Kay Hymowitz on Feminism and Our Perpetual Spiritual Crisis, Homeownership Rates for Young Unmarried People.

In 1955, Adali Stevenson gave the commencement speech at Smith College. He told young women: “I think there is much you can do about our [spiritual] crisis in the humble role of housewife. You may be hitched to one of these creatures we call ‘Western man,’ and I think part of your job is to keep him Western, to keep him purposeful, to keep him whole…You can do it in the living-room with a baby in your lap or in the kitchen with a can-opener in your hand.”

We are perpetually in a spiritual crisis that can only be fixed by a woman in the kitchen.  It’s a huge win for the second half of the 20th century that this argument has been moved from leading political figures addressing graduating classes to the shadier alleyways of the Wall Street Journal opinion page. Kay Hymowitz tries to keep the dream alive in an editorial-launching-a-book for the Wall Street Journal, Where Have The Good Men Gone? Feminism, by making women independent, has destroyed the mechanism for making men civilized. Now men shirk responsibility since there is nothing to tether them towards something other than watching porn and playing video games.

This argument has already been taken apart by others, including Jill from Feministe, Freddie de Boer, Monica Potts and Kay Steiger. As people postpone marriage until they are financial secure we could see some serious delays in marriage for the Millennials.  The unemployment rates among the young are staggering; nobody is escaping it. We could seriously be looking at a lost generation.

(Side note:  It’s worth pointing out to conservatives that want to destroy any legacy of the New Deal that a lot of the mid-century nuclear family dynamics are the result of New Deal policy. See recent historian work such as Mettler’s Dividing Citizens: Gender and Federalism in New Deal Public Policy and Kessler-Harris’ In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th-Century America.)

The idea of later first marriages is carrying a lot of weight in terms of men shirking responsibility, but that other staple of American, bourgeois, stability-driving, middle-class-identity contracts, homeownership, actually skyrocketed over this time period. Let’s go to the Census data, specifically Housing Vacancies and Homeownership (CPS/HVS) Table 17, Homeownership Rates by Age of Householder and Family Status for the United States. This allows us to break out homeownership rate by unmarried men and females, ages 25-29, the demographic Hymowitz is concerned about:

2007, the year the movie Knocked Up came out, was a 30-year record high for unmarried men 25-29 owning a home. I’m not sure whether Hymowitz would see that as a responsibility, as a tether to communities, settling down, exchanging mobility for security, etc.  Unmarried 25-29 year old women’s homeownership rate during this period increases but do not converge.   For both, men especially, that number has come down with the housing bubble popping.

This gets to a financial question I’ve been discussing with some people. In the same sense that later marriages are, in part, a reaction to the divorce numbers among the boomers, how will the housing market disaster of the past decade affect homeownership for the next generation of Americans? Will the foreclosure crisis, negative equity, broken servicing model and casino style of homeownership put people off for a generation?   What impact will that have on urban policy?  Has anyone done any work on this?

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14 Responses to Kay Hymowitz on Feminism and Our Perpetual Spiritual Crisis, Homeownership Rates for Young Unmarried People.

  1. laudyms says:

    Housewives had to go to work in the 70s, not because they were feminists, but because inflation and monetary manipulation obliged two earners to support a family. It’s been downhill ever since for almost all who depend on a wage to live.

  2. chris says:

    How would these stats look if you examined only homeowners whose equity exceeded their remaining mortgage balance? A lot of home “ownership” these days is awfully thin paper.

    The debtorship society doesn’t sound nearly as impressive, but it’s what we actually have.

  3. Jacob Davies says:

    I’m 34, married with a young baby, I have stable employment at a good salary, and we still have no clue when we’ll either be able to afford a decent house or when the risk of buying just before another major dip will be reduced. House prices are still high by historical standards, unemployment is very high in the East Bay, buy:rent ratios here are the worst in the country. OK, not a sob story, we rent a nice house, nobody should cry over our terrible situation. But if homeownership is supposed to be socially stabilizing – to force savings, to ensure ties to a community, to discourage antisocial behavior, to allow people to invest in being their own landlord – then the current situation is very undesirable.

    Those who bought at the wrong time and lost their down payments when foreclosed on – or are paying into negative equity – are much worse off and even when the housing market stabilizes are unlikely to be able to buy anything. More problems.

    • laudyms says:

      You’re smart to consider buy:rent comparisons. Further, local markets are not on the same time schedule- note how Seattle prices are only coming down now. Can’t help but wonder if you mean the SF Bay area? I lived there from 1963 to 1989 and saw dumpy houses with 40 years of deferred maintenance go for small fortunes…..it will take a while for that insanity to unwind, but meanwhile congestion pushes the other way. If I were your age I’d find a small city with a diversified economy and active agriculture nearby. We are past the time when conventional wisdom will work; we need to expect scarcity and major disruptions on all sides.

    • chris says:

      ties to a community

      Isn’t it foolish to tie yourself to a community when the community doesn’t reciprocate? With no job security, modern workers have to retain the option of moving to find a new job, which is more costly if you own real estate.

      Without intending any insult to Jacob, I suggest that what he has is stable-seeming employment. It may be a few decades too soon to conclude that it is genuinely stable.

  4. dandelion says:

    In the aftermath of WWII women were kicked out of the workforce so that jobs could go to the newly demobilized and unemployed military men.

