The Daddy Difference

A June 1 article in The Washington Post ran under the headline Father Knows Best: Education Linked to Dads' Parenting Skills with the news that dads with higher levels of education are more involved in their children's daily lives. The survey involved about 4,900 men age 15 to 44 nationwide who were interviewed in 2002 and 2003 by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Based on the findings, researchers estimated that about 28 million American men have children under the age of 19. About 75 percent live with their kids. Those with more education tend to interact the most, the survey found. Among dads who had attended college, about 87 percent said they played with their children daily, compared with about 76 percent of those who had a high school diploma or less.

Roughly 65 percent of more educated fathers say they routinely bathe or dress their children, compared with 42 percent of those less educated.About 32 percent of more educated men read to their kids daily, compared with about 20 percent of less educated men. Education also makes a dramatic difference in a man's likelihood of fathering a child outside of marriage -- only six percent of college graduates have done so vs. nearly 50 percent of those without a high school diploma.

This information is all interesting. I was glad to read about it. But what struck me as incredulous is that this survey marks the first time our government has questioned men about issues related to family life.

It's 2006. How can this be? Dads everywhere, of all education levels, need to complain about this decades-long oversight, which hurts dads, moms and kids.

No wonder the 2.3 million single fathers and 147,000 stay-at-home dads in this country feel invisible. No wonder moms feel like we are held responsible for every detail of family life, from doing the laundry to developing our children's IQ. No wonder dads leaving work early for pediatrician appointments, high school soccer games and day-care pick up feel like they have to slink out unnoticed. Apparently, the U.S. government is just catching on that dads make a difference in kids' lives, too.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  June 5, 2006; 10:00 AM ET  | Category:  Dads
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Comments

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As an educated, involved Dad, I think complaining would not serve any useful purpose here. You can't do anything about the past oversight; instead, we should praise demographers and statisticians and social scientists for catching on to this useful and interesting data, and encourage them to continue to compile it.

Posted by: Brian | June 5, 2006 10:31 AM

That's what I need - a government survey to validate me.

"Apparently, the U.S. government is just catching on that dads make a difference in kids' lives, too."

The only people I care that recognize my contributions are my children and my wife. The government catching on won't do a thing for me.

Posted by: Father of 2 | June 5, 2006 10:39 AM

My husband was a stay-at-home dad for our daughter until she turned 6. We originally made our decision for him to stay home based on studies done years ago indicating that girls with active fathers were less likely to be involved in abusive relationships and, even more important, less likely to be the victims of date rape. My husband is delayed in his career because of our decision but he wouldn't give up a single day or the resulting relationship he shares with our daughter.

Posted by: Support Dads | June 5, 2006 10:58 AM

It's pretty typical as Americans that we would see this study in very individualistic terms. But it's not enough to ask what this study may or may not do for our own self-image individually, or to think that its significance starts and stops there. While this is important, it's not all there is. Studies like this, along with a growing body of evidence about the importance of dads is slowly moving the larger cultural milieu in a good direction. Our society as a whole operates on a set of fluid 'givens', and this greatly impacts our culture. If one of the cultural 'givens' is that dads are only marginally important, this impacts a whole host of things from workplace issues, to legal and custody issues, to personal self-image issues in both men and women, not to mention children. To whatever extent our society has been predisposed to believe such an axiom, studies like this contribute to debunking it. Men are not an expendable gender, and we are not primarily disposed to be passive where our parenting responsibilities are concerned. But we are foolish to think that a larger society that believes the opposite doesn't to some degree result in a self-fulfilling prophecy to the detriment of everyone.

Posted by: Jason | June 5, 2006 10:59 AM

The social programs of the United States are relatively new in the broader history of our country, and I for one have never been a proponent of "cradle to grave" government support and intrusion. Obviously, the one target of the Great Society" programs were to help single mothers and in federal veterans policy I would think prudent to have a policy to help military widows. So it is somewhat understandable that federal studies haven't focused on what to do if the father is present - so I do not feel snubbed - so I guess I am not incredulous. Since the welfare state (the US safety net with gaping holes and all) now has to deal with economic incentives that seem to encourage poor, single parent families, the government will need researched evidence before providing economic or civil incentive for the family unit to be encouraged. Congress needs the evidence to get the funding I would suppose. In these efforts, I would hope that the emotional role of fathers can be balanced with their obvious historical breadwinner role. Fathers are not the disposable parent which can be replaced easily by dollars alone. My question I guess would be what is the government money trail on this one? Family education? Might be a good reason to do away with the IRS "marriage penalty." What do you DC locals think?

Posted by: Father of 3 | June 5, 2006 11:07 AM

ooops not "the one target of the GS programs" one of the targets.... silly me

Posted by: Father of 3 | June 5, 2006 11:10 AM

No one should be surprised that fathers are important, and can make a valuable contribution to the lives of their children. It should make us re-think, however, whether our current social policies are serving kids well. Intentionally or not, we are seeing a decline in the number of two-parent homes. There may be a number of reasons for this. But to the extent that it is an advantage for a child to have the benefit of both parents at home, it would behoove us to ask whether some of our current social and political assumptions have unintended consequences.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2006 11:20 AM

"My question I guess would be what is the government money trail on this one? Family education? Might be a good reason to do away with the IRS "marriage penalty." What do you DC locals think?"

I think we should start, not by asking if there is some new government action that might fix the problem, but whether there are existing government problems that are contributing to it.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2006 11:23 AM

It should have been ". . . whether there are existing government PROGRAMS that are contributing to it."

Posted by: Freud Got Me Again | June 5, 2006 11:24 AM

This is all subjective. My father was college educated and rarely read to us.... It wasn't the thing at the time. Surveys like this will also reflect social norms.

I am glad to see Dad's included. I'm tried of Mothers taking the rap for everything. Just today I see a headline -- mothering style related to obesity. Lay some of this on the Dads please!

Posted by: RoseG | June 5, 2006 11:27 AM

I think it's not a decades long oversight. Well, okay, it IS a decades long oversight, but societal pressure on fathers to do more than provide for their families economically is something relatively new. I don't think it's a reflection on the govt.'s take on fathers, but society's change in the expectations of fathers.

Posted by: Observer | June 5, 2006 11:43 AM

Lets also take this time to do away with the term deadbeat dad. It puts an unfair stigma on dads, when in fact it can be either parent that is capable of being a deadbeat. Sadly, there are also "deadbeat moms" out there who have succumbed to addictions and lifestyle changes, leaving their children behind while the fathers are shouldering the responsbility of raising the children with no financial or emotional support from the children's mother.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2006 12:07 PM

"Lets also take this time to do away with the term deadbeat dad. "

I second that!

