Access your Project MUSE content using one of the login options below Close(X)
Browse Results For:
Same-Sex Relations and Americans' Definitions of Family
When state voters passed the California Marriage Protection Act (Proposition 8) in 2008, it restricted the definition of marriage to a legal union between a man and a woman. The act’s passage further agitated an already roiling national debate about whether American notions of family could or should expand to include, for example, same-sex marriage, unmarried cohabitation, and gay adoption. But how do Americans really define family? The first study to explore this largely overlooked question, Counted Out examines currents in public opinion to assess their policy implications and predict how Americans’ definitions of family may change in the future. Counted Out broadens the scope of previous studies by moving beyond efforts to understand how Americans view their own families to examine the way Americans characterize the concept of family in general. The book reports on and analyzes the results of the authors’ Constructing the Family Surveys (2003 and 2006), which asked more than 1,500 people to explain their stances on a broad range of issues, including gay marriage and adoption, single parenthood, the influence of biological and social factors in child development, religious ideology, and the legal rights of unmarried partners. Not surprisingly, the authors find that the standard bearer for public conceptions of family continues to be a married, heterosexual couple with children. More than half of Americans also consider same-sex couples with children as family, and from 2003 to 2006 the percentages of those who believe so increased significantly—up 6 percent for lesbian couples and 5 percent for gay couples. The presence of children in any living arrangement meets with a notable degree of public approval. Less than 30 percent of Americans view heterosexual cohabitating couples without children as family, while similar couples with children count as family for nearly 80 percent. Counted Out shows that for most Americans, however, the boundaries around what they define as family are becoming more malleable with time. Counted Out demonstrates that American definitions of family are becoming more expansive. Who counts as family has far-reaching implications for policy, including health insurance coverage, end-of-life decisions, estate rights, and child custody. Public opinion matters. As lawmakers consider the future of family policy, they will want to consider the evolution in American opinion represented in this groundbreaking book.
Research from the Mexican Migration Project
Discussion of Mexican migration to the United States is often infused with ideological rhetoric, untested theories, and few facts. In Crossing the Border, editors Jorge Durand and Douglas Massey bring the clarity of scientific analysis to this hotly contested but under-researched topic. Leading immigration scholars use data from the Mexican Migration Project—the largest, most comprehensive, and reliable source of data on Mexican immigrants currently available—to answer such important questions as: Who are the people that migrate to the United States from Mexico? Why do they come? How effective is U.S. migration policy in meeting its objectives? Crossing the Border dispels two primary myths about Mexican migration: First, that those who come to the United States are predominantly impoverished and intend to settle here permanently, and second, that the only way to keep them out is with stricter border enforcement. Nadia Flores, Rubén Hernández-León, and Douglas Massey show that Mexican migrants are generally not destitute but in fact cross the border because the higher comparative wages in the United States help them to finance homes back in Mexico, where limited credit opportunities makes it difficult for them to purchase housing. William Kandel’s chapter on immigrant agricultural workers debunks the myth that these laborers are part of a shadowy, underground population that sponges off of social services. In contrast, he finds that most Mexican agricultural workers in the United States are paid by check and not under the table. These workers pay their fair share in U.S. taxes and—despite high rates of eligibility—they rarely utilize welfare programs. Research from the project also indicates that heightened border surveillance is an ineffective strategy to reduce the immigrant population. Pia Orrenius demonstrates that strict barriers at popular border crossings have not kept migrants from entering the United States, but rather have prompted them to seek out other crossing points. Belinda Reyes uses statistical models and qualitative interviews to show that the militarization of the Mexican border has actually kept immigrants who want to return to Mexico from doing so by making them fear that if they leave they will not be able to get back into the United States. By replacing anecdotal and speculative evidence with concrete data, Crossing the Border paints a picture of Mexican immigration to the United States that defies the common knowledge. It portrays a group of committed workers, doing what they can to realize the dream of home ownership in the absence of financing opportunities, and a broken immigration system that tries to keep migrants out of this country, but instead has kept them from leaving.