    Now, in this “mancession” as the press continue to call it, even though women too are being hit hard, esp. by state and local govt. downsizing, we seem to be in the process of resetting structural unemployment at 10%.

    I expect all sorts of soft ideological articles and commentary urging women out of the workforce and back into the home — for the good of themsevles, their children, and the nation — so that unemployed men can take the shrinking pool of jobs.

    Then of course there is also the hard hammer of legislation — the Republican aims to limit women’s inability to control their fertility is another way of forcing women back to the kitchen.

    It is not true that the only reason women went to work in the 1970s was because families needed two incomes – -many of those women entering the workforce were also leaving their marriages. Work, for women as it is for men, is a means of independence and self-sufficiency.

    • laudyms says:

      Women work for less, are more ‘flexible,’ and the only reason to “send them home” is because men hanging on the street corners get dangerous…… Meanwhile, it’s going to get harder for American families to live even on two wages.

      That said, I generally agree with what you’ve written. We can expect alot of divisive social opinions to keep us distracted from the heavy looting as the oligarchs hit their stride.

  5. Red Bubba says:

    “Side note: It’s worth pointing out to conservatives that want to destroy any legacy of the New Deal that a lot of the mid-century nuclear family dynamics are the result of New Deal policy.”

    So if women in the kitchen is bad thing, New Deal policy which fosters such barbarism is a bad deal. Shouldn’t we stamp out “any legacy of the new deal” as you suggest the Republicans would like to do? You seem to be trying to have it both ways.

  6. Ted K says:

    Of course. always the bullshit extreme argument title to get people to buy the book, the editorial, given to them by some useless crony at WSJ so they can get the back cover “blurb” for their next useless book with the farthest extreme argument title they can think of.

    Amazing these people have nothing to add to the debate until the 2 weeks plus or minus the bookstore/Amazon debut eh??? Just amazing they feel the need to vent around the of said book debut date, and of course their editor buddy has space for them. Wait for Miss Hymowitz blurb for one fo the WSJ editorial board members’ books, just wait for it, because it will happen.

    I’d say I’ve purchased about 25 books in the last year. I actually read them also…. no that’s not going to win me any awards for prolificness in reading, but its better than many and I am extremely picky when I purchase the books. Of those roughly 25, I purchased 3 written by women. 2 of the books by Patricia Highsmith, one book by Rivka Galchen. When I purchase a book by a female it’s because she can express something in an intelligent manner, or has something new to say, not 1970 Gloria Steinem rubbish with 2011 Christmas wrap on it, and not because it’s the latest topic/whine which is actually the millionth rehash of the same topic/ whine we’ve been listening to since……..feel free to fill in the blank yourself, after reading Miss Hymowitz book of course!!!!!!!! Otherwise you’ll have to spend extra time watching Oprah…….or God NO!!!! create your own opinion in your own mind.

  7. “In the same sense that later marriages are, in part, a reaction to the divorce numbers among the boomers…”

    Where did you get this information – that later marriages are in part a reaction to the boomer divorce numbers? Or is it an assumption you are making? I know PLENTY of men and women who married late, not because of divorce, but because of the feeling of “why rush?”

    Another assumption to probe: that longer lifespans may have something to do with later marriages.

    You also ask: “how will the housing market disaster of the past decade affect homeownership for the next generation of Americans? Will the foreclosure crisis, negative equity, broken servicing model and casino style of homeownership put people off for a generation? What impact will that have on urban policy? Has anyone done any work on this?”

    I assume (no numbers to back it up) that the housing market is damaged for many years to come. But not necessarily for the reasons you mention. My operating assumption is that the debt load needed to graduate from college, the lack of jobs, income stagnation, and more of that income going to healthcare are also factors that will impact the Millennials ability to purchase a home.

    As an aside, Kay’s article is a blatant grab for attention, with little basis in reality. Seems like marriage takes two, and both men and women are waiting before jumping into wedded bliss. But hating men grabs more headlines than a reasoned look at the issue of postponing marriage.

  8. Lathe of Heaven says:

    I notice that, of all the pieces you linked to as debunking the Hymowitz piece they all took the same tack, namely denouncing Hymowitz’ ideas as bad for women, being reactionary and constrictive. What I also noticed is that _none_ of these folks denounced Hymowitz’ piece for the most obvious reason, which is that it constitutes a vicious and disgusting smear against _men_.

    Saying bad things about women? -> Get the truncheons, lock and load!

    Saying bad things about men? -> Eh, stuff happens.

    I think this selection reveals a lot about the value system powering the Rortybomb.

    • laudyms says:

      “Now men shirk responsibility since there is nothing to tether them towards something other than watching porn and playing video games.”

      Observed the perpetual juvenilism that persists well into middle age for most men, have you? Even in (my) earlier generations stand-up men were a minority. Now they’re a rarity! And Hymowitz is a cock-eyed optimist of she thinks a good woman can do much about it.

  9. Lathe of Heaven says:

    As a simple corrective, I would offer these two blog posts

    http://badgerhut.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/obligation-masculinity-kay-hymowitz-and-her-clueless-brethren/

    http://badgerhut.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/kay-hymowitz-round-two/

    as much better and more direct refutations of Hymowitz which address the main issue of her misandry and not the relative side-issue of her misogyny. (Disclosure: I do not know the author and am not related in any way; I just thought it was good writing of its type.)

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