Further Musings

Beauty smote his heart, he looked up from the forsaken land & hope returned to him

Archive for July 2008

The Two Income Trap

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This week I finished The Two Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers & Fathers are Going Broke. I’ve heard one of the authors on Fresh Air a couple of times and was impressed enough to pick up the book.  It was an easy and engaging read (or skim 🙂 ) for someone interested in family finances. It was also a somewhat terrifying look inside the finances of families that live off a lot less than we make, experience some big disasters, and have much less of a family and church safety network than we do.  

The Two Income Trap makes an interesting argument: middle-class families that live off of two incomes are less secure financially than those with one income. The logic is two part.  First, when you have two incomes you are twice as likely to have something bad happen to you: twice as likely to experience a layoff, twice as likely to be injured on the job. Second, when a disaster happens to a one income family, the non-working spouse can enter the job market and make up some, if not most of the income lost by the spouse who originally worked. The family can make its mortgage payment and pay health insurance. When a disaster happens to a family dependent on two incomes, the family looses its ability to pay the bills.

So a stay-at-home parent not only provides child-care, education, and care to elderly adults (among other things) but also provides a crucial safety net should hard times hit. If a family lives off of two incomes, they walk a dangerous tightrope with little room for error.

The question the book then tries to answer, why do families live like this? The authors also spend a lot of time debunking popular ideas about why families what they do and don’t spend their money on. Why don’t we just live off of one income? One answer they give is that it’s primarily about schools. Families with two incomes can bid their way into better school districts. Once you get enough two income families buying houses in the good districts it is very difficult for the one income families to compete for that housing. You can certainly see this in Chapel Hill. On one side of the county line you get a 900 sq ft 2 bedroom for $245,000. Two streets down, on the other side of the county line (and therefore out of the school district) you get a 1,600 sq ft 4 bedroom house for $200,000. Throw in a lot of “cheap” mortgages and that’s a lot of pressure on parents to put themselves in risky financial positions in hopes of their children’s best interests.

(Interestingly for a book published in 2003, the authors also spend a lot of time talking about mortgages. That chapter was a pretty prescient analysis.)

Written by furthermusings

July 23, 2008 at 7:52 pm

Posted in Reviews

Blog Updates

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1) Charity’s new blog and photo blog are listed in the blogroll on the right-hand column. They’re both pretty and pretty durn cool.

2) Charity inspired me to make a few updates here.  They probably don’t stick out since they’re on the righthand column.  Mostly it’s rearranging and cleaning up but I’ve also added a “Catagory Cloud.”  Now I know that hipsters like LN are familiar with clouds but I hadn’t encountered one before.  The size of the font indicates how often the word is used.  I think it’s a pretty cool way of communicating.

My hope is that eventually graphical software like this will advance and popularize to the point that academic journals, teachers, journalist and government workers will start using these graphics to help people get a sense of how important these trends are, what exactly they mean, and how they work.  One can hope eh?

Written by furthermusings

July 20, 2008 at 5:16 pm

Posted in Blogroll

Glads in the Bay Window

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As a part of the work being done on the house there are now storm windows, replete with screens, in the bay window.  When the weather isn’t too humid it’s lovely to sit at the table in the window.  It almost feels like a screened-in porch.

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July 19, 2008 at 5:13 pm

Posted in At the House, Pictures

Prodigal Summer

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Today I finished Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver.  Elizabeth read it earlier this year and I cribbed it from her reading list.

As a novel it drew me into the three groupings of characters, who they were and who the became.  I smiled a lot at the particular quirks of the mountain people she portrayed: old and young farmers (organic and traditional), Kroger workers and assembly line workers, game wardens and hunters.  Each set out on their properties nestled back in one cove or another.

However it was in describing the mountainscape of Appalachia that the novel excelled.  I feel like I can smell cool dampness of the steep mountain hollows, feel the sighing morning and afternoon breezes that go up and down the mountain sides, and see the plants and animals she describes. There is a lot of ecology in this book but it’s fun to read and the characters make it easy to learn.

At every page she brought me past a scene that I’d seen before and described it to me again.  It was like reading a long letter describing all the comfortable places of your home town and one that mourns many of the beautiful things that have been lost in Appalachia, from the Carolina parakeet to the ivory billed woodpecker and the American chestnut.  I wish I could have seen each of them . . . they each sounded fantastic to behold.

Though it was sexually graphic in parts (especially near the beginning) and very different in style and substance than The Poisonwood Bible I enjoyed it for what it was: a sensual (in both senses of the word) tale set in an Appalachian summer.

Written by furthermusings

July 11, 2008 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Reviews

The Artist at Work

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Written by furthermusings

July 5, 2008 at 8:49 am

Posted in At the House, Pictures