Posted by: Maryland | June 5, 2006 12:08 PM

The government used tax dollars to pay for this useless information. Count me among the unsurprised.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2006 12:09 PM

Regardless of education or income, what matters is Dads being involved with their kids.
My father had me at age 19, barely had a high school diploma and divorced my mother when I was 11. Still, he always insisted I could be whatever I wanted to be and read to me whenever he could. I am a physician and working mom. My husband is much more involved with our kids than his or my father ever were and they can only continue to benefit.
Again, it all comes down to parental involvement.

Posted by: SS | June 5, 2006 12:14 PM

None of the statistics are that surprising. Studies have shown that more than 90% of children whose parents are involved in their education get A's. That statistic tracks better than many others including per pupil spending and socioeconomic status. However parental involvement does track fairly well with both socioeconomic status and parents' education since income and education are correlated. Thus this study is not much of a surprise and in fact confirms earlier work.

Posted by: Soon to be father | June 5, 2006 12:18 PM

"This is all subjective. My father was college educated and rarely read to us.... It wasn't the thing at the time. Surveys like this will also reflect social norms."


Yes, depending on the topic, survey results may reflect social norms. But that doesn't mean they are subjective. Subjective means that observations are based on someone's opinions. Survey results are based on collecting data in a way that is, we hope, as unbiased as possible.

No survey can address every question. Ideally, there will be additional surveys to see whether these results hold up and to examine other issues related to fatherhood.

Posted by: THS | June 5, 2006 12:30 PM

Who needs a government survey anyway? I figure if I can just live up to the parenting standards set by Homer Simpson, I'd be doing better than most dads out there today.

Posted by: Father of 4 | June 5, 2006 12:35 PM

Doh!

Posted by: Father of 3 | June 5, 2006 12:36 PM

"No wonder moms feel like we are held responsible for every detail of family life, from doing the laundry to developing our children's IQ. "

As a mom, I disagree with this statement. I think this is a feeling (some but not all) moms push on themselves- dad's are every bit as critical and responsible. And most of the dads I know are involved.

The dads I know who aren't- well oftentimes its the moms who are are obsessed with being the uber mom that will not let the dads near these responsibilities. Come on moms- stop being such control freaks and let dads pitch in.
And quit complaining that they don't help, when really its you discouraging them from doing so!

Posted by: Dad Supporter | June 5, 2006 12:37 PM

I agree with Soon to be father. This study leaves out a few key variables, or at least the article does. Are these groups exactly alike except for their education levels, or are we really talking about socioeconomic status here? Do you get the same results when you look at income level or hours worked instead of education levels? Do these groups have identical amounts of non-work time? What percentage of "less educated dads" are working evening shifts or two jobs, compared to "more educated dads?" And why are "bathing, dressing and reading" the key indicators of parental involvement? Why not attending sports events, or doing yard work together? Does that bias the results? Before you draw grand conclusions from a study like this a little healthy skepticism is in order.

Posted by: economist | June 5, 2006 12:45 PM

"The government used tax dollars to pay for this useless information. Count me among the unsurprised."

How is this information useless? It's never been studied before. Social science has to start somewhere, and although this study doesn't reveal the meaning of life, it gets us started.

Posted by: Josh | June 5, 2006 1:06 PM

Good point, economist. I see plenty of fathers bringing their kids to the playground and then they sit on a bench and talk on the cell phone. Does that count as "involvement"?

And I agree with Father of 2's sentiments at the top. The only question I care about at the end of my, hopefully, nonagenerian life will be, do my wife and son know I love them and have done everything in my power to do the best by them?

What is the benefit of the study? What is it telling us that we don't already know? How do we change a "culture" when some fathers are working 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet?

Posted by: Working Dad | June 5, 2006 1:09 PM

I'm all for anything that brings attention to the positive role fathers play in raising their children. I dated a man who was a great single father to his teenaged son. He was an upper-level executive but also went home every night to make dinner for his son and did everything he could to "be there" for his kid. I know there are a lot of "deadbeat dads" out there, but we should, as a society, praise good role models of fatherhood so that more men will follow the example.

Posted by: Anne | June 5, 2006 1:17 PM

Regarding the term "dead-beat dad," yes, it is true that there are also "dead-beat moms", but let's keep some sense of proportion.

According to the US Census, there are 2 million fathers who do not pay court-ordered child support, compared with 289,000 mothers who do not pay court-ordered child support. There is a reason the attention is focused on fathers, and that is because they represent a much, much larger proportion of the total number of parents who are not paying the support they are supposed to.

It also true that the percentage of men who do not pay child support is smaller than the percentage of women who do not pay. In otherwords, the 2 million non-paying men represent 31% of men with child-support obligations, whereas the 289,000 non-paying women represent 42% of women who have child-support obligations.

So, interesting food for thought. I think the term is not the best one, but in spite of the percentages, it remains true that the effort to collect overdue child support necessarily focuses primarily on men, as they make up the vast majority of offenders.

Posted by: Megan | June 5, 2006 1:18 PM

If fathers actually do make a difference,tons of studies and data show that to be the fact, including Baushamns meta analysis of dozens of long term studies why is it that in most states at the time of divorcethe mother ends up with the children over 90% of the time and the father is marganilized to two days every two weeks,if he is lucky. Is this like everything else the govt. does, they just don't get it?

Posted by: e. mcewen | June 5, 2006 1:22 PM

"Lets also take this time to do away with the term deadbeat dad. "

Oh yes, I second that emotion!

And definitely the government needs to look at its many policies and programs that discourage marriage. Among my younger poor relatives and family friends, most are not married but live with their children's fathers because living together is more financially lucrative. I don't know exact details, but the mothers get free services and other handouts they wouldn't get if they were married. Some have even divorced just to be eligible for gov't programs.

Posted by: Anne | June 5, 2006 1:24 PM

What a waste of time, money just to compare a "percentage" of men, which means this is an estimate based on the men interviewed for this wasted story.

Those numbers could go up or down if you count the rest of the men in this country.

I have personally seen a large number "educated" wealthy men not spend time with their children, and seen janitors spend a majority of their lives making sure their child has a good life.

So, I disagree with this study and thinks its a feel good story for those who are educated and want some kind of made up stroking of their ego's.

Please stop trying to separate people with this kind of giberish.

Thank you

Posted by: NE | June 5, 2006 1:30 PM

"So, interesting food for thought. I think the term is not the best one, but in spite of the percentages, it remains true that the effort to collect overdue child support necessarily focuses primarily on men, as they make up the vast majority of offenders."

Anecdotally, in our situation, my child's mother does not pay child support, does not have primary custody, does not contribute to any of the expenses of raising our child (medical, dental, daycare or otherwise).

I don't report the non-payment, I just shoulder 100% of the support b/c I want to keep the peace and move on. I suspect there are a lot of dads out there like myself, that don't report or receive child support.

