The Home Front

Politics, culture, and American life — from the family perspective.

Teaching Our Teens to Find the Sweet Spot


David French had a great post on The Corner yesterday in which he examined the way so many parents — and society at large — push kids to be “awesome.” He pointed out that the “cult of self-esteem” seems to be breeding a narcissistic generation that eschews hard work and true virtue. Even when meant well, as in the Evangelical crusade to “be awesome for others,” he believes we run the risk of having kids burn out. Better to teach the value of being faithful for its own sake.

While I don’t disagree entirely with this notion, I do think we can find a sweet spot between the two. And a very surprising spokesman for this idea came from what I would have thought was one of the least likely sources last Sunday.

Perhaps you heard about the acceptance speech that Ashton — aka Chris Kutcher — gave at the Teen Choice Awards. Maybe friends on Facebook posted a link and you thought “What could that Hollywood hunk possibly have to say that I would find relevant?” Well, he weighs in on three things: oppotunity, being sexy, and living life. Here’s hoping those squealing girls were paying attention. They just may have learned a few valuable lessons.



The Curious Case of High-Powered Moms Opting Back In


You haven’t had the time to read Judith Warner’s lengthy New York Times article from last week about moms who “opted out” of high-powered, high-paying jobs to stay at home with their children — who are now looking to opt back in? I finally got around to it, and I pulled out what I think are the most interesting passages.

Ultimately, I always have a hard time with these stories. Though I was quite a go-getter as a young student, poor choices put me in the position of being quite happy to leave my drudge of a job and stay at home while my husband pursued his career path. So I can’t relate — as I imagine the majority of American women who work outside the home (at record levels) also can’t — to the experience of going from the corporate board room to the PTA board meeting.

I also can’t seem to relate to these marriages that suffer so much under the strain of everyday family life and end up in divorce. Though my marriage has had its struggles as we slogged through the quotidian duties of parenthood, there was never any doubt that we were in it together and would make it to the other side as strong as ever. Not judging those who have divorced (my first marriage didn’t last its first year), I just find it sad that so many couples lose their way.

That said, it is still interesting to find that most of these former power brokers don’t regret leaving the workforce (although they had some trouble adjusting to traditional gender roles) and — despite the frustrations they’ve experienced as they try to opt back in — few desire their old careers but instead are looking for a job with a sense of deeper fulfillment.

[The] desire to be emotionally present at home, Pamela Stone, the sociologist, told me, became more pressing over time for the women she interviewed, reshaping their ambitions when they decided to go back to work.

While two-thirds of the women she reinterviewed originally worked in male-dominated professions like banking or corporate law, now only a quarter are employed in traditionally masculine and hard-driving fields. The rest chose more female-dominated, and far less lucrative, “caring, nurturing occupations” like teaching or nonprofit work, Stone said. Only one of the women she interviewed had returned to her former employer (in a “vastly different capacity, much diminished,” she said); and all have scaled down their ambitions. . . .

Many of the women I spoke with were troubled by the gender-role traditionalism that crept into their marriages once they gave up work, transforming them from being their husbands’ intellectual equals into the one member of their partnership uniquely endowed with gifts for laundry or cooking and cleaning; a junior member of the household. . . .

The husbands hadn’t turned into ogres. Their intent was not to make their wives feel lesser. But when traditional gender arrangements were put into place, there was a subtle slide into inequality. “The dynamic changes,” said Hope Adler, a former manager at the professional-services firm KPMG who spent 10 years at home full time with her four children before starting work again and choosing to take a much-lower-paying job at a smaller consulting firm that allowed her to work some of the time from home. “When I worked at KPMG we did 50/50. . . Then once I started staying home, I was doing laundry, dinner. . . .” But once she started working again, the expectations remained the same. “There just doesn’t seem to be a way to go back,” she said.

