Friday, March 23, 2007

Elite Babies Take Manhattan

In Surge in Manhattan Toddlers, Rich White Families Lead Way
Manhattan, which once epitomized the glamorous and largely childless locale for “Sex and the City,” has begun to look more like the set for a decidedly upscale and even more vanilla version of 1960s suburbia in “The Wonder Years.”

Since 2000, according to census figures released last year, the number of children under age 5 living in Manhattan mushroomed by more than 32 percent. And though their ranks have been growing for several years, a new analysis for The New York Times makes clear for the first time who has been driving that growth: wealthy white families.

At least half of the growth was generated by children who are white and non-Hispanic. Their ranks expanded by more than 40 percent from 2000 to 2005. For the first time since at least the 1960s, white children now outnumber either black or Hispanic youngsters in that age group in Manhattan.

The analysis shows that Manhattan’s 35,000 or so white non-Hispanic toddlers are being raised by parents whose median income was $284,208 a year in 2005, which means they are growing up in wealthier households than similar youngsters in any other large county in the country.
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Thursday, March 22, 2007

'How to Feign Interest in Babies'

'How to Feign Interest in Babies'
If you're one of the people who, like myself, would rather sit through a Pauly Shore film festival than change a diaper or make baby-talk with some tiny, drooling creature who understands less spoken English than a D.C. cab driver, this can make for some dreadful social visits.

The situation isn't helped by the fact that, to non-breeders, all infants resemble grizzled Western actor Walter Brennan. Or that new parents are eager to interpret your reaction to their offspring, often creating a situation as painful as labor contractions.
. . .
What I'd like to say to them is this:

"I'm sorry to disappoint you, dear, new parents. But not having reproduced, I'd be hard-pressed to develop less interest in "meeting" new human beings until they develop language skills, personalities, toilet training, working neck muscles or any of the other prerequisites for socialization. Call me when the kid is ready for high school, and we'll talk at great length."
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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Mommies can lose touch with shame and propriety.

Disgusting? What do you mean 'Disgusting?'
Lorene warned me that after I had a kid, two words would completely lose meaning. The first was "fluid." The second, "disgusting."
. . .
Friends of mine were kicked out of a restaurant and told never to return after they changed their kids' diapers at their table. While I don't think the restaurant over-reacted, I can completely understand how the couple could momentarily lose all sense of decorum – and hygiene. They've just lost touch with what it means to be disgusting.

I'm not that bad. Yet. But it does look as though I'm in the poop too deep to ever turn back. When Zev used his "baby potty" for the first time the other day, I wanted to take out a full-page ad in the paper. Instead, I waited until the wee hours of the morning to log on to IM and regale the only person online with Zev's tale of toilet triumph.

"Kevin!" I said. "Zev pooped in the potty today!"

I started to type out the whole story....

But Kevin shot back a conversation-crushing nonparent reply, "And moving right along."

"Seriously?" I wrote back. He didn't find this fantastic news?

"Seriously." He replied.

I was a little miffed, but I understood. He probably still thinks fluids come in bottles, full of corn syrup and carbonation.

For me, those days are so far in the review mirror, I have to squint to see them. And I realize that there are no U-turns on this road. Thirty years from now, if I'm in a restaurant and see a woman slurp down a half-chewed piece of cheddar while changing a dirty diaper, I'll just wind past the revolted crowd, casually walk over to her table and ask, "Got any more of that cheese?"
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Sunday, March 18, 2007

22 Year Old Mother of 3 Refused Sterilization in UK

'Sterilise me!', mum begs NHS
Ex-admin worker Kelly asked her GP to arrange a sterilisation after she gives birth to the tot.

But her local hospital, Queen’s in Romford said it will not perform the op on under-30s. Kelly is desperate to find a medic who will.

She said: “I’m terrified I’ll fall pregnant again.
Does anyone know if there are similar policies in the US? I am considering doing my "3L Paper" in law school on the subject.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

48% of Australians Believe Childfree Have Better Career

No kids means more quid
DESPITE employers becoming more flexible, government attention on childcare and ongoing equal opportunities for mums and dads, many Australians still believe those with no kids are more likely to be successful in their career.