Posted by: Not a deadbeat dad | June 5, 2006 1:35 PM

Note that this survey asked men about their involvement in parenting. Might it be that more educated men know they "should" say they're involved and less educated men know they "should" say they're less involved, based on social norms? I'd want to see some independent verification of this self-reported involvement. Otherwise we get the degreed guy in the park on his cell phone characterizing himself as an involved father, and the HS-dropout guy who coaches his daughter's soccer team characterizing himself as less involved to maintain his machismo.

Posted by: Roberta | June 5, 2006 1:37 PM

"I don't report the non-payment, I just shoulder 100% of the support b/c I want to keep the peace and move on. I suspect there are a lot of dads out there like myself, that don't report or receive child support."

I would suspect that there are a lot of PARENTS in your situation, men and women. And since women have custody in much higher proportion, there are probably a proportionally higher number of women in your situation.

I am not trying to attack dads in general or minimize the frustration that a dad like Not a deadbeat dad must feel. However, I don't think we can turn this into an issue about women not paying when men make up almost 90% of the offendors. The fact that there are also women who do not pay does not mean that the men should be let off the hook.


Posted by: Megan | June 5, 2006 1:40 PM

Bravo to you for being a responsible parent. Your children will be better off for it!

Posted by: To: Not a deadbeat dad | June 5, 2006 1:41 PM

""Lets also take this time to do away with the term deadbeat dad. "

I second that!"

How about we stigmatize as deadbeats dads OR moms who don't do what's necessary for their kids?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2006 1:41 PM

Talk about burying the lede: 50% of men without a college degree have fathered a child outside of marriage? And we wonder why we have problems with kids? Spending daily quality time with kids is great, but how do you do that when they aren't even under your roof?

Posted by: Skeptical | June 5, 2006 1:41 PM

The fact is, and we all know it without doing any kind of survey, that if Dad is a deadbeat, abusive, or just a plain loser, the kids still have a pretty good chance of turning out OK. However, when Mom is screwed up, oh boy, watch out! Major problems!

Posted by: Father of 4 | June 5, 2006 1:46 PM

"How is this information useless? It's never been studied before. Social science has to start somewhere, and although this study doesn't reveal the meaning of life, it gets us started."

There is a whole wide universe of knowledge that, surprisingly, was not given to us by social scientists. It is pure hubris (or pure, unadultrated blindness) to assume that if we don't have a government study to cite, we don't "know" something. Open your eyes; listen to your grandparents; talk to people who've been there before - if we rely solely on formal academic studies to guide our lives, we'll become overeducated, ineffective idiots.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2006 1:46 PM

Megan thanks for your thoughtful comments. I am not trying to turn this into an issue about women not paying. I am fine with my situation- I have made peace with it, and I am doing what I have to do to raise my child. I can't afford to get caught up in what I am owed or not - b/c its not coming and that won't help my child any with me being angry about it.

I just wanted to provide some insight to the bloggers about my situation, and its not an uncommon one. It might not be more common than a mother in my situation- but there are a lot of single dads out there (upper/middle and lower) going it alone. I think thats not something that people are aware of.

Posted by: Not a deadbeat dad | June 5, 2006 1:50 PM

"Education also makes a dramatic difference in a man's likelihood of fathering a child outside of marriage -- only six percent of college graduates have done so vs. nearly 50 percent of those without a high school diploma."

And we know that making a Constitutional ammendment preventing gays from marrying will drastically alter this percentage, right?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2006 2:15 PM

"Education also makes a dramatic difference in a man's likelihood of fathering a child outside of marriage -- only six percent of college graduates have done so vs. nearly 50 percent of those without a high school diploma."

Maybe it's harder to find a spouse willing to marry someone without a HS diploma? Or maybe those without HS diplomas are at income levels where it makes more sense for the children to be on welfare- thus necessitating unmarried status.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2006 2:17 PM

One man's unpleasant experience of being
stay at home dad. Pls. excuse me for the
rambling nature of these comments.

I found myself to be "stay at home dad".
We didn't plan for it and it just happenned for many reasons. It was supposed to be a few month deal but it got extended to few years because of events.

I am very involved in my 6 year old daughter's life.

My wife is in a high pressure profession.
She works very hard. It is mostly male dominated.

Both of us are very well educated. She
resents it deeply that I ended up stay at home. She doesn't appreciate what I
do. She resents it deeply to answer the
question - What does your husband do for
living ? This question keeps coming up quite often. It just makes her upset...

I regret my decision to stay at home. It is
a big loser. No one appreciates it. Your
self image takes a big hit. At school and
the neighborhood, it is all female thing.
I personally didn't feel like that I can
be part of the gang. Perhaps, it is my
personality.

I am a progressive by nature and fairly reflective but I found this experience to
be VERY BAD.

Our soceity doesn't appreciate non paying
work. A man has to bring a paycheck home.
Everything else is secondary.

Lets face it. It is a difficult job to take
care of kids, house etc... I personally
found it to be many times more difficult
than to work as a professional.

I am amazed at some of mothers at how much
work they do for kids. It is an eye opener..

I want to warn anyone considering to be
stay at home dad. Be very cautious. Make sure you and your wife understand things..

Make sure you are strong enough to face
the questions

- "What do you do for living ?"

From employers, when you start looking
for work again.

"What did you do last x years"

My takeaway from my experience is -
Be involved in your kids life as much as
you can but take care of your career and earn money...

As someone who is pro feminism, it is hard
for me to say this - Women may not be
comfortable at being the main bread winner...

Posted by: LongsPeak | June 5, 2006 2:23 PM

"Education also makes a dramatic difference in a man's likelihood of fathering a child outside of marriage -- only six percent of college graduates have done so vs. nearly 50 percent of those without a high school diploma."

"And we know that making a Constitutional ammendment preventing gays from marrying will drastically alter this percentage, right?"

No, but repealing the estate tax will ensure that well-educated wealthy dads can remain 'involved' in their offsprings lives by ensuring they never have to learn the value of a day's work.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2006 2:30 PM

Not a deadbeat dad, I agree that stories like your are often unsung, and I'm glad you shared your here. I concur with the other posters who have commented on how lucky your kids are! And I didn't mean to imply that you personally are seeking to take the attention off men. I'm just very sensitive in general to the "women do it too" defense - it comes up also in the contexts of rape, sexual assualt and sexual harrasment, and it just kind of makes me crazy.

On the subject of stay at home dads, my husband is part time stay at home and part time starting his own business, and for us it is working out really well. I do sympathize with LongsPeak on the "what do you do for a living" question, and I know it occasionally tweaks my husband as well; although women face the same question sometimes, the social pressure on men is much greater in this regard. But I think a lot of the dynamics LongsPeak otherwise describes come up regardless of who is at home, so I hope it won't overly deter other men from considering staying at home.