…But most people don’t make life decisions based on statistics or the collective good. And not a single woman I spoke with said she wished that she could return to her old, pre-opting-out job – no matter what price she paid for her decision to stop working. What I heard instead were some regrets for what, in an ideal world, might have been – more time with their children combined with some sort of intellectually stimulating, respectably paying, advancement-permitting part-time work – but none for the high-powered professional lives that these women had led.

Warner also found that fathers are seeking to find the balance that their wives are striving for, but the current economy may be hindering their efforts. 

Men, too, are feeling the crunch of excessively demanding work. They now report more work-life stress than women do, according to the Families and Work Institute. They also may be penalized more than women if they try to accommodate their work schedules to the needs of their children, as research appearing in the June issue of The Journal of Social Issues shows. It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that some husbands find themselves eyeing their wives’ lives at home with envy. “Men want to say we’re more than a paycheck,” Ted Mattox told me. “There has to be something more than going to work for 50 years and dying.”

To find time for that “something more,” husbands would need to join with their wives in rejecting nighttime networking sessions and 7 a.m. meetings. They would have to convey to employers that work-life accommodations like flexible hours or job sharing aren’t just for women and that part-time jobs need to provide proportional pay and benefits. At a time when fewer families than ever can afford to live on less than two full-time salaries, achieving work-life balance may well be less a gender issue than an economic one.


On the Consumer Front


Baby Boomers are buying cars that automakers developed with young hipsters in mind. 

More and more “euro stores” are popping up, following the dollar-store model.

A posh development on the Upper West Side of NYC will have a separate entrance for poorer residents.

Student-loan debt is affecting the business plans of potential start-ups.


Forget title loans — get quick cash with your designer handbag!



Breastfeeding or Manners? Let’s Have Both


A mom in Texas was breastfeeding her child at a recreational-facility, when an employee asked her to cover up, or to use a private room that the recreational facility would provide.  The ensuing incident was caught on video – and, of course, posted on the couple’s blog – and has created some passionate debate over exactly where lactating mothers can — or should — feed their infants.  Here’s what happened:

As a mother of three, I realize how awkward it sometimes is to have to nurse in public.  However, in the battle between breastfeeding and manners, why can’t we have both?  Read my take here.

Gospel Singer Cut From MLK Event Over Gay Issues


I think we’re going to be hearing more and more stories like this.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray cut a singer who has won Grammy, Dove, and Stellar Awards in gospel music from a city-sponsored concert Saturday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.  Joe Carter at The Gospel Coalition wrote about the situation:

The Story: Award-winning gospel musician Donnie McClurkin claims he was uninvited to a concert in Washington, D.C. celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. and the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington due to his stance on homosexuality.

The Background: According to the Washington Post, McClurkin was scheduled to perform in the D.C.-government-sponsored concert with other singers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial during the “Reflections on Peace: From Gandhi to King” event. But at the request of Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), who fielded concerns from activists Friday, the Grammy-winning singer decided not to perform, according to the mayor’s office.

In a lengthy video statement posted online Saturday, McClurkin said Gray “uninvited me from a concert that I was supposed to headline.”

“There should be freedom of speech as long as it’s done in love,” McClurkin said in the video, adding that he believes it is unfortunate that in today’s world, “a black man, a black artist is uninvited from a civil rights movement depicting the love, the unity, the peace, the tolerance.”

Read the whole story here, including the quote McClurkin gave Charisma magazine in 2002 (related to childhood sexual abuse) that raised the ire of gay rights activists. Donnie’s video statement can be viewed here.


Imagine Getting into a Cab and Realizing Your Driver Was the President


You overslept on the very morning you have that very important appointment.  Instead of navigating the subway, you stick your hand in the air and hope the next cab has vacancy.  When it stops, you slide into the weathered seats, tell the driver your destination, and begin to absent mindedly flip through your e-mails.  But, is that a familiar face in the rear view mirror?  Could it be?  Yep.  The man taking you around town, honking at traffic, and charging you forty cents per mile is none other than President Obama.