According to a survey by career building and networking site Link Me 48 per cent of 681 people surveyed from across the country believe those that are childfree are more likely to have a better career.
. . .
"A career takes a lot of focussed time to achieve and the reality is that families are demanding.

"It takes skill and discipline to master the work and family balance but it can and has been achieved before."

The survey also revealed 36.7 per cent of people feel if they were to start their own family their career would be disadvantaged.
Great. You can send us watered-down beer in giant cans, but you can't export the kind of sensible logic that acknowledges the differences between childfree and parental employees?

The article makes the (common) faux pas of childless=single, and of course likes to inspire us that it is 'possible' to juggle both. Perhaps it is, but until cheap child-care, minus the guilt of using it, plus egalitarian marriages become commonplace, the norm will still be a higher level of time commitment from childless employees. (or, of course, absent fathers)

Does calling it 'balance' imply that there is sufficient time to do both, and it is just a matter of metering it out? This view seems myopic. When a person has a demanding job and is a primary caretaker of their children, it seems more likely that there just isn't enough free time to go around. 'Balance' more likely means sacrifice - choosing a less demanding career, demanding a more involved spouse, resigning yourself to less 'quality time' with the kids. The term itself is loaded, and may be giving women either guilt (it is just my fault I can't budget my time) or false hope.

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More Comments on Wash State Proposal Spurred by Alaskan Anti-Gay Marriage Ballot Item

You may remember this proposal from gay rights groups to annul the marriages of couples without children. In the wake of a ballot initiative to ban gay marriage in Alaska, a journalist adds more commentary to the proposal.

Have kids -- or else
They note that society has already made room for marriages that don't fit the traditional procreate-and-raise-children version. Some heterosexual couples are childless by choice. People who are past child-bearing age are still allowed to marry. Further, the activists say, if marriage is so important to child-raising, why do we let couples have children out of wedlock and remain unmarried? And why are married couples with children allowed to get divorced?

The "have children or lose your marriage" initiative probably won't ever reach Washington's voters. To qualify, it needs more than 200,000 signatures. But it doesn't have to make the ballot for organizers to make their point.

Society recognizes different kinds of relationships and child-raising arrangements. It won't be the end of marriage if heterosexuals and gays enjoy the same benefits and legal privileges when they make a lifetime commitment with their partner.
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Mother's Day Expectations in England

See what you're missing?

A humourous look (see what I did there? English spelling) at what Mother's Day means to one English writer. More than that, though, is the more honest look at what motherhood can do to a woman's body, mind, and life in general.

But stretching your vagina the customary five kilometres is a doddle compared with what comes next. Cracked nipples, constipation, mastitis, mountains of haemorrhoids (Edmund Hillary couldn’t scale those devils). But no matter how bad it gets a mother can’t escape because she’s tethered by the breast. Dad can nip off to the pub, but Mum is a 24-hour catering service — meals on heels.

Then there’s the sleep deprivation, the sex deprivation — because kids are a contraceptive. Every time you are in the mood to make love, the baby wakes up or the toddler toddles in. (Parents only need one sex tip. Vaseline — on the doorknobs.) But what new mum wants to have sex? While men are keen for the tumbling in the hay to recommence six weeks after childbirth, mothers want to tie up the sheaves and put them in the barn. Especially if they’re also trying to juggle kids and career without dropping anything.

I'm sure it's still quite worth it for many women, but it's still nice to know the code of silence is being broken on the aspects of motherhood that wouldn't make such a nice Kodak moment.

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LTE - Exempt Childfree From School Taxes

Give childless couples a school tax break

Oh, and one more quick thing. I am all in favor of seniors cutting/eliminating school/property taxes, they've done their part, but there is one faction, albeit possibly a small one that is overlooked. Childless couples, who by choice or medical reasons do not have children, therefore do not use the school system. As a household that falls into this category, why are my wife and I being asked to continually pay into a system that we will never make use of anyway? Don't we deserve some kind of real tax consideration?