Posted by: Megan | June 5, 2006 2:41 PM

Empirical vs. anecdotal knowledge

I have seen a lot of comments to the effect that, well, we don't need a "government study" to tell us things we already know, like that having an involved Dad is a good thing. You miss the point, I think.

Anecdotal knowledge, passed down in families and in communities and buttressed by experience, is of course very useful. Surely it is comforting to know that objective, empirical research backs up everything you previously believed to be true? And, conversely, if your own experience was an unusual one (statistically speaking), wouldn't you want to know that also, in case you were to have another child? Not necessarily to be a slave to it or act on it, but just to have the knowledge.

And how would we know if no one ever did the studies, on the grounds that it was already "common knowledge"?

Finally, a serious question that I hope someone will answer: is information of this kind somehow less trustworthy because it came from a "government study," as opposed to an independent research group or a university? I'm genuinely interested as for reasons why you might think so.

Posted by: Brian | June 5, 2006 2:49 PM

Probably Leslies next topic....

Mom to the Max
Room Mothers Don't Need A Dozen Arms. Six Should Do.

By Jennifer Frey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 5, 2006; Page C01

Posted by: Father of 3 | June 5, 2006 2:53 PM

The Grass is Always Greener... over the septic tank?

Thanks for your entry Longspeak. I would hope, as a I hope for my family, that the elementary school years take some of the pressure off, maybe you can be a consultant.

Good luck, I for one would be interested in hearing more from you.

B

Posted by: father of 3 | June 5, 2006 3:09 PM

"Finally, a serious question that I hope someone will answer: is information of this kind somehow less trustworthy because it came from a "government study," as opposed to an independent research group or a university? I'm genuinely interested as for reasons why you might think so."

I would say no. The agency that did this study, the National Center for Health Statistics, is a major center of research on public health and social issues. It's part of the CDC, which, as I'm sure you know, is the nation's primary center of research on public health. Members of the professional staff at NCHS are highly trained epidemiologists and statisticians.

Posted by: THS | June 5, 2006 3:10 PM

Well I guess my father was an oddity based on statistics, a self taught man, he only completed half his Grade 9 year, dropped out of high school in order to help his father on the farm.

My father worked extremely hard seven days a week, worked in computer software and as I stated the above he was a self taught man. He never held a fancy position, but made extremely great money.

Even though he worked seven days a week, sometimes 12 hour shifts, there was NEVER a day that he didn't spend time with us.

He helped feed, bathe, dress and read to my brother and I. He encouraged us to achieve to the highest of our ability.

The year I was born was 1971, so he was a man before his time. He even stayed up after his afternoon shift until 2 a.m. to give my brother or I a bottle feeding so my mother could sleep through the night.

He is an inspiration and a gem of a father.

So much for statistical data.......

Posted by: Mom in Canada | June 5, 2006 3:12 PM

"I have seen a lot of comments to the effect that, well, we don't need a "government study" to tell us things we already know, like that having an involved Dad is a good thing. You miss the point, I think."

No, I don't think so. There are at least two issues here.

First, research dollars are a finite commodity, and should be allocated where they will do the most good. It is certainly valid to question "received truth" and to validate beliefs that are commonly held on the basis of empirical experience. But there are many, many questions of importance where we simply don't know the answer. Is proving that "dads are important" or "moms are important" or "kids benefit from parental involvement" really the best use of the government resources available to support social sciences research? Some knowledge is "common knowledge" simply because the evidence supporting it is part of our common life experiences.

Second, some of us were reacting to the implication that, as a result of this study, we had gained some new insight.

"How is this information useless? It's never been studied before. Social science has to start somewhere, and although this study doesn't reveal the meaning of life, it gets us started."

The key idea coming from this study isn't useless - it's very important. But neither is it new - you can find references to the importance of fathers as far back as the Hebrew scriptures. Raising children, and the importance of family, have been studied and discussed for thousands of years by thoughtful men and women from all cultures. The idea that social science is starting something new here is ludicrous. Validating - fine. Quantifying - fine. But would you seriously suggest that, absent this study, there would be any real doubt that fathers can play an important role in raising children?

"is information of this kind somehow less trustworthy because it came from a "government study," as opposed to an independent research group or a university?"

I don't know. In my experience, government studies tend to be somewhat pedestrian, rather than innovative or groundbreaking. I think that's because the government, as a matter of course, collects huge volumes of data. As a result, you see a lot of studies that are essentially statistical tabulations of that data - which oftentimes was originally gathered for completely different purposes. The sample sizes are usually very good. On the other hand, the data elements themselves may not be ideal (e.g., self-reported, or not really the data element you'd want to look at if you were designing a study from scratch). It also seems to me that since you're generally dealing with post hoc statistical analysis of data that were gathered for another purpose, you see a lot of very technical refinements of statistical techniques, but not as much work around "what's the right question to ask" or "what do the data really mean?"

Posted by: To Brian | June 5, 2006 3:19 PM

Mom in Canada, your father does sound like an inspiration. However, your story does not disprove the statistical data; it simply means that your father falls into the lower percentage of men with less education who spent time with their families (which is actually still a fairly large percentage). I don't understand why everyone is so anxious to try to debunk the study based on their own experience, particularly since it really doesn't say very much at all.

Posted by: Megan | June 5, 2006 3:22 PM

"Is proving that "dads are important" or "moms are important" or "kids benefit from parental involvement" really the best use of the government resources available to support social sciences research? "

Also, why does everyone keep saying this is the point of the study? The study doesn't say anything about the impact of the time fathers spend with their children, all it says is that higher education levels correlate with more self-reported involvement with children. It doesn't go on to assess the impact of that involvement at all.

Posted by: Megan | June 5, 2006 3:25 PM

"So much for statistical data......."

This observation and earlier comments that point out exceptions to the conclusions of this study miss the point.

Of course, there will be exceptions. In fact, the data Leslie presents indicate that there will be lots of them.

Consider, for instance, this statement: Roughly 65 percent of more educated fathers say they routinely bathe or dress their children, compared with 42 percent of those less educated.

ONLY 65 percent of more educated men said this. Thirty-five percent of men didn't; that means there'll be lots of well-educated men who don't bathe or dress their friends.

The point is the variation ACROSS education levels, and that's something none of us can know based on our experience. Only averages based on sampling the population can tell us about general patterns of behavior in our society.

Surveys such as this are based on random samples of the population so that they represent, as nearly as possible, the whole population (or whatever segment of the population was sampled).

Pointing out an exception to the general conclusion is like saying smoking doesn't cause cancer because you know someone who smoked for years and didn't get cancer or someone who got cancer even though he or she wasn't a smoker. Both of those things occur, but it doesn't change the general pattern of results, i.e., that people who smoke more are more likely to get cancer.


