Making single income families possible again
Ericka Andersen | A national conversation that needs to start now
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.
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.
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