but it never was, nor has it ever been, a matriarchal utopia. This state of affairs occurred after the great migration, and it was an urban phenomenon.

Instead of some natural matriarchal love-fest, it is more properly termed “multi-generational female dependency.” It’s an insidious kind of charity, because it renders men socially superfluous even as it encourages women to depend on the state for support, which creates an entire community that is a net drain on the surrounding society. Of course, there are incentives built in all along the way.

For example, if a woman gets section 8 housing after having a daughter, then raises her to adulthood on public assistance, when her daughter has a child she can stay with her mother (who will provide daycare) and collect welfare while she waits to get her own section 8 voucher. The daughter then gets her section 8 apartment, and the cycle repeats itself. I’m sure there are many families today entering their fourth generation of this lifestyle. For the men, the choices are significantly more limited. A lucky few may hit it big somehow, a large fraction will be arrested and incarcerated for something or other, and a minority will finally escape through the military or a reasonable job. Many will be reduced to the humiliating, demoralizing state of “mooching” off women who are state-supported. Naturally, this has incentivized favoritism toward female over male children amongst the underclass. Poor urban women invest more time and money in their daughters than their sons. This is sad but rational, because state assistance flows toward the female of the species — not the male.

When I see writers for Salon or some similar publication declaring that working class women are better off going it alone, I don’t think they quite understand what’s happening here. Instead of taking a hard look at the incentives, they tend to focus on the alleged shortcomings of the male, and rarely bother to get his side of the story (a glaring omission considering that the women in question deliberately chose to be impregnated by a particular man). They assume that it’s a matter of working class women earning more money and being better providers than the males. Perhaps most stupidly, they assume that a working class woman can be a single, go-it-alone mother of an infant and a productive worker:

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