Cartoon: Is Marriage A Magic Wand?

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TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

Panel 1
This panel shows a reporter standing in a back yard, taking notes in a little pad, as a woman in a lawn chair speaks to him.

WOMAN: Marriage wasn’t a magic wand that got me out of poverty. I worked really hard, and I lucked into a good job. I didn’t get married until after all that.

Panel 2
The same reporter, now standing in an academic office (we can tell it’s academic because there’s a bookcase in the background). A woman wearing glasses and holding up some papers is talking to him.

WOMAN 2: As a social scientist, I know marriage isn’t a magic wand. Evidence shows that what matters most is having a full-time job, and that’s not always under people’s control.

Panel 3
The same reporter is talking to a man wearing a suit and tie; they’re standing in front of an office building in a city.
MAN: At our think tank, we don’t have real-world experience, or the best evidence. But we do have a simple narrative that blames poverty on single mothers.

Panel 4
This panel only shows a newspaper’s front page. The newspaper, which is called “Daily Opiate,” has a big headline, a sub headline, and a photo of the man from panel 3, with a pull-quote next to the photo.
BIG HEADLINE: RESEARCH: MARRIAGE IS A MAGIC WAND!
SUB HEADLINE: SINGLE MOTHERS ARE POOR BECAUSE THEY’RE FLOOZIES!
PHOTO PULL-QUOTE: “It’s just common sense!”

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16 Responses to Cartoon: Is Marriage A Magic Wand?

  1. 1
    Decnavda says:

    I know this is completely besides the point, but I want to complement you on showing the flipped pages in the reporter’s notebook. I do not why, but I really like that detail.

  2. 2
    Kevin Carson says:

    I would note that whatever actual anti-poverty benefits are associated with marriage are not really benefits of marriage as such so much as the income-pooling and cost- and risk-reduction benefits of multi-adult households in general. And the fact that alternative forms of multi-adult household have been atomized out of existence, and the 20th century-style “nuclear family” is the only option remaining for pooling incomes, risks and costs, is largely a result of capitalism. The nuclear family is a creation of capitalism, not — as social conservatives think — some “natural” phenomenon going back to Fred and Wilma Flintstone living in their rock bungalow.

  3. 3
    desipis says:

    Wait, media reports on science are inaccurate and sensationalist in a way that appeals to the bias of their audience? Quelle surprise!

  4. 4
    Saurs says:

    And the fact that alternative forms of multi-adult household have been atomized out of existence, and the 20th century-style “nuclear family” is the only option remaining for pooling incomes, risks and costs, is largely a result of capitalism

    More Americans (almost one in five) currently live in adult multigenerational households than in the past three decades, the most common of which is three generations. Around 30 percent of Americans in the millennial cohort residing in the country’s most expensive housing and rental markets live with one or more of their parents and/or grandparents. What you’re describing as a nuclear family hasn’t existed, for a plurality of Americans, since the late 70s and early 80s.

  5. 5
    RonF says:

    In reading the flow of this comic, there seems to be a disconnect. Are we supposed to presume that the woman in the first panel is a single mother?

  6. 6
    RonF says:

    I got married between my junior and senior year in undergraduate school; I obviously didn’t have a full-time job. But my wife was working (as a substitute teacher), I was getting a little support from my parents to cover our rent (which was low, we lived in a basement apartment where I had to duck under the sewer pipes running through the ceiling) and her parents gave us a 6-year old car. Given where I went to school it was reasonable to assume I’d get a job soon after I graduated, and I did. Driving a cab. I got a professional job after we moved from Boston to Chicago 3 months later. We held off on kids for years after that.

    It’s not that marriage is a magic wand so much as it’s part of a progression. Get an education, get a job, get married, then have kids in that order and you’ll be more likely to not be poor. This is no secret; society has been teaching this for a very long time, both through religion and through other means. And it has done so for one simple reason; it has been proven to work. Now, I scrambled the first 3 a bit, but my wife didn’t. And I did in fact do all 3, and I waited until the first 3 were done before #4. Sometimes you have to wait. In fact, we waited 9 years after we were married to have our first child and 13 years after we were married to buy our house (and have our 2nd child). But if you put #4 at #1 and never do #3 and you’re going to have a hard time. The question then comes whether or not the people who did do these in order and have reaped the rewards thereby should be obligated to support someone else’s erroneous choices.

  7. 7
    Jeremy Redlien says:

    Just going to say that I’m inclined to agree with Kevin Carson.

    Also, income and marriage are most likely correlated because (legal) marriage provides overall, more benefits to people who are wealthier and fewer benefits (if any) to those who are poorer. In other words wealthy people are more likely to get married because they receive more benefits (typically through taxes) and poorer people don’t, quite often because they lose benefits (in the form of income assistance like SSI or college tuition aid). I’ve seen a few disability activists claiming that disabled people will typically lose a lot of their benefits (medicare, etc.) when (if) they get married, thus effectively preventing a lot of disabled folks from ever getting married.