No, that didn’t happen in America.  However, the Norwegian prime minister did just that:

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg pulled off a stunt recently that many of his fellow democratically elected leaders would likely be too scared to carry out: He tried to mingle with the people. In what he described as an effort to hear from real Norwegians, Stoltenberg dressed up as a taxi driver and spent an afternoon driving people around Oslo. He didn’t quite manage to remain incognito though. Pretty much all his passengers realized sooner or later who their driver was, despite the sunglasses and uniform. Still, from the short video posted online it seems like lively discussions did emerge, even if the passengers knew who they were talking to. One elderly woman says she’s lucky he was her driver because she “wanted to send a letter.”

The media stunt certainly makes the prime minister seem like friendly guy, with one woman even making fun of his driving. “Your driving isn’t exactly the best I’ve seen,” she said.

I regret that this video footage of the scene is not in English, but seeing the delight on his passengers’ faces as they realize their driver’s identity make it worth a quick watch:


End of the World Watch: Abortion Clinic Sending Out Coupons


For $50 off, Sundays only.


Did Matt Damon Inadvertently Make a Conservative Movie?


He did, according to movie reviewer Rebecca Cusey:

Shhh….Don’t tell Matt Damon, but something went sideways and he made a conservative manifesto in Elysium. 

It’s pretty much a warning about what will happen to Earth if socialism wins.

Elysium takes place in the near future, after the entire earth suffers under the kind of economic meltdown threatening some of our great cities now. It’s dusty. It’s dirty. It’s unkept. No one has families or cars decent homes or fresh clothes or, apparently, showers. Jobs are dreary and dangerous and unsatisfying, if you can find them at all.

Future Los Angeles. Behold the power of socialism!

Basically, it’s Detroit.

Total economic meltdown. Here is a partial list of places where this sort of systematic economic failure has happened or looms:  Detroit.  California. Illinois. The Soviet Union. Cuba. Greece. Spain.

Not, say, Texas or Virginia.

Read the rest of her review – called After Watching ‘Elysium, You’ll Want to Register as a Republican’ - here.

Celebrate Me - I’m Childless!


Time magazine’s new cover story “Having It All Without Having Children,” by Lauren Sandler breaks down an interesting trend.  More couples are foregoing parenthood than ever before in American history:

From 2007 to 2011, the most recent year for which there’s data, the fertility rate declined 9%. A 2010 Pew Research report showed that childlessness has risen across all racial and ethnic groups, adding up to about 1 in 5 American women who end their childbearing years maternity-free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s. Even before the recession hit, in 2008, the proportion of women ages 40 to 44 who had never given birth had grown by 80 percent, from 10% to 18%, since 1976, when a new vanguard began to question the reproductive imperative… the rise [of childlessness] is both dramatic and, in the scope of our history, quite sudden.

The article purports to examine how judged and scorned these childless couples are in a society that often “equates womanhood with motherhood.”  Instead of entering into what one childless-by-choice woman described as “the glamorous martyrdom of motherhood,” they are simply making another choice… a choice that just so happens to allow them to have more free time and take more exotic vacations than the rest of us.

This is where Time begins to get it wrong, because it fails to note that this so-called martyrdom goes both ways

The Chilling History of How Hollywood Helped Hitler


The Hollywood Reporter has a fascinating book excerpt of “The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler” (Harvard University Press, Sept. 9) by Ben Urwand which chillingly shows how far major Hollywood studios went to collaborate with the Nazis during the ten years leading up to World War II.  Apparently, they “let Nazis censor scripts, remove credits from Jews, get movies stopped and even force one MGM executive to divorce his Jewish wife.”  They also enthusiastically assisted in the Nazis’ world-wide effort to spread propaganda.