Why Meanings Matter
In a multi-cultural society, differing worldviews among groups can lead to conflict over competing values and behaviors. Nowhere is this tension more concrete than in the wilderness, where people of different cultures hunt and fish for the same animals. White Americans tend to see nature as something external which they have some responsibility to care for. In contrast, Native Americans are more likely to see themselves as one with nature. In Culture and Resource Conflict, authors Douglas Medin, Norbert Ross, and Douglas Cox investigate the discord between whites and Menominee American Indians over hunting and fishing, and in the process, contribute to our understanding of how and why cultures so often collide. Based on detailed ethnographic and experimental research, Culture and Resource Conflict finds that Native American and European American hunters and fishermen have differing approaches—or mental models—with respect to fish and game, and that these differences lead to misunderstanding, stereotyping, and conflict. Menominee look at the practice of hunting and fishing for sport as a sign of a lack of respect for nature. Whites, on the other hand, define respect for nature more on grounds of resource management and conservation. Some whites believe—contrary to fact—that Native Americans are depleting animal populations with excessive hunting and fishing, while the Menominee protest that they only hunt what they need and make extensive use of their catch. Yet the authors find that, despite these differences, the two groups share the fundamental underlying goal of preserving fish and game for future generations, and both groups see hunting and fishing as deeply meaningful activities. At its core, the conflict between these two groups is more about mistrust and stereotyping than actual disagreement over values. Combining the strengths of psychology and anthropology, Culture and Resource Conflict shows how misunderstandings about the motives of others can lead to hostility and conflict. As debates over natural resources rage worldwide, this unique book demonstrates the obstacles that must be overcome for different groups to reach consensus over environmental policy.
Today, a third of American children are born outside of marriage, up from one child in twenty in the 1950s, and rates are even higher among low-income Americans. Many herald this trend as one of the most troubling of our time. But the decline in marriage does not necessarily signal the demise of the two parent family—over 80 percent of unmarried couples are still romantically involved when their child is born and nearly half are living together. Most claim they plan to marry eventually. Yet half have broken up by their child's third birthday. What keeps some couples together and what tears others apart? After a breakup, how do fathers so often disappear from their children's lives? An intimate portrait of the challenges of partnering and parenting in these families, Unmarried Couples with Children presents a variety of unique findings. Most of the pregnancies were not explicitly planned, but some couples feel having a child is the natural course of a serious relationship. Many of the parents are living with their child plus the mother’s child from a previous relationship. When the father also has children from a previous relationship, his visits to see them at their mother’s house often cause his current partner to be jealous. Breakups are more often driven by sexual infidelity or conflict than economic problems. After couples break up, many fathers complain they are shut out, especially when the mother has a new partner. For their part, mothers claim to limit dads’ access to their children because of their involvement with crime, drugs, or other dangers. For couples living together with their child several years after the birth, marriage remains an aspiration, but something couples are resolutely unwilling to enter without the financial stability they see as a sine qua non of marriage. They also hold marriage to a high relational standard, and not enough emotional attention from their partners is women’s number one complaint. Unmarried Couples with Children is a landmark study of the family lives of nearly fifty American children born outside of a marital union at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Based on personal narratives gathered from both mothers and fathers over the first four years of their children’s lives, and told partly in the couples' own words, the story begins before the child is conceived, takes the reader through the tumultuous months of pregnancy to the moment of birth, and on through the child's fourth birthday. It captures in rich detail the complex relationship dynamics and powerful social forces that derail the plans of so many unmarried parents. The volume injects some much-needed reality into the national discussion about family values, and reveals that the issues are more complex than our political discourse suggests.
Networks, Markets, and Regulation in Los Angeles
As international travel became cheaper and national economies grew more connected over the past thirty years, millions of people from the Third World emigrated to richer countries. A tenth of the population of Mexico relocated to the United States between 1980 and 2000. Globalization theorists claimed that reception cities could do nothing about this trend, since nations make immigration policy, not cities. In Deflecting Immigration, sociologist Ivan Light shows how Los Angeles reduced the sustained, high-volume influx of poor Latinos who settled there by deflecting a portion of the migration to other cities in the United States. In this manner, Los Angeles tamed globalization’s local impact, and helped to nationalize what had been a regional immigration issue. Los Angeles deflected immigration elsewhere in two ways. First, the protracted network-driven settlement of Mexicans naturally drove up rents in Mexican neighborhoods while reducing immigrants’ wages, rendering Los Angeles a less attractive place to settle. Second, as migration outstripped the city’s capacity to absorb newcomers, Los Angeles gradually became poverty-intolerant. By enforcing existing industrial, occupational, and housing ordinances, Los Angeles shut down some unwanted sweatshops and reduced slums. Their loss reduced the metropolitan region’s accessibility to poor immigrants without reducing its attractiveness to wealthier immigrants. Additionally, ordinances mandating that homes be built on minimum-sized plots of land with attached garages made home ownership in L.A.’s suburbs unaffordable for poor immigrants and prevented low-cost rental housing from being built. Local rules concerning home occupancy and yard maintenance also prevented poor immigrants from crowding together to share housing costs. Unable to find affordable housing or low-wage jobs, approximately one million Latinos were deflected from Los Angeles between 1980 and 2000. The realities of a new global economy are still unfolding, with uncertain consequences for the future of advanced societies, but mass migration from the Third World is unlikely to stop in the next generation. Deflecting Immigration offers a shrewd analysis of how America’s largest immigrant destination independently managed the challenges posed by millions of poor immigrants and, in the process, helped focus attention on immigration as an issue of national importance.
