Friday, November 04, 2011

Poverty, Conscientiousness, and Broken Families

Right-wingers should spend a lot more time reading left-wing ethnography of the poor. It may seem strange, but when leftist social scientists actually talk to and observe the poor, they confirm the stereotypes of the harshest Victorian. Poverty isn't about money; it's a state of mind. That state of mind is low conscientiousness.

Case in point: Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas' Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage. The authors spent years interviewing poor single moms. Edin actually moved into their neighborhood to get closer to her subjects. One big conclusion:
Most social scientists who study poor families assume financial troubles are the cause of these breakups [between cohabitating parents]... Lack of money is certainly a contributing cause, as we will see, but rarely the only factor. It is usually the young father's criminal behavior, the spells of incarceration that so often follow, a pattern of intimate violence, his chronic infidelity, and an inability to leave drugs and alcohol alone that cause relationships to falter and die.

Conflicts over money do not usually erupt simply because the man cannot find a job or because he doesn't earn as much as someone with better skills or education. Money usually becomes an issue because he seems unwilling to keep at a job for any length of time, usually because of issues related to respect. Some of the jobs he can get don't pay enough to give him the self-respect he feels he needs, and others require him to get along with unpleasant customers and coworkers, and to maintain a submissive attitude toward the boss.

These passages focus on low male conscientiousness, but the rest of the book shows it's a two-way street. And even when Edin and Kefalas are talking about men, low female conscientiousness is implicit. After all, conscientious women wouldn't associate with habitually unemployed men in the first place - not to mention alcoholics, addicts, or criminals.


The War on Ladies’ Night

Let’s face it: If you’re the proprietor of a bar that caters to a predominantly heterosexual crowd, it’s in your financial interest to attract female customers. Not only will women spend money at your bar they might have spent elsewhere—men will spend more than they might have. Unless there’s a very interesting game on TV, your average male customer will generally prefer drinking in an establishment in which there’s at least a smattering of women.

And thus, once upon a time, bars began promoting ladies’ night discounts in hopes of becoming staple locales for Girls Night Out, that fabled feminine tradition that is the stuff that romantic comedies (and most Sex and the City episodes) are made on.

But ladies’ nights are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Richard Thomas Ford, author of Rights Gone Wrong: How Law Corrupts the Struggle for Equality, explains how anti-discrimination laws are being used by civil liberties groups and men’s rights organizations to attack ladies’ discounts in the courts. Such efforts have thus far been largely successful, and many states now ban gender-based discounts.

In an excerpt of his book, published in Slate this week, Ford writes:
“Although the law in several states apparently prohibits ladies’ nights, popular opinion echoes the approval of Kool and the Gang: It’s ladies’ night, and the feeling’s right. After New Jersey banned ladies’ nights in 2004, then-Gov. James McGreevey condemned the decision as ‘bureaucratic nonsense’ that ‘reflects a complete lack of common sense and good judgment.’ (New Jersey later amended its civil rights laws to allow ladies’ nights.) A columnist in the National Review called the ruling ‘emblematic of the growing arrogance of a government caste that seeks to micromanage every aspect of American’s lives.’ [...]

Of course, read literally, without the mediating influence of good judgment or common sense, the laws that prohibit truly demeaning and invidious sex discrimination apply to ladies’ night promotions and the use of female sex as an expedient proxy for mothers in a Mother’s Day giveaway. Rights go wrong when propelled beyond the boundaries of good sense by abstract thinking.”

Ford’s perfectly right; and his argument extends well beyond the issue at hand. The war on ladies’ night is only a somewhat inconsequential example of what happens when well-intentioned legislation is used to limit business owners’ ability to improve their businesses and make their clientele happy. In this instance, banning gender-based promotions in the name of equality will most likely cause a few male-centric bars to lose out on the female crowd they might have gained with ladies’ night discounts. Which, of course, will make them lose out on expanding their male crowd, too—unless, again, there’s a very interesting game on the bars’ televisions.


The end of Britain's sink housing estates? Council to give more homes to those WITH jobs to help break the benefits culture

Council houses are to be set aside for people who work for a living under an initiative spreading across the country.

The aim is to stop the slide of social housing estates into benefit dependency and crime and restore their original status as decent places for respectable working families.

The latest scheme to save homes for workers announced yesterday will mean that one in five homes will be set aside for those with jobs in Southend in Essex. Similar schemes are being developed in at least two London boroughs.

Tory leaders in Southend said they wanted to give unemployed people the incentive to work and to improve conditions on sink estates. The council’s housing chief Lesley Salter said: ‘Children should be growing up in an area where they see adults going out to work each day and so develop the same mindset.’