The excerpt has some pretty amazing detail, including one example from April 1937.  After author Erich Maria Remarque’s trilogy “Three Comrades” was completed, MGM hired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write a screen play which attacked the rise of Nazism in Germany.   The film was set in the late 1920s, when the Nazis were gaining their brute political force.  However, the German consul didn’t approve of the movie and suggested some changes.  “This screen adaptation suggests to us enormous difficulty from the standpoint of your company’s distribution business in Germany. … [and] may result in considerable difficulty in Europe for other American producing organizations.”

MGM executives capitulated to several German demands.  Eventually, the film’s setting was moved up, had no attack on the Nazis, and absolutely no mention of Jews.  (Rest assured, these cuts didn’t affect the movie’s romantic plot.)  Three Comrades would have been Hollywood’s first explicitly anti-Nazi film.

According to the New York Times, “Mr. Urwand said that he found nearly 20 films intended for American audiences that German officials significantly altered or squelched. Perhaps more important, he added, Jewish characters were all but eliminated from Hollywood movies.”

“At this critical historical moment, when a major Hollywood production could have alerted the world to what was going on in Germany,” Urward laments, “the director did not have the final cut; the Nazis did.”

Read the excerpt here.

The Car-Seat Conundrum


Just last week Greg Pollowitz linked to a story about Prince William putting his newborn son in his car seat incorrectly. Well, apparently we’re all doing it wrong. This article is from March 21, 2011 — how many of us missed this? Emphasis mine.

Everything you thought you knew about car seats is wrong. Okay, not everything, but things have changed and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced new guidelines today. And it’s big news. The recommendation is that children rear face longer and they also changed the details for kids in boosters. . . .

New Rear-facing Recommendation: Parents are to keep children rear-facing until 2 years old, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for the seat as noted in the manual. . . .

New Boostering Recommendation: Children should ride in a belt-positioning booster (that means a high-back!) until they are at least 4 foot, 9 inches, AND 8-12 years old. . . .

Beyond that, all kids need to stay out of the front until they’re at least 13 years old. Make sure you’re using the car seats correctly, too. There’s a lot of intricacies for both harnessed seats and boosters. When in doubt, find a Safe Kids inspection station or event and get checked out by a tech. And hopefully more and more pediatricians, with these new recommendations, will be on board as well, and we can maybe put an end to vehicle related-injuries being the number one cause of death in kids ages 2-14.

For all our kvetching, it’s those last words that hit home. Yes, it seems extreme and, yes, it seems that parents are being guilted ad nauseum. But when one considers the benefit of following simple precautions (despite how difficult it may be to get the legs of a tall 18-month-old to fit comfortably when rear-facing) and the heart-breaking cost of not following them . . . all right, all right. We’ll do it.

And for those willing to take it to the upper limit, the $750 Carkoon is on the way to store shelves. Its slogan is “when safe is not safe enough.” 

UPDATE: And now it appears the rules are changing again.


When Should a Politician Just Go Away?


This week, I’m wrangling with honor, shame, and the idea of “second chances” in light of the (most recent) Weiner scandal:

By now, America has rejected Anthony Weiner with as much passion and unanimity as it rejected New Coke and the final episode of Seinfeld. After giving him a second chance, our forgiveness resulted in even more predatory sexual behaviors, exposing our children to blurred photos of his nether regions on television, and more genitalia puns in one week than in the average four years of high school. Suddenly, everyone agrees it’s time for “Carlos Danger” to simply go away. And, if recent New York polls are any indication, America might just get its wish.

But Carlos is an easy call. What about other politicians? When should scandals end political careers, even when they’re really, really sorry?

Recent examples abound.

Obviously, there’s Democrat Eliot Spitzer who resigned from his position as governor of New York in 2008 because of a prostitution scandal, but is currently running for comptroller.

Then, there’s the Democratic San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, whom seven women have publicly accused of unwanted sexual advances like groping. On Friday, he told his constituents “the behavior I have engaged in over many years is wrong … the intimidating conduct I engaged in at times is inexcusable.” Yet, instead of resigning, he’s entering two weeks of “intensive therapy.”