Political Trust in Argentina and Mexico
Some theorists claim that democracy cannot work without trust. According to this argument, democracy fails unless citizens trust that their governing institutions are serving their best interests. Similarly, some assert that democracy works best when people trust one another and have confidence that politicians will look after citizen interests. Questioning such claims, Democracy and the Culture of Skepticism, by Matthew Cleary and Susan Stokes, suggests that skepticism, not trust, is the hallmark of political culture in well-functioning democracies. Drawing on extensive research in two developing democracies, Argentina and Mexico, Democracy and the Culture of Skepticism shows that in regions of each country with healthy democracies, people do not trust one another more than those living in regions where democracy functions less well, nor do they display more personal trust in governments or politicians. Instead, the defining features of the healthiest democracies are skepticism of government and a belief that politicians act in their constituents' best interest only when it is personally advantageous for them to do so. In contrast to scholars who lament what they see as a breakdown in civic life, Cleary and Stokes find that people residing in healthy democracies do not participate more in civic organizations than others, but in fact, tend to retreat from civic life in favor of private pursuits. The authors conclude that governments are most efficient and responsive when they know that institutions such as the press or an independent judiciary will hold them accountable for their actions. The question of how much citizens should trust politicians and governments has consumed political theorists since America's founding. In Democracy and the Culture of Skepticism, Matthew Cleary and Susan Stokes test the relationship between trust and the quality of governance, showing that it is not trust, but vigilance and skepticism that provide the foundation for well-functioning democracies.
The gap between the richest and poorest Americans has grown steadily over the last thirty years, and economic inequality is on the rise in many other industrialized democracies as well. But the magnitude and pace of the increase differs dramatically across nations. A country’s political system and its institutions play a critical role in determining levels of inequality in a society. Democracy, Inequality, and Representation argues that the reverse is also true—inequality itself shapes political systems and institutions in powerful and often overlooked ways. In Democracy, Inequality, and Representation, distinguished political scientists and economists use a set of international databases to examine the political causes and consequences of income inequality. The volume opens with an examination of how differing systems of political representation contribute to cross-national variations in levels of inequality. Torben Iverson and David Soskice calculate that taxes and income transfers help reduce the poverty rate in Sweden by over 80 percent, while the comparable figure for the United States is only 13 percent. Noting that traditional economic models fail to account for this striking discrepancy, the authors show how variations in electoral systems lead to very different outcomes. But political causes of disparity are only one part of the equation. The contributors also examine how inequality shapes the democratic process. Pablo Beramendi and Christopher Anderson show how disparity mutes political voices: at the individual level, citizens with the lowest incomes are the least likely to vote, while high levels of inequality in a society result in diminished electoral participation overall. Thomas Cusack, Iverson, and Philipp Rehm demonstrate that uncertainty in the economy changes voters’ attitudes; the mere risk of losing one’s job generates increased popular demand for income support policies almost as much as actual unemployment does. Ronald Rogowski and Duncan McRae illustrate how changes in levels of inequality can drive reforms in political institutions themselves. Increased demand for female labor participation during World War II led to greater equality between men and women, which in turn encouraged many European countries to extend voting rights to women for the first time. The contributors to this important new volume skillfully disentangle a series of complex relationships between economics and politics to show how inequality both shapes and is shaped by policy. Democracy, Inequality, and Representation provides deeply nuanced insight into why some democracies are able to curtail inequality—while others continue to witness a division that grows ever deeper.
