Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Cents and Sensibilities

A New York Times article about the work of Gregory Clark describes an enthralling new theory for how the seeds for the industrial revolution were planted. A part of that theory is that in the West from 1200 to 1800 the more affluent you were, the more surviving children you were likely to have. The remainder of the theory, which is a bit harder to research and will provide much opportunity for debate, is that the downward mobility that this created (at least relative downward mobility--either Clark or the article's author Wade has overlooked some Malthus) pushed upper class sensibilities into the the middle class. These sensibilities were "nonviolence, literacy, long working hours, and a willingness to save."

Two days ago, NPR ran a piece about children being the new status symbol. With the skyrocketing cost of housing, feeding, and educating children the rich are able to afford more children than poor. One commentator says that this runs counter to the last 100 years of history. Though the NPR piece turns toward the snarky, as parents (read "moms", apparently the dads are disembodied ATMs) "hire consultants to potty train their children." But this temporal juxtaposition of Clark's work and a recognition that children are being born proportionally more to rich parents is fascinating and leads me to ask: what sensibilities will be exported from the rich to the poor over this upcoming period of downward mobility?


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