Posted by: THS | June 5, 2006 3:28 PM

About 15-20 years ago, the Army ran a survey of how much time Army men were involved with their children, and found out that officers spent far more time with their children than enlisted men. This seems to bear out the difference between education, as officers have more overall education on average than enlisted men.

One pos. caveat: those educated, those officers, might be more aware that more time spent with kids is a "good" answer, so might tend to overestimate. Caveat to the caveat: knowing that it is a "good" thing, those more educated will actually try to do the more "good" thing. More importantly, though, is that the more educated May have got more love and nurturing themselves, both of which -- the nurturing and the education -- fold back and enhance the following generations' lives.

Posted by: Pat | June 5, 2006 3:35 PM

"The key idea coming from this study isn't useless - it's very important. But neither is it new - you can find references to the importance of fathers as far back as the Hebrew scriptures. Raising children, and the importance of family, have been studied and discussed for thousands of years by thoughtful men and women from all cultures. The idea that social science is starting something new here is ludicrous. Validating - fine. Quantifying - fine. But would you seriously suggest that, absent this study, there would be any real doubt that fathers can play an important role in raising children?"

As Megan pointed out above, this study doesn't say anything about the relative importance of fathers or mothers in children's lives. It's purely a descriptive study, focusing on certain behaviors within families.

But even if it did focus on the impact of some aspect of parenting, it's important to remember that some aspects of what is generally considered to be "common sense" turns out to be incorrect.

Twenty or thirty years ago, I think many people would have said that kids who are cared for by someone other than their parents (usually the mother) are more likely to have emotional problems and possibly other kinds of problems as well. But that's just not true, and we wouldn't know that if somebody hadn't done the research.

Posted by: THS | June 5, 2006 3:36 PM

Maybe the higher level of education correlates with the work hours that a father works. For example, educated professional workers typically work traditional 8am - 6pm hours and are less likely to work the night shift or weekends...thus, they are able to spend more time with their children when the children are available. This doesn't mean that less educated men "want" or "choose" to spend less time with their children. It's just a reality of their situation and what they need to do in order to earn a living.

Just a thought

Posted by: LC | June 5, 2006 3:53 PM

Good point, LC. My dad had a college degree and worked 9-5, so he had plenty of time to read to me and that sort of thing. My mom's dad worked on the small family farm, so he was also able to spend lots of time around his children. He liked being with his kids, working or playing together, and loved taking care of babies. He probably had no more than a second grade education and really didn't know how to read. No correlation with education level there.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2006 4:07 PM

"No correlation with education level there."


It's impossible to calculate a correlation from two instances.

Posted by: THS | June 5, 2006 4:12 PM

Research dollars are "finite" in the same sense that there is a finite volume of water in the ocean. Maybe we could hire some researchers to determine what that number of gallons actually is...

Posted by: Brian | June 5, 2006 4:17 PM

"But even if it did focus on the impact of some aspect of parenting, it's important to remember that some aspects of what is generally considered to be "common sense" turns out to be incorrect. Twenty or thirty years ago, I think many people would have said that kids who are cared for by someone other than their parents (usually the mother) are more likely to have emotional problems and possibly other kinds of problems as well. But that's just not true, and we wouldn't know that if somebody hadn't done the research.


Without trying to debate the pros and cons of daycare (because it's such a hot button), which I suspect is the issue alluded to here, I'm very uncomfortable with the denegration of common sense suggested. A working parent using daycare during business hours is a far cry from a parent who is not involved (if the working parents on this blog can be believed). To be very blunt, the people I know who have totally screwed up their lives have done so by doing things that common sense would have told them were dumb (adultery, drinking, dropping out of school, ignoring their spouse, pursuing money and career at the expense of everything else), rather than failing to heed the most current social science research. None of them made a mistake that couldn't have been avoided by sitting down, getting some good advice from someone's grandmother, and then following it.

Yes, we can learn some very useful things from survey research. But it is not substitute for good sense - which involves listening to people who've been there and done that before us, thinking through how our decisions will affect the people around us, how they will affect our future, and paying attention to the things that are really important in life.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2006 4:27 PM

"Yes, we can learn some very useful things from survey research. But it is not substitute for good sense - which involves listening to people who've been there and done that before us, thinking through how our decisions will affect the people around us, how they will affect our future, and paying attention to the things that are really important in life."


No question. I agree completely. But I still think it's worthwhile to collect the kind of data reported here. Let's say, for instance, that we had other data indicating that hours spent interacting with a father is related to school performance (probably true, but I don't know). If we then learn, as this survey teaches us, that there's a subset of fathers who are less likely to spend time interacting with their children.

Very likely, those fathers simply have a different idea of fatherhood that's related to their background, education, and so on. But I'm sure they also want to be good fathers. So, w/ the two kinds of data--that time w/ father makes a difference and that some people are more likely than others to spend that time--we would have some idea about where to direct efforts to encourage fathers to spend time w/ their children.

There all sorts of public information campaigns--encouraging us to stop smoking, get screened for breast cancer and prostate cancer, and talk to our kids about using drugs. It'd be equally feasible to conduct a campaign to encourage fathers to spend time w/ their children. Such a campaign could be carried out through schools and churches, as well as through the PSAs as we see on TV.

Posted by: THS | June 5, 2006 4:39 PM

"Research dollars are "finite" in the same sense that there is a finite volume of water in the ocean. Maybe we could hire some researchers to determine what that number of gallons actually is..."

Uh, what exactly do you mean by that? That there is no practical limit on the amount of money the U.S. government can spend on social sciences research (just as there's no practical way we could empty the ocean by pumping all the water out)? It would be nice, if you were right, but we're running rather substantial budget deficits right now. If nothing else, if you take the gross domestic product, and then subtract out what it takes to produce the bare necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter, child care, etc.), what's left over would be the absolute upper limit on the economic resources the national could dedicate to research (assuming we were willing to do without movies, non-fiction books, amusement parks, fishing trips, etc.)

Posted by: To Brian | June 5, 2006 4:41 PM

I don't think that THS or anyone is denigrating common sense. What they are saying is that common sense is not all-encompassing and that empirical research plays an important role in establishing knowledge. I think this is particularly true as regards to the formation of public policy - because conventional wisdom sometimes is wrong, it's better to have empirical studies in addition to common sense to guide our policies. And where the two conflict, that's probably a good indication its an area we need to spend a lot more time thinking about.

Posted by: Megan | June 5, 2006 4:42 PM

"But I still think it's worthwhile to collect the kind of data reported here."

Agreed. I just think we need to interpret research results in light of real-world experience, and to the extent possible direct our research so that we learn genuinely new and useful things.

Posted by: To THS | June 5, 2006 4:45 PM

"I don't think that THS or anyone is denigrating common sense."