Republicans have their own share of drama.

For example, did you know Tennessee’s 4th Congressional district is being led by a self-described pro-life Congressman Scott Desjarlais who encouraged his mistress to have an abortion and supported his former wife’s decision to have two abortions? 

And what about Newt Gingrich, Mark Sanford, and others who have tarnished our “family values” brand in their own unique ways?

Please enjoy my handy guide to scandal-plagued politicians

Sadly, I think we’ll get a lot of use out it.

Multi-Generational Family Ties


We’ve heard about all the college grads moving back home, and about the sandwich generation caring for parents and children. But more and more, it seems to be the grandparents who are making the necessary sacrifices to ensure financial stability

Grandparents helping their children and grandchildren is nothing new; that’s what family is for. But the extent of the support — whether it’s providing a place to live, caring for young grandkids, covering back-to-school shopping or paying college tuition — has increased with the fragile economy.

At the height of the Great Recession, nearly two-thirds of America’s grandparents were providing an estimated $370 billion in financial support to their grandkids over the previous five years, according to a [2011] survey by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. That averages out to $8,661 per grandparent household.

And now it’s not elders moving in with their kids because of financial straits, it’s the other way around.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, approximately 51 million Americans, or 16.7 percent of the population, live in a house with at least two adult generations, or a grandparent and at least one other generation, under one roof. The Pew analysis also reported a 10.5 percent increase in multigeneration households from 2007 to 2009. And a 2012 survey by national home builder PulteGroup found that 32 percent of adult children expect to eventually share their house with a parent.

“It used to be older people whose money had run out who were living with their children, and now it’s the next generation that can’t keep up,” says Louis Tenenbaum, a founder of the Aging in Place Institute, which promotes “multigen” remodeling.

And grandparents are thinking about their grandchildren’s future, as they are contributing to 529s more and more.

Parents still contribute the lion’s share of funds invested in 529 accounts. But contributions from grandparents now make up about 9.5 percent of the total, according to the most recent data from the Financial Research Corp, which tracks 529 investments. . . The trend isn’t lost on financial services companies, and many are starting to market 529 investment opportunities directly to grandparents as a result.

Here’s a list of guidelines for financially assisting children and grandchildren.




Prince William Needs Lessons on the Car Seat



On the Family Finance Front


The Wall Street Journal had two pieces on family finances yesterday that caught my eye. The first from Rebekah Bell is about graduating from college debt-free. She starts her analysis with these sobering statistics: 

Figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reveal that 37 million Americans have student loan debt. About two-thirds of students receiving bachelor’s degrees borrow to fund their education, with the average student debt at an all-time high of $26,000. Total student-loan debt is estimated to be $1 trillion.

Only 38% of borrowers are making payments on their loans. The rest are either still in school, postponing payments or not paying them back. Almost one in 10 students who started repayment in 2009 defaulted within two years. At least 40% of student borrowers put off a major purchase such as a car or home because they couldn’t afford it, and many are delaying marriage and families.

She goes on to suggest several strategies to help avoid crushing college-loan debt, from accumulating as many “non-premium rate” educational credits from varying sources (including high schools, online courses, and summer-school classes at a local community college) to several ideas for generating income during your college days. Read more here.

Then I saw an opinion piece by Demetria Gallegos about parents’ veto power on their children’s purchases. With kids carrying hefty balances as they stash away generous gifts from grandma and money from lucrative babysitting gigs, it can be difficult to teach them to forego pricey items and to think about the future. 

[My husband] John and I have had to articulate a policy around savings, and how the girls can spend it.

The general principle: “Until they’re 18, we have the right to deny them spending it on things we don’t approve of,” says John. “Our name is on the bank account.”

The girls buy this argument – up to a point.

“I understand if you keep us from using it on things like drugs, but since it’s our money, it should be our decision,” says Emily. . . .