Making Institutions Work
What are the essential elements of a democracy? How can nations ensure a political voice for all citizens, and design a government that will respond to those varied voices? These perennial questions resonate strongly in the midst of ongoing struggles to defend democratic institutions around the world and here at home. In Designing Democratic Government, a group of distinguished political scientists provides a landmark cross-national analysis of the institutions that either facilitate or constrain the healthy development of democracy. The contributors to Designing Democratic Government use the democratic ideals of fairness, competitiveness, and accountability as benchmarks to assess a wide variety of institutions and practices. John Leighly and Jonathan Nagler find that in the U.S., the ability to mobilize voters across socioeconomic lines largely hinges on the work of non-party groups such as civic associations and unions, which are far less likely than political parties to engage in class-biased outreach efforts. Michael McDonald assesses congressional redistricting methods and finds that court-ordered plans and close adherence to the Voting Rights Act effectively increase the number of competitive electoral districts, while politically-drawn maps reduce the number of competitive districts. John Carey and John Polga-Hecimovich challenge the widespread belief that primary elections produce inferior candidates. Analyzing three decades worth of comprehensive data on Latin American presidential campaigns, they find that primaries impart a stamp of legitimacy on candidates, helping to engage voters and mitigate distrust in the democratic process. And Kanchan Chandra proposes a paradigm shift in the way we think about ethnic inclusion in democracies: nations should design institutions that actively promote—rather than merely accommodate—diversity. At a moment when democracy seems vulnerable both at home and abroad, Designing Democratic Government sorts through a complex array of practices and institutions to outline what works and what doesn’t in new and established democracies alike. The result is a volume that promises to change the way we look at the ideals of democracy worldwide.
The Politics of Teen Childbearing
Teen childbearing has risen to frighteningly high levels over the last four decades, jeopardizing the life chances of young parents and their offspring alike, particularly among minority communities. Or at least, that’s what politicians on the right and left often tell us, and what the American public largely believes. But sociologist Frank Furstenberg argues that the conventional wisdom distorts reality. In Destinies of the Disadvantaged, Furstenberg traces the history of public concern over teen pregnancy, exploring why this topic has become so politically powerful, and so misunderstood. Based on over forty years of Furstenberg’s research on teen childbearing, Destinies of the Disadvantaged relates how the issue emerged from obscurity to become one of the most heated social controversies in America. Both slipshod research by social scientists and opportunistic grandstanding by politicians have contributed to public misunderstanding of the issue. Although out-of-wedlock teen pregnancy rose notably between 1960 and 1990—a cause for concern given the burdens of single motherhood at a young age—this trend did not reflect a rise in the rate of overall teen pregnancies. In fact, teen pregnancy actually declined dramatically in the 1960s and 1970s. The number of unmarried teenage mothers rose after 1960, not because more young women became pregnant, but because those who did increasingly chose not to rush into marriage. Furstenberg shows how early social science research on this topic exaggerated the adverse consequences of early parenthood both for young parents and for their children. Researchers also inaccurately portrayed single teenage motherhood as a phenomenon concentrated among minorities. Both of these misapprehensions skewed subsequent political debates. The issue became a public obsession and remained so during the 1990s, even as rates of out-of-wedlock teen childbearing plummeted. Addressing teen pregnancy was originally a liberal cause, led by advocates of family planning services, legalized abortion, and social welfare programs for single mothers. The issue was later adopted by conservatives, who argued that those liberal remedies were encouraging teen parenthood. According to Furstenberg, the flexible political usefulness of the issue explains its hold on political discourse. The politics of teen parenthood is a fascinating case study in the abuse of social science for political ends. In Destinies of the Disadvantaged, Furstenberg brings that tale to life with the perspective of a historian and the insight of an insider, and provides the straight facts needed to craft effective policies to address teen pregnancy.
Unskilled workers once flocked to Detroit, attracted by manufacturing jobs paying union wages, but the passing of Detroit's manufacturing heyday has left many of those workers stranded. Manufacturing continues to employ high-skilled workers, and new work can be found in suburban service jobs, but the urban plants that used to employ legions of unskilled men are a thing of the past. The authors explain why white auto workers adjusted to these new conditions more easily than blacks. Taking advantage of better access to education and suburban home loans, white men migrated into skilled jobs on the city's outskirts, while blacks faced the twin barriers of higher skill demands and hostile suburban neighborhoods. Some blacks have prospered despite this racial divide: a black elite has emerged, and the shift in the city toward municipal and service jobs has allowed black women to approach parity of earnings with white women. But Detroit remains polarized racially, economically, and geographically to a degree seen in few other American cities.