  8. 8
    Ampersand says:

    Are we supposed to presume that the woman in the first panel is a single mother?

    Nope, she says that she’s married.

  9. 9
    Kate says:

    The question then comes whether or not the people who did do these in order and have reaped the rewards thereby should be obligated to support someone else’s erroneous choices.

    Yes, stupid children making the bad choice to be born to single mothers. What were they thinking? Let them starve. They won’t do that again!

  10. 10
    RonF says:

    She got married, but I don’t know if she IS married. And kids aren’t mentioned either by her or in the 2nd panel. Unless the disconnect regarding kids between the first two panels and the last two is part of the point you’re trying to make.

  11. 11
    zinterman-34 says:

    Jobs for people is not a choice. You say so.

    Marriage is a choice.
    Children is a choice.

    Why should we talk about people not working? It is not a choice.

    We should talk about the choice. Good choice or bad choice. If you have no job and no marriage and you are poor and you have children, it is a bad choice.

  12. 12
    Kate says:

    If you have no job and no marriage and you are poor and you have children, it is a bad choice.

    This is a really problematic view, given how poverty is racialized, both in the U.S., and globally. Really think about what the implications would be for African Americans and indigenous populations the world over, for starters. The economic violence done to these communities (still ongoing in some cases, like Flint, Michigan) is going to take generations to heal. Communities don’t get generations to heal if they don’t have children.
    Jobs, marriages and children area all choices for some people, but not for others. Most people want all three. Punishing people for not doing things that they would do if they could doesn’t work. It just adds extra burdens that makes reaching those goals even more difficult.

    Let’s talk about what we, as a society can control.

    For starters, we can make sure that everyone has access to nutritious food, through SNAPP; healthcare, through Medicare for all; and good education, by adequately funding our public schools. We can work on removing environmental toxins which lead to reduced intellectual capacity, starting with lead, from our environment. This will give people the foundation they need to make better decisions. It will also create good, satisfying jobs for thousands of people.

  13. 13
    Harlequin says:

    If you have no job and no marriage and you are poor and you have children, it is a bad choice.

    Is it?

    As Jeremy says above, and Amp alludes to in the cartoon, it’s not nearly this simple. For example, if you look at teen moms, they have a very high poverty rate later in life– but that is largely because they were already poor; teen moms have about the same poverty level as their sisters without teenage births. Those kinds of choices only make a difference when getting a good job is a possibility, and for a lot of people, it isn’t. And even then, as stated above, is the ability to get a good job that is the dominant factor in outcomes.

    Most people would like to be married. Generally, it is poverty that stops them, not poverty that results from marriage’s absence.

  14. 14
    RonF says:

    zinterman-34:

    Jobs for people is not a choice. You say so.

    I’m not sure I understand this statement. Are you saying that there are no people who choose to be jobless? Are you saying that I’ve claimed that some people have no choice but to get a job?

    Kate:

    For example, if you look at teen moms, they have a very high poverty rate later in life– but that is largely because they were already poor; teen moms have about the same poverty level as their sisters without teenage births.

    But does it stay that way? How do the teen moms compare to their non-teen mom sisters 10 years later?

    Those kinds of choices only make a difference when getting a good job is a possibility, and for a lot of people, it isn’t.

    Would it be a possibility if they had made better choices earlier in life?

    It’s a mess. Kids who are born to single teen mothers who themselves have no education and no job start out in a hole that’s very hard to climb out of. And their mothers are unlikely to be of much help. I just don’t think that government can solve this. It can help, certainly. There are lots of government programs to help already and we spend massive amounts of money on them. But at the end of the day there’s a cultural component as well, and if that doesn’t change no amount of money that’s ever likely to be spent will work.

    The economic violence done to these communities (still ongoing in some cases, like Flint, Michigan) is going to take generations to heal. Communities don’t get generations to heal if they don’t have children.

    You make it sound as if I’m recommending that blacks should not have children. I have not.

    Jobs, marriages and children area all choices for some people, but not for others. Most people want all three.

    They can be choices for all people. But there are other choices that lead to them that have to be made first.

    Punishing people for not doing things that they would do if they could doesn’t work.

    I’m not saying we should punish people for not doing these things. I’m not saying we should lock them up or fine them.

    For starters, we can make sure that everyone has access to nutritious food, through SNAPP; healthcare, through Medicare for all; and good education, by adequately funding our public schools. We can work on removing environmental toxins which lead to reduced intellectual capacity, starting with lead, from our environment.

    This begs the chicken/egg question. Why can’t people afford nutritious food? Why can’t they provide their own healthcare? A woman who has 3 children by 3 different men by the time she’s 20 or so is going to be way behind the 8 ball in trying to do those things.

