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Making single income families possible again

Ericka Andersen | A national conversation that needs to start now


A mother works with her homeschooled children in Vermont. Associated Press/Photo by Charles Krupa

Making single income families possible again
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Republican Blake Masters, now a candidate in the 2022 U.S. Senate race in Arizona, caused a stir on social media last week when he released a campaign commercial advocating for sufficient one-family incomes. To Masters’s thinking, constructing an economy that expects both parents to work is unsustainable, and worse, it sacrifices the parent-child relationship for increased earning potential.

Resetting the economy to allow a family to live on the income of one parent seems to be a novel thought in today’s work-obsessed America. A one-salary family income offers the twin benefits of economic mobility and family prioritization, ideals that both left and right can latch onto, respectively.

When Masters’s commercial was released, one progressive group argued that the idea was “code” for “women shouldn’t work,” but fellow progressives quickly shut down the sentiment. The Populist Democrats, for example, tweeted support, saying that “raising wages to where a family can survive off of one income is good.”

The objective is to provide more options, not limit opportunity, and it is a worthy goal that can uplift and strengthen the family. It may even sound familiar. In the 1950s, conservative icon and working mother of six, Phyllis Schlafly, was infamous for fighting for a woman’s “right to be in the home as a wife and mother.” That may sound old-fashioned, but not much has changed since then because most women still desire to be moms and many mothers still wish to be home with their young children.

Both Democrats and Republicans can support policies that improve financial futures and provide more options for parents who want to stay home.

According to Pew Research, 50 percent of women with children under 18 would prefer to stay home. And yet, only 20 percent of them can do so. With greater mobility in single-family income, women would have that option. It would also offer single parents the economic stability many of them lack today.

Masters says critics have labeled his idea “sexist,” to which he responded: “There is nothing sexist about prosperity.” Even such Democrats as U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have promoted similar ideas. In her book, The Two Income Trap, Sen. Warren posits that the rise of two-earner households overlooked the importance of single-earner pay increases. Thus, two-earner households make families more vulnerable to financial demise if one loses a job or a family illness takes over. In her book, she notes that stay-at-home mothers previously provided a “safety net”—because they could work if a husband lost a job or became ill. Now, the insurance of another worker isn’t there, and they have nowhere to turn.

Wouldn’t it be great to restore the safety net and offer parents who want to stay home and raise their kids the option to do so? Of course, there are many policy issues to consider where the left and right will disagree on achieving this goal. But what’s important is that the issue is being raised at all. It’s the start of what could be a very healthy conversation—for families and for the nation.

It goes against our God-given human nature to release children into the hands of government or leave them with outside caregivers for an excessive number of hours. More options would relieve the burden of that emotional toll for tens of thousands of mothers who feel forced into current circumstances.

The economy is undergoing intense growing pains as the world adjusts to pandemic aftershocks and inflation. Women leaving the workforce will undoubtedly affect market futures. Because of these factors, now is the time to consider economic policies that will empower single-earner families and uplift the home and family as sacred spaces.

Americans have made clear that this is important to them. Both Democrats and Republicans can support policies that improve financial futures and provide more options for parents who want to stay home.

Some of these policies may include deregulation to allow more people to start, grow and maintain businesses, to lower taxes so people can keep more of what they earn, and eliminate barriers to education and training.

“We need to ensure every citizen is trained for a well-paying job that suits them,” writes Masters on his website. Not many will disagree. And for parents who want the option to stay home with their children, let’s hope a serious national conversation about single-income sustainability is on the horizon. That’s good for families and the economy.


Ericka Andersen

Ericka Andersen is a freelance writer and mother of two in Indianapolis, Ind. She is the author of Leaving Cloud 9 and is currently writing a book on women and faith to be released in 2022. Ericka hosts the Worth Your Time podcast. She has been published in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Christianity Today, USA Today, and more.

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SNCN1983

The cost of technology in today’s world has not even been mentioned. When everyone in a family has a cell phone, a computer, etc., and all of the accoutrements that go with them, all with built-in obsolescence, it’s no wonder the cost of living is unsustainable for many families on one income. None of these things were a factor in the 50s and 60s.

SAWGUNNER

Ive for years stood up as a proLifer and in doing so I've also said the nation as a whole needs to realize the link between paid maternal leave (tax credits or transfer payments) and willingness to carry a child to term.

Kimberly

I can't disagree that this is a good thing, but I can't help but think that for many people, income is not the biggest deterrent to having a stay at home parent. Rather, standard of living is. I'm saddened to hear of moms who say they want to stay at home with their kids but don't seem to realize their new SUVs with payments, their spacious beautiful houses, their vacations, designer clothes, and frequent restaurant visits may be what keeps them in the workforce and missing so many childhood moments with their kids. I'm not saying this is the case for everyone because of course there are moms whose reality gives them no choice but to work, but when keeping up with America's standard of living is what really keeps you away from your children, what a heartbreaking tradeoff it is.

Big JimKimberly

Yes, they are only little once and they don't stay that way very long.

Kenneth BKimberly

So true. It’s fantastical, what’s considered normal and necessary in America, compared to everywhere else in the world. It’s like that quote about us working jobs we hate to buy stuff we don’t need to impress people we don’t like.

SuperAndy

👍

NBrooks

As someone who reads only conservative media, I have been told it's the taxation and the social programs that have caused the inability for a mother to stay at home. It would help me if World (or other commenters) would illuminate other factors that have caused this problem.

Matthew AlgerNBrooks

Because people with two incomes can afford more expensive rent or mortgage payments, a high rate of two income households will also drive up housing prices.

NBrooksMatthew Alger

Thank you, Matthew. When my kids were young, I figured if I worked and left them with a babysitter, there might be problems we'd have to pay for later.

SAWGUNNERNBrooks

I can tell you names of a few army officer moms who have regrets about not being with their kids in those "formative years" But this is hardly confined to military folks. A retired Lt Col accepted an "unaccompanied" assignment to the ROK and left her 12 year old daughter back in USA to navigated the adolescent waters alone.