Culture & the Family

Trent England | December 24, 2014

Stay-at-home moms worthless: New York Times

Trent England

Late last week, one of the New York Times blogs featured a post suggesting that, when it comes to welfare spending, “both economic theory and most people’s intuition” are wrong. Not just wrong, but “backward.”

You see, conventional wisdom says that social programs that pay people not to work lead to fewer people working. This, says Times blogger Neil Irwin, is contradicted by a new study that finds social programs that pay people extra to work actually lead to more people working.

To Irwin’s credit, his post does eventually progress beyond this absurd clickbait. Unfortunately, progress does not always signify improvement. Irwin includes this vignette.

Consider Marianne Hillestad of Steinberg, Norway. She teaches kindergarten; her husband, Ruben Sanchez, installs heating and ventilation systems. Day care for their three children, ages 4, 7, and 9, works out to about $1,100 a month; Ms. Hillestad estimates that if she had to pay a market rate, it would be nearly twice that, eating up most of her paycheck.

“Using day care and working full time was a matter of costs and benefits,” Ms. Hillestad said. “The system is designed to keep us working….”

Collectively, these policies and subsidies create flexibility such that a person on the fence between taking a job versus staying at home to care for children or parents may be more likely to take a job.

Yes, it’s true. More mothers work in countries like Norway that heavily subsidize daycare (which, contrary to the Times, is not contrary to economic theory). Yet left entirely out of this equation is the value of parents—mostly mothers—who work as full time parents. (Also left out is that somebody gets forced to foot the bill for the subsidies.)

According to Irwin and the Times, parents who work and get a paycheck are good and parents who work and do not collect a paycheck are worth, well, nothing. Actually, given that the Times would have government pay these parents not to stay at home, perhaps the real thesis is that they are worth less than nothing, causing some sort of undefined social harm. (This article, on the other hand, estimates the market value of a stay-at-home mom at $115,000.)

Irwin never explains this bias, nor offers any evidence to substantiate it. Then again, the New York Times has a history of supporting social engineering schemes (and, of course, criticizing conservative opponents of such measures).

Trent England David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow

Trent England

David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow

Trent England is the David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, where he previously served as executive vice president. He is also the founder and executive director of Save Our States, which educates Americans about the importance of the Electoral College. England is a producer of the feature-length documentary “Safeguard: An Electoral College Story.” He has appeared three times on Fox & Friends and is a frequent guest on media programs from coast to coast. He is the author of Why We Must Defend the Electoral College and a contributor to The Heritage Guide to the Constitution and One Nation Under Arrest: How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty. His writing has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Times, Hillsdale College's Imprimis speech digest, and other publications. Trent formerly hosted morning drive-time radio in Oklahoma City and has filled for various radio hosts including Ben Shapiro. A former legal policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, he holds a law degree from The George Mason University School of Law and a bachelor of arts in government from Claremont McKenna College.

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