    Education is central to all this – it’s undeniable as far as I’m concerned. But putting more money into the system isn’t magic. Washington D.C. spends about as much as Lake Forest, Ill. on their students, but the outcomes are vastly different. It’s doesn’t matter how much you spend in a school if the kids show up hungry with inadequate clothing, without having done their homework (and without having parents who can help them with it and don’t make sure they do it rather than playing video or athletic games or watching TV), without glasses if they need them, etc. Kids who come to school unprepared to learn won’t learn.

    They also can’t learn if they’re not safe. There’s plenty of schools in Chicago where kids in some areas of a school’s district can’t get to that school safely because of gang activity. Once in school there’s still gang activity, or just bullies and out-of-control kids. This is a factor out of the parent’s control, and is one reason why Chicago is the only big city of the nation’s 5 largest that lost population last year. People – even poor people – are moving out because it’s not safe to raise kids in many neighborhoods. I still think that putting cops in the schools (as well as flooding the area around the schools) is the way to go.

    Incredibly, Chicago mandated use of lead pipes from water mains to homes until Congress forced them to stop in 1986. The failure to change to iron piping is generally laid at the feet of the plumber’s union, who lobbied the city government to keep them from updating the building codes because of the more specialized knowledge and techniques it took to use lead pipes. Understand that this is something that is all over the city, not just in poor neighborhoods; the estimate is 80% of all homes are serviced by lead pipes. So far the homeowner, not the city, is responsible for paying for replacing that pipe. Based on my own experience (I have a well, I priced out connecting to the water main in front of my house) you’re talking about thousands of dollars for each one, if not > $10,000 (I’m over 100 feet from the main, it would cost me around $14,000 when you throw in the hookup fee to the village).

  15. 15
    RonF says:

    I found out about the latest school shooting when my niece posted about it on Facebook. One of her sons (my grandnephew) was a few classrooms away.

    Some kid asked to be excused from class. He left, and them came back with two handguns. Two students and one teacher injured, shooter in custody, no one dead yet (one student is in critical condition). One of the injured students was not shot, he apparently got a cracked ankle while fleeing. The kids were evacuated to the nearby high school (where my grandnephew’s brother was) and the whole thing was cordoned off all day. The locals are calling for metal detectors at all entrances.

  16. 16
    Kate says:

    Hi Ron, it sounds like we’re on the same page when it comes to lead.
    A full intitiative to remove lead from housing would create thousands of good-paying jobs that the people doing them can feel really good about. It’s the sort of initiative that it would even make sense to pay for with borrowing, because we know that it will pay for itself in lower rates of mental disability and crime in the future.

    For example, if you look at teen moms, they have a very high poverty rate later in life– but that is largely because they were already poor; teen moms have about the same poverty level as their sisters without teenage births (my emphasis).
    But does it stay that way? How do the teen moms compare to their non-teen mom sisters 10 years later?

    This was from Harlequin. But, I think this is the study she’s referring to. The point was that most teen moms are in poverty for a few years, when their children are babies, but middle class moms bounce back, and wind up in comparable positions to women of their class who had miscarriages and their own sisters. Poor teen moms are actually not significantly less likely to claw their way out of poverty than women in comparable circumstances who had miscarriages, or their sisters.

    I just don’t think that government can solve this.

    Well, disciminatory government policies are what created high density poverty. So, we don’t have the right to just give up and blame the victims.

    It can help, certainly.

    Yes, so we should do it.

    There are lots of government programs to help already and we spend massive amounts of money on them.

    No we don’t. Not really. Not compared to other 1st world countries.

    You make it sound as if I’m recommending that blacks should not have children. I have not.

    I don’t think you intend to. But, if African Americans made the choices you’re advocating for, there would be a lot fewer African American children being born.

    This begs the chicken/egg question. Why can’t people afford nutritious food?

    Because they were born into poverty and have never had the support they needed to get out.

    Why can’t they provide their own healthcare?

    Because it is terribly expensive, even for middle class people and just when you need it most you are likely to lose the job that provides it to you because you’re too sick to work.

    Washington D.C. spends about as much as Lake Forest, Ill. on their students, but the outcomes are vastly different. It’s doesn’t matter how much you spend in a school if the kids show up hungry with inadequate clothing, without having done their homework

    Yes, schools in economically troubled districts are going to need more funding to get the same results. They’re going to need free breakfasts and lunches. They’re going to need tutors to help the kids do their homework after school.

    (and without having parents who can help them with it and don’t make sure they do it rather than playing video or athletic games or watching TV),

    Or working two minimum wage jobs to try to make ends meet. Higher minimum wages could some families here.

    without glasses if they need them, etc.

    Again, with the need for universal healthcare.

    They also can’t learn if they’re not safe.

    The community needs to be able to trust the police not to come in shooting and ask questions later. That’s the first step to safer poor neighborhoods.

    I still think that putting cops in the schools (as well as flooding the area around the schools) is the way to go.

    Not if the police act like they’re in a war zone surrounded by criminals. We need massive reeducation of police forces before that will do less harm than good.

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