Six out of ten homes rented by councils or state-subsidised housing associations are occupied by families where no-one works.
Putting brake on benefits. Numbers of social tenants who do not work have risen in some areas by 50 per cent over the past decade. Workless families are considered more likely to bring disorder and crime to their neighbourhoods.

The homes-for-workers scheme echoes the aim of local authorities in previous decades. Between 1945 and the 1960s council homes were in heavy demand by prosperous working people and mainly allocated through a waiting list system.

Council estates started to go downhill in the 1970s when houses began to be handed out on the basis of ‘need’. This meant that the homeless, those living in overcrowded conditions, people with medical or welfare needs, or those with a claim to live in a particular area took priority.

Efforts to save homes for working people have support from Tory ministers and Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Southend’s council house waiting list contains 4,819 names hoping for one of 6,200 homes. Now one in five will be handed out according to a system whereby people get highest priority if they have a job. It follows similar initiatives in Tory-controlled Westminster and Labour-run Newham in London.

There are 860,000 council or housing association homes in England where the tenant has a full-time job, but 895,000 where the tenant is classed as ‘economically inactive’.

Some 352,000 tenants have part-time work, according to official figures. Another 323,000 are unemployed but looking for work; 46,000 are students; and 1.2million are retired.


Unrealistic child protection system in Australia

They couldn't be as bad as Britain but they're trying

In 2009, the Federal Parliament apologised to the forgotten Australians who were physically, sexually, and emotionally abused in state and charitable-run orphanages between the 1920s and '70s. The apology was accompanied by solemn pledges to never again allow child abuse to go unchecked.

It followed the closing in the 1980s and '90s of virtually all large-scale orphanages because of the detrimental impact of institutionalised care on children. Yet 30 years later, state governments are quietly re-opening institutions to house children who are again being abused by the system that should protect them.

In the past decade, the number of children unable to live safely with their parents and subsequently placed in ''residential'' out-of-home care has increased 56 per cent. Decades of decline have been reversed, with the number of children in residential facilities falling to 939 in 2004-05 and then doubling to more than 1800 in 2009-10.

Residential institutions are now generally smaller-scale group homes operated by state-funded charities where multiple, non-related children are cared for by paid staff. But they have a strong psychiatric care focus and include secure facilities.

The greater use of residential care is a result of the systemic problems besetting the child protection system, which is damaging thousands of children in the name of family preservation.

The standard policy and practice in all states is to keep vulnerable children with their families, and work with dysfunctional parents to try to fix problems such as substance abuse, mental illness and domestic violence. For many children, efforts to prevent maltreatment, including extensive contact with early intervention and other support services, does more harm than good because removal from the family home as a last resort occurs too late. Hence, most of the nearly 36,000 children in out-of-home care have serious emotional, psychological and behavioural problems.

Family preservation is also the reason the $1.7 billion out-of-home care system is increasingly costly and overwhelmed by demand. Rising numbers of children are lingering, often indefinitely, in temporary foster or kinship care while waiting for parents to be rehabilitated so reunions can be attempted. When finally returned home, unrealistic reunions break down and re-damaged children re-enter care after entrenched and hard-to-resolve parental problems re-emerge.

Foster placements involving ''difficult'' children are also more likely to break down. The instability experienced by those who bounce in and out of care, in and out of multiple placements and in and out of failed family reunions, is an additional cause of harm that exacerbates behavioural and other problems.

By adolescence, the children most severely damaged by abuse at home and unstable living arrangements are uncontrollable, violent and self-destructive. Due to their disruptive childhoods, they can no longer live safely with their biological parents or in normal foster homes, and the only suitable placement option is very high-cost residential facilities.

Residential care is absorbing an increasing and disproportionate amount of funding, between a third and up to half of total out-of-home care spending, in some states.

Policymakers should realise that a child welfare system that has to employ armies of taxpayer-funded psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counsellors to try to fix the children the system itself has helped damage, is a failed system.

A fundamental rethink is essential. The best way to protect children from dysfunctional parents who are demonstrably incapable of properly caring for them is early and permanent removal by means of adoption by suitable families.

Only 61 children were adopted by non-relatives and 53 by foster carers in 2009-10, despite almost 23,000 children being in care continuously for more than two years. Many of these children should have found permanent homes years ago, but for the official taboo placed on adoption by family preservation-obsessed child protection services, which are unwilling to take legal action to free children for adoption no matter how inadequate their parents.

Strong political leadership is needed to make the system function in the children's best interests. Until then, national apologies for past failings ring hollow. The tragic irony is that a new generation of forgotten children is being harmed, to whom a national apology will one day be owed.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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