As far as THS goes, I tend to agree with you. Reading back over the comments, though, I still get a sense that some run the danger of deifying the results of social science research. We keep saying that the conventional wisdom is sometimes wrong. That's true. But in general, common sense about life and family is a remarkably good guide. In simple terms, if you want a really good, satisfying life, following your grandmother's advice (if she's anything like mine) is probably one of the best ways of going about it.

Posted by: To Megan | June 5, 2006 4:52 PM

Yes, I mean that there are no REAL limits, at least in terms of having to prioritize between different kinds of research.

The US government spends BILLIONS of dollars on research every year. While it is certainly quantifiable, that is essentially a bottomless pit of research money that for practical purposes cannot be exhausted. Add in private foundations and universities, and the amount is truly staggering.

We could argue whether it's too much in light of all the other things the government might choose to spend money on. But if the enlightened leadership of our current President and Republican Congress have shown us anything, it's that deficits don't matter. (They can finally stick it to Ross Perot)

The problem, O Nameless One, is that you think of this as a tradeoff between, say, this particular study and an improvement to Yosemite National Park, or better schools, or a stronger military. That has some surface common-sense appeal, but it's just not how it works.


PS to everyone--why all the anonymous posts? Who cares what your name is...better yet, make one up for yourself, like the various "Fathers of" have done. At least it makes multiple comments from the same person identifiable.

Posted by: Brian | June 5, 2006 5:02 PM

Was there any correlation between the religious views/piety (or lack thereof) of the dads and involvement with children? There is a sociologist at UVA (Bradford Wilcox) who looks at this sort of thing.

Posted by: Father of 7 | June 5, 2006 5:13 PM

"make one up for yourself"

Sounds like you've given me the perfect nom de electron . . .

"Yes, I mean that there are no REAL limits, at least in terms of having to prioritize between different kinds of research. The US government spends BILLIONS of dollars on research every year. While it is certainly quantifiable, that is essentially a bottomless pit of research money that for practical purposes cannot be exhausted."

You have GOT to be kidding! This is objectively simply not true. Nor is it good public policy. Politically, there is a limit to the level of spending that can make it through Congress. Economically, continuing government deficits tend to harm the economy. Mathematically, there is a limit to the economic production of the nation - and it cannot all be dedicated to research.

"you think of this as a tradeoff between, say, this particular study and an improvement to Yosemite National Park, or better schools, or a stronger military. That has some surface common-sense appeal, but it's just not how it works."

That is exactly how it works. The Medicare drug program has significant gaps in coverage because there was a limit to how much Congress was willing to spend on it. NASA is, right now, cutting programs back because there is a limit to the funds that have been appropriated. Given the political tone of your last response, I'd suggest that you think about how the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have affected spending on domestic programs.


"the enlightened leadership of our current President and Republican Congress have shown us anything, it's that deficits don't matter. "

That statement's simply dumb. We can debate how much harm may or may not be done by particular levels of deficit spending, how long deficits can be sustained before the economy is harmed, and whether the current exigencies justify deficit spending. But if there's anything that economists agree about, it's that uncontrolled deficit spending is a threat to the economy.

Do you really believe that there are no useful research opportunities that are currently not funded? Do you really believe that, if a researcher submits a truly useful study proposal that it will be fully funded, regardless of the other demands on federal and private research funds? To put a finer point on it, do you really believe that there are no qualified social scientists who are currently not employed in the field because they cannot find a research position?

Posted by: Disagrees with Brian | June 5, 2006 5:15 PM

Research priorities---and the priority give to any kind of research---shift with administrations. It's simply not true that there's no relationship between whatever else goes on in the economy and the amount of money appropriated for research.

In the early 90s, for instance, NIH go a "peace dividend", an increase in spending made possible by the reduction of spending at the end of the Cold War.

Posted by: THS | June 5, 2006 5:29 PM

This all sounds well and good, but you can be too invilved in your children's lives, too. I have three child and love them more than life itself, but I sometimes get too carried away with helping them. Sometimes, you have to give your children space. Also, I didn't grow up play ball or "normal" games. My father took me hunting and fishing and that is what I raised my children to do. So I have a beautiful 20 year daughter that looks like a runway model who shoots trap and hunts birds and two sons who hunt. Sounds great until you realize my one son is a nurse, the other a medical student and our whole family are mderatr liberals. Once "iberals" find out you hunt, you wouldn't believe how lonely you can get...fast.

Posted by: mm | June 5, 2006 5:35 PM

"Politically, there is a limit to the level of spending that can make it through Congress."

GW Bush doesn't think so. He's never vetoed a bill, even when Congress appropriates MORE than he asked for in his budget. He even asks for tax cuts on top of it. Congress can spend as much as they like--he'll never say a word. And the voters? Well, we keep sending the same crew back every two years, so apparently we aren't distubed either.

The examples you cite--NASA and Medicare--aren't very good ones. NASA has had funding cuts because, frankly, they aren't that good at their job. Medicare was "sold" as a $450 billion program; actual costs have doubled, more or less (to the collective yawn of Congress). And again, if you believe the president, this is a great program that seniors ought to sign up for right away, because it'll save them a bundle on their medicine. If there's holes, we'll fix it (spend more money).

Also, you assume that the Medicare drug plan was INTENDED to be something that primarily benefited senior citizens. The available evidence would indicate that it was primarily intended to benefit insurance companies and drug manufacturers, at which it is succeeding quite nicely.

"Economically, continuing government deficits tend to harm the economy."

Reagan rang up huge deficits in the 80s; the economy in the 90s was pretty darn good (which, in turn, generated extra government revenue that coincidentally was used to reduce the deficit). Deficits go up and down; economic health goes up and down; correlation does not causation make.

"Mathematically, there is a limit to the economic production of the nation - and it cannot all be dedicated to research."

You would make a terrible Republican. Worker productivity has been increasing beyond what economists thought sustainable for years, with no signs of slowing. And, as GW Bush would have it, the tax cuts aren't a problem because they stimulate economic GROWTH, such that, in his view, tax receipts will actually increase as a result of lower taxation. That is also the view of Grover Norquist and other leading supply-side (Republican) economists.

"Given the political tone of your last response, I'd suggest that you think about how the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have affected spending on domestic programs."

Discretionary domestic spending (i.e., not including Social Security and Medicare) has INCREASED throughout the presidency of GW Bush, at a higher rate than under Clinton. You can look it up. Iraq and Afghanistan have had NO EFFECT on curtailing domestic spending. And we've had tax cuts, too!

Not to take a political tone, but some have suggested that Iraq might have been viewed much differently by the public at large from the get-go if it had had such an impact, and the war had not been put on the proverbial national credit card.

"the enlightened leadership of our current President and Republican Congress have shown us anything, it's that deficits don't matter. "

"That statement's simply dumb."

