The average two-income family earns far more today than did the single-breadwinner family of a generation ago. And yet, once they have paid the mortgage, the car payments, the taxes, the health insurance, and the day-care bills, today’s dual-income families have less discretionary income — and less money to put away for a rainy day — than the single-income family of a generation ago. And so the Two-Income Trap has been neatly sprung. Mothers now work two jobs, at home and at the office. And yet they have less cash on hand. Mom’s paycheck has been pumped directly into the basic costs of keeping the children in the middle class.
At the same time that millions of mothers went to work, the family needed the stay-at-home mom (or a costly replacement) more than ever. The number of frail elderly, most of whom must depend on family for daily care, spiraled upward. Hospitals began discharging patients “quicker and sicker,” expecting the family to pick up the task of nursing them back to health. With Mom in the workforce, parents were faced with a painful choice between paying for expensive care and taking time off work. At the same time, the divorce rate continued its upward climb. This situation was compounded by a leaner-and-meaner business climate that closed plants and laid off workers with alarming frequency. In this tougher world, millions of two-income families learned the price of living without a safety net.
Inevitably, the Two-Income Trap affected the one-income family too. When millions of mothers entered the workforce, they ratcheted up the price of a middle-class life for everyone, including families that wanted to keep Mom at home. A generation ago, a single breadwinner who worked diligently and spent carefully could assure his family a comfortable position in the middle class. But the frenzied bidding wars, fueled by families with two incomes, changed the game for single-income families as well, pushing them down the economic ladder. To keep Mom at home, the average single-income family must forfeit decent public schools and preschools, health insurance, and college degrees, leaving themselves and their children with a tenuous hold on their middle-class dreams.
So what's the state of your union? Are you caught in the "Two-Income Trap"? How can this knowledge influence your votes and your actions as a citizen and member of society?
More cheery fireworks pictures to follow. :)