Jamie, 16, agrees that John and I are within our rights to control withdrawals. “You should have more influence in our bank accounts,” she says. “You’ve been putting money in that account for years. That’s your investment in us, so you should have a say in it. . . .Our insistence on holding the reins, however, doesn’t mean that the money is untouchable. In the same way their allowance teaches them to manage cash in hand, we want the savings account to give them lessons in delayed gratification. 

I know it’s a struggle in our household. More here.




Men and Women are the Same — Except When Women Are Better


A recent New York Times article makes a fascinating claim: that females make males more generous, brothers who have sisters are more sympathetic, and corporate execs who have baby girls are less tight-fisted than execs who have bouncing baby boys.

But wait just one second. Don’t liberals tell us all the time that gender is a social consctruct and that men and women don’t have unique roles? 

So maybe liberals believe men and women are the same, except — of course — when women are better.

Presumably, this is an interesting, feel-good article that makes us all happy that there are males and females who complement each other by playing their specific gender roles. But wait just one second.

Liberals tell us all the time that – as in a recent BuzzFeed article — that men and women are the same.

- See more at:

Presumably, this is an interesting, feel-good article that makes us all happy that there are males and females who complement each other by playing their specific gender roles. But wait just one second.

Liberals tell us all the time that – as in a recent BuzzFeed article — that men and women are the same.

- See more at:

Showtime’s Virgin Tales Shows Ultra-Conservative Sexual Mores -- For Better or Worse?


Showtime has a new documentary that shows a subculture that doesn’t believe in even  kissing before marriage:

The documentary, slated to air on Showtime later this month, follows the Wilson family, American Evangelical Christians who believe not only in waiting until their wedding night to have sex, but even to share their first kiss. “Virgin Tales” focuses on two years in the lives of the Wilson parents, founders of the Purity Ball, as they prepare their seven children for their vision of romance and marriage. 

“It’s interesting not just with the physical aspect but also a psychological and certainly these days there is a political aspect to it,” director Mirjam von Arx told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “I was astonished to learn how many people there are that are sharing their beliefs, and not only in America, but there is a movement gaining strength even aboard like in Europe. A lot of parents say their kids are a lot more conservative than when they were young.”

Writer E. Stephen Burnett, however, does not think this is a good thing:

For some Christians, those beliefs are one and the same. But are biblical commands to walk by the Spirit in light of the Gospel, treat spiritual family with purity, and repent of sexual sins, no longer enough? Do we also need (Talmud-like?) rules about not even kissing before marriage, human fathers acting as family “priests,” and women refusing to attend college?

He  goes on to express further concerns and dubs this movement the “Romance Prosperity Gospel:”

  • Why do many abstinence promotions focus only on women’s purity? Why do others emphasize fathers helping daughters, an emphasis simply foreign to Scripture?
  • Why make “documentaries” to push beliefs that are at best extra-biblical? (See also: Divided, which accuses youth ministry of not simply being a bad idea but of ruining families and churches.)
  • How does showcasing one’s virginity – encouraging others to think about a particular woman having or not having sex! — fit with biblical truths about humility and modesty?

Interesting points. However, culture is always obsessed with sex — even of the supposedly non-existent kind (for example, Preachers’ Daughters on Lifetime). In other words, I’m sure this documentary will generate much conversation amongst liberals who scoff at the idea of maintaining sexual purity. And maybe it will also cause those of us who value Biblical principles to have some soul-searching conversations as well.

See the trailer for Virgin Tales here:


Two Tales of People with Disabilities Seeking Independence


Most of us can only imagine the struggles, along with the unique joys, of raising a child with Down syndrome or another disability. One of the hardest aspects must be the decisions regarding your child’s ability to work and live outside your home.

The Washington Post had two stories recently which highlighted two aspects of these decisions. The first was a heartwarming story about a bakery in Chantilly, Va., that is employing many people with varying disabilities, giving them valuable work skills as well as some independence. 