Yes, exactly.

"Do you really believe that, if a researcher submits a truly useful study proposal that it will be fully funded, regardless of the other demands on federal and private research funds?"

Researchers, the employed ones anyway, know how the funding world works. A researcher estimates that it will cost (for example) $1 million to do her project perfectly, with all the bells and whistles. She is well aware that no one gets fully funded. So she submits a proposal for $1.2 million, gets $900,000, and makes it work with bells, but no whistles. This is basic grantsmanship, if I can coin that term.

Posted by: Brian | June 5, 2006 5:48 PM

So, why do these studies always stop at some cute age, like 6? How many kids these days have the same dad at 16 when they REALLY need the same guy who now has earned the authority and love that keeps the kid on the straight and narrow.

Posted by: H | June 5, 2006 5:56 PM

I do not think it right that the government sanctioned a study about fathers because this can emotionally harm the many children born of sperm donors. The concept of "father" is a social construct fast fading from our collective consciousness. With so many "single women by choice" now, I believe the rampant use of the word "father" constitutes hate speech and must be replaced by the words "sperm donor," whether the child's father is in the child's life or not.

Posted by: Sarah H | June 5, 2006 6:09 PM

Come on, admit it Sarah H, you're really a fundamentalist republican male who's trying to gin up anger against feminists, liberals and gays by posting this stuff.

Posted by: nuh uh | June 5, 2006 6:19 PM

I admit it I'm a horrible father. My own father who had a Master's degree but really lacked goals, determination and self worth rarely spent time with me. I remember numerous occasions waiting in the yard to play catch with dad. He never showed.

But on to me, I am easily beguiled by a young seven year old girl (my oldest) to play a quick game at 8:05, five minutes after her bedtime. I just can't let my children feel about me the way I felt about my dad. I'm guilty.

But that is not the end of my atrocities. I have actually tricked my children. Not the I've got your nose kind of trick. No, I'm much worse. I tell my kids that Egg Plant Parmesan sandwiches are too good for them. I forbid them from tasting mine. Then I get up and go to the fridge. Only to come back to a little bite out of my sandwich. Then again I give in, and share my sandwich. Now instead of Pizza she wants an Eggplant parmesan sandwich.

Alas, it continues. One day my daughter asked if she could wash dishes. I asked her, "have you been good?" She said yes, so I told her she could wash one bowl.

My kids have stolen numerous foods I've told them were too good for them. They've joined the tasters club. I manipulate my children. I'm a horrible horrible person.

And watching cartoons with my daughters when they just want to be held. I'm contributing to their mushy brains. Cartoons!!!!! Evil.

Anyway, I'm a guilty overcompensator that manipulates his kids.

Pass the Eggplant Parmesan. Please?

Posted by: HorribleFatherW3Daughters | June 6, 2006 2:01 PM

I admit it I'm a horrible father. My own father who had a Master's degree but really lacked goals, determination and self worth rarely spent time with me. I remember numerous occasions waiting in the yard to play catch with dad. He never showed.

But on to me, I am easily beguiled by a young seven year old girl (my oldest) to play a quick game at 8:05, five minutes after her bedtime. I just can't let my children feel about me the way I felt about my dad. I'm guilty.

But that is not the end of my atrocities. I have actually tricked my children. Not the I've got your nose kind of trick. No, I'm much worse. I tell my kids that Egg Plant Parmesan sandwiches are too good for them. I forbid them from tasting mine. Then I get up and go to the fridge. Only to come back to a little bite out of my sandwich. Then again I give in, and share my sandwich. Now instead of Pizza she wants an Eggplant parmesan sandwich.

Alas, it continues. One day my daughter asked if she could wash dishes. I asked her, "have you been good?" She said yes, so I told her she could wash one bowl.

My kids have stolen numerous foods I've told them were too good for them. They've joined the tasters club. I manipulate my children. I'm a horrible horrible person.

And watching cartoons with my daughters when they just want to be held. I'm contributing to their mushy brains. Cartoons!!!!! Evil.

Anyway, I'm a guilty overcompensator that manipulates his kids.

Pass the Eggplant Parmesan. Please?

Posted by: HorribleFatherW3Daughters | June 6, 2006 2:09 PM

Oops, again, overcompensating.

I have valid opinions.

Laughing at myself.

Posted by: HorribleFatherW3Daughters | June 6, 2006 2:11 PM

"You would make a terrible Republican."

I'm an excellent Republican (have voted Republican in every national elecction since 1980).

"Researchers, the employed ones anyway, know how the funding world works. A researcher estimates that it will cost (for example) $1 million to do her project perfectly, with all the bells and whistles. She is well aware that no one gets fully funded. So she submits a proposal for $1.2 million, gets $900,000, and makes it work with bells, but no whistles. This is basic grantsmanship, if I can coin that term."

Budgetary games occur in pretty much every profession. That does NOT mean that money crunches aren't real. Do you really, honestly, expect us to believe that every qualified researcher with a good idea is able to pursue their studies, because they simply gross their funding requests up by 20%, and as a result get 90% of their ideal funding? This doesn't even pass the laugh test.

Posted by: Disagrees with Brian | June 6, 2006 3:21 PM

I haven't read all the comments, so forgive me if someone has already made the same point, but I see the survey results as still more evidence of radical inequality that defines family life in this country. Of course educated white collar dads are more involved in the lives of their kids: they have more flexibility on the job and more options in life. They might work more hours than blue-collar counterparts and spend more time at home massaging spreadsheets after the kids go to bed, but many (not all, but many) can blow out in the afternoon to go to the doctor and they can take time off when necessary. And of course their children benefit over the long run in terms of educational acheivement, etc. That's how class works in this country.

I recommend checking out "The Family as Firing Offense," by Ruth Marcus in this very newspaper: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/12/AR2006051201801.html

Posted by: http://daddy-dialectic.blogspot.com/ | June 6, 2006 4:52 PM

I confess to being at a complete loss...you've voted Republican for 25+ years despite being completely at odds with their core economic beliefs. I guess that gay marriage thing really is a big draw.

That would be like saying, "I've always voted Libertarian, but I believe in tougher antismoking laws, and strict limits on the number of drinks bars are allowed to serve, and mandatory classes for all prospective parents."

As for your remaining point...

"Do you really, honestly, expect us to believe that every qualified researcher with a good idea is able to pursue their studies, because they simply gross their funding requests up by 20%, and as a result get 90% of their ideal funding? This doesn't even pass the laugh test."

As a longtime Republican and firm believer in the power of the marketplace (although given your other economic views that may be too steep an assumption), surely you know that a "good idea" isn't enough to get funding, in the research business or the restaurant business.

The country has plenty of people with "good ideas" in all professions who remain unemployed, not due to any government funding crunch, but because a good idea isn't enough. You have to have competence, drive, a plan, and a certain degree of personal charisma to get others to come on board with your idea. If you've got all of those things, and still don't have funding, that suggests that the marketplace thinks your ideas really aren't that good.

I think it is safe for me to acknowledge that, while there may be some researchers out there somewhere, holding signs saying "Will Work for Grant Money," there simply is not a "funding crunch" in this country when it comes to funding social science research. The nation's universities continue to churn out Ph.Ds, and despite the jokes they all seem to find non-McDonald's employment.

I beg someone to provide me with evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, of a crunch (by evidence, I mean something more than "Well, it stands to reason. There's a limit to everything."). I am pro research. I love research. I love researchers. I hope they all get funded, and provide us with reams of data confirming the conventional wisdom espoused by our grandparents.

Posted by: Brian | June 6, 2006 5:32 PM

"I confess to being at a complete loss...you've voted Republican for 25+ years despite being completely at odds with their core economic beliefs."

Nope - I'm just at odds with your sophomoric parody of boogyman Republicans.

"I beg someone to provide me with evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, of a crunch"

What do you need? Congress routinely debates increased funding, and it routinely gets limited due to other spending priorities.

"I am pro research. I love research. I love researchers. I hope they all get funded, and provide us with reams of data confirming the conventional wisdom espoused by our grandparents."

Well, that's certainly clear. You described U.S. federal research spending as being "essentially a bottomless pit of research money that for practical purposes cannot be exhausted." Then you sluffed off NASA spending cuts as saying "well, NASA isn't all that good anyway." Do you think we're spending enough on global warming? Alternative fuels? AIDS research? Protection against potential pandemics? Cancer research? Protection against bio-terrorism? What does a "bottomless pit" mean? That any competent, motivated researcher with a good idea can get funding from the federal government? I'm sorry - in the real world the assertion "don't worry, Dad can cover it" requires a bit more support than "hey, no worries - Dad will never run out of money!" (If you were a Republican, you'd know that)

Posted by: Anonymous | June 7, 2006 12:04 PM

"The nation's universities continue to churn out Ph.Ds, and despite the jokes they all seem to find non-McDonald's employment."

Simply not true - plenty of individuals with higher degrees are underemployed. (I will admit, this is much more common with social science and other non-technical degrees than it is with individuals with degrees in the hard sciences or engineering. I suspect that's due to some of the strange turns the humanities have taken in recent years.)

Posted by: Not Brian | June 7, 2006 12:07 PM

"I confess to being at a complete loss...you've voted Republican for 25+ years despite being completely at odds with their core economic beliefs. I guess that gay marriage thing really is a big draw."

Brian, if we're going to continue this discussion, you need to get serious. Your comment is equivalant to my saying "(insert name of your favorite liberal here) cannot be a real liberal, because he/she is at odds with (insert Michael Moore's positions here, as articulated by Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter)."

Posted by: Disagrees with Brian | June 7, 2006 12:54 PM

On the "sophomoric parody"...

1) Supply-side economists, who are the dogmatic standard barriers for the Republican Party, hold that growth is, essentially, limitless. Placing more capital (through cuts in capital gains taxes and R&D tax credits) in the hands of the producers (corporate America) creates growth in jobs, and, over time, raises income at all wage levels. The increase in the number of jobs and the wages is supposed to offset, revenue-wise, the cap gains tax cuts.

The basis and natural outcome of such a system is to shift taxation away from capital and onto labor. As a policy position, that may or may not be desirable. But you can't deny that it is fundamental GOP economics.

2) In fairness, there have in the past been a sizable number of Republicans who were deficit hawks. I live in a state which operates under a Republican-created balanced budget amendment to its Constitution that dates back 20 years or so. But on a national level, over the past five years at least, the Republican Party has engaged in a deficit-financed spending spree, over the grumbled objections of the handful of hawks who remain. That's also a fact.

Congress has also used "emergency appropriations" as a cover device to spend hundreds of billions of dollars that are "off-budget," for items that are clearly not emergencies. Iraq is in Year 4; Afghanistan is in Year 5; while certainly important as a matter of national security, it cannot be seriously argued at this point that either is a sudden, unanticipated expense that Congress cannot have been expected to sensibly plan for.

You seemed to be very concerned about expanding deficits. But, in your words, while Dad may have run out of money, Congress believes Dad has a no-limit credit card, with very low minimum payments. The President, having never vetoed a spending bill, would seem to agree. Voters, reelecting Congress, would also seem to agree. Collectively, the nation appears to have reached a consensus that deficits don't matter, or that at least they are preferable to the alternative (a serious discussion of spending cuts).

Personally, I disagree. I think it's dangerous to finance our national "lifestyle" by issuing reams of government-backed debt...which is being bought up in huge quantities by foreign investors.

My point about the bottomless pit (hyperbole, clearly not meant to be taken literally) wasn't that every single possible research project gets funded--just that the amount of money spent is enormous. While there is an entire industry dedicated to lobbying Congress to boost research on various topics, many of which you named, and that those lobbies will always believe that MORE money could be spent on their pet subject, the fact that there is more than enough out there is demonstrated by our collective ability to afford studies confirming existing conventional wisdom on relatively non-urgent subjects.

The US spends a higher percentage of its GDP on research than almost any country on Earth. And this is a good thing.

"Simply not true - plenty of individuals with higher degrees are underemployed."

I know this was a different poster. But see, this is what I mean. This is not evidence, it is a bald assertion of fact, unsupported by any statistics, or even one real personal anecdote. Tell me your cousin got her Ph.D in 2003 in American Studies, and has been working at 7-11 for three years while looking for a job where she can pursue her dream of researching community burial practices among Hungarian immigrant groups in late 19th-Century Philadelphia. Anything.

I'm happy to continue the discussion. It strikes me that the forum is somewhat inconvenient. At the risk of opening myself to a deluge of missives from Republicans angry at my sophomoric parodies, you can reach me at blove121@ the "Y".

Posted by: Brian | June 7, 2006 2:50 PM

Why are college-educated fathers more likely to be more involved in their children's daily lives? I'd like to think that education leads people to question outdated cultural attitudes and stereotypes. But that sounds like just another version of stereotyping. One doesn't need an education to develop one's own opinions about cultural attitudes.

As an analogy, studies during the Vietnam era discreted the myth that college students made up the majority of war opponents. Opposition was actually greater among people with lower incomes.

Posted by: John | June 12, 2006 10:36 AM

I wish to add my admiration for rebecca kaminsky's courage in reflecting on her experience for the benefit of others. I find the text, its applicability, and craft to be very valuable to all mothers before, during, and after the beginning of such a long,precious journey with our children

sn
clinical psychologict
nyc

Posted by: susanna neumann | June 20, 2006 7:25 PM

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