Wildflour [is] a cafe, bakery and catering business in Chantilly where two-thirds of the employees have intellectual disabilities. Started in 1994 by a special-education teacher in the Fairfax County Public Schools, the nonprofit organization has expanded to employ more than 50 people. . . . Wildflour trains them as prep cooks, packagers and greeters, and sends them home with more than just a paycheck.

The idea, said the general manager, Alberto Figueiredo Sangiorgio, is to give them marketable skills — and to build self-esteem.

“This is a job,” said Sangiorgio . . . They don’t come here to be babysat. Our expectation is they’re going to learn something and they’re going to do better than they’re doing now.”

On the other side of the coin was a story about a 29-year-old woman with Down syndrome who is seeking to live with friends and not in a group home, as her parents wish.

Margaret Jean Hatch, a diminutive blonde known as “Jenny,” learned to read at the age of 6, has volunteered on political campaigns (always for Republicans) and once, after finding a job she wanted, showed up repeatedly until she got it. She also has Down syndrome, an IQ of 52 and tends to shower affection on strangers as well as friends. . . .

The case, which began in August and is set to continue this month, has captured the attention of both major advocacy groups and residents in the Hampton Roads area, who have turned the phrase “Justice for Jenny” into a mantra. For many, the legal fight is about not just who Jenny Hatch is but also whom she represents. . . .

The details of the story reveal just how difficult these decisions often are, as society tries to find a balance between protecting the vulnerable while reinforcing their personal autonomy.

Read more here and here



Children’s Chances of Upward Income Mobility? That Depends on Where You Live


And, more accurately, on your family dynamics, your local schools, your ties to the community, and whether or not your city is an “innovation hub.” 

With income mobility, as with real estate, location matters a lot. According to a New York Times analysis of new research, a lower-income kid in the bottom 20% growing up in Atlanta has a 4% chance of making it to the top 20% vs. an 11% chance for a lower-income kid growing up in San Francisco or San Jose. In other words, depending on where you live in America, upward mobility could be at Scandinavian levels or at the lowest levels found among advanced economies.


Credit: The New York Times

Credit: The New York Times.

The research reveals four main reasons for a greater chance of upward mobility: dispersion of poor families amongst mixed-income families, two-parent households, better schools, and more civic involvement. Things that were not so much significant factors: liberal focal points like taxes (tax credits for the poor/higher taxes for the rich), college tuition rates, or the amount of extreme wealth in the area. 

Read here for more ideas about what an effective agenda for promoting upward mobility would include.


Credit: The New York Times



The Middle-School World of Instagram


I came across this thoughtfully written blog post by Sarah Brooks thanks to (which is a great site with articles ranging from “A New Bridge in Three Days? You Just Watch” to “Winners of the STEM Video Game Challenge” as well as the likes of “3 Nights of Disney Fandom to Include Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel Specials”).

She offers great advice on being aware of the perils that come with the fun of the photo-sharing site Instagram which is all the rage with middle-schoolers.

We’re no longer in world of handwritten “circle yes or no” notes between two people; your kids are living social lives on a completely public forum.

This is not new information.

But, taking it a step further: have you considered that your child is given numerical values on which to base his or her social standing? For the first time ever your children can determine their “worth” using actual numbers provided by their peers!

Let me explain . . .

Your daughter has 139 followers which is 23 less than Jessica, but 56 more than Beau. Your son’s photo had 38 likes which was 14 less than Travis’ photo, but 22 more than Spencer’s.

See what I mean? There’s a number attached to them. A ranking . . .

My intent is to dig a little deeper into the impact these sites can have on your kids. To start thinking about how to safeguard childrens’ hearts and minds against what appears to a 12 year old to be concrete numerical evidence about their value and popularity.

The author had such a big response, with so many helpful comments, that she wrote a follow-up, and also this quick primer about SnapChat.

Time to go have a conversation with a certain eighth-grader in my house . . .



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