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Canadian Birthrate Falls Far below US

Religiosity, ethnic makeup cited
The Toronto couple's decision to stop after one child is hardly unusual in Canada. Statistics Canada's latest census figures released Tuesday show a continuing trend towards smaller families, with the country's fertility rate stalled at 1.5, the same as five years earlier.

The fertility rate - the average number of children a woman will have between age 15 and 49 - is far below the 2.1 per woman it takes to replace the dying population. Even so, Canada still beats out many other developed countries in the baby sweepstakes. Japan's 2006 rate is estimated at 1.4; Russia's at 1.39 and Spain 1.28.

But what's particularly striking about the 2006 census figures is how many fewer babies Canadian women are having compared to their neighbours in the United States.
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Washinton Post Reviews Book on Being Childless

In an era when couples and single people alike are resorting to increasingly complex and expensive ways to get pregnant, this anthology gives readers a nuanced understanding of what women gain -- and give up -- when they opt not to produce a biological legacy. It is a valuable read for those who have borne children, not just for those who haven't.
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Kids These Days - A Collection of Recent Articles

'Kids are self-centred enough already'
Today's college students are more self-centred than their predecessors, according to a new study by five psychologists who worry that the trend could be harmful to personal relationships and society in general.
. . .
Researchers say scores have risen steadily since 1982 when the first of some 16,475 college students across the United States completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI). The survey asks for responses to such statements as "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place," "I think I am a special person," and "I can live my life any way I want."
Pregnant 14-year-old says it's 'fashionable' as four friends are also expecting
The teen, from Torbay in Devon, said: "When my friends see my bump they say they wish they could have a baby, then three weeks later they're pregnant and don't know what to do.

"Teenage girls think babies are cute, but they forget the physical side of being pregnant, then having to give up your own childhood to look after a baby.

"It seems to be fashionable to get pregnant."

Family campaigners said her comments showed how the Government's sex education policy had left teens with the "ridiculous but extremely worrying" misconception that having a child was no different to getting a new handbag.
Your views: Latest on smacking- Part 2
[In New Zealand] smacking seems certain to be banned when MPs cast their final votes on the issue in three weeks' time.
Commentary from readers on the anti-spanking law.

The Embryo Factory: The business logic of made-to-order babies.
[A] new line of business . . . is making and selling human embryos from handpicked donors. The FDA says this doesn't appear to violate any rules within its purview. Embryo manufacture? Go right ahead.
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Monday, March 12, 2007

Parents Who Hate Other Parents

Child-free in Tennessee
Having kids means either staying home with them and being treated like a loser by your working counterparts, or working and feeling guilty about putting the kids in daycare.

While there are plenty of child-free organizations, there's no group for those of us who have kids, but don't really want to talk shop with every other parent with whom they have a conversation. Might I suggest one called P-WHOP (Parents Who Hate Other Parents)?

We're forced to endure our child-free friends accusing us of falling off the face of the earth after we had kids, when really we just couldn't find a freaking babysitter.

Basically, it all sucks, whether you have a kid or not. Feel better?
There is nothing particularly remarkable about this blog post, which cobbles together some handpicked quotes from chilfree people and articles. The fun is in the comments.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Childfree Living

Infertility & Reproduction Health Center
[T]here is no guarantee of happiness either way. Some couples with children wish they'd never had them; couples with no children may regret it. The decision itself is not as important as how comfortable you are with your choice. . .
I thought this article, although directed toward infertile couples, made some good points. Plus, their perspective on the childfree lifestyle allows them to point out all the positive aspects without worrying about the dreaded S-label, or being accused of being 'childhaters'.

For many of us who made the choice to be childfree, advantages such as extra money, more free time, and greater flexibility are perks, not causes.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Germany's Childless Chancelor Demands Fathers Do Their Share

Merkel laments long road to equality for German women
Merkel called it a scandal that there was not a single woman on the board of a company in the Frankfurt stock exchange's blue-chip DAX 30 index.
. . .
Merkel, who generally plays down sexual politics in her public statements, said men needed to adapt at work and at home to allow greater gender equality.

She noted that fathers were reluctant to take time out from work to care for their children.

"That has got to change," said the childless 52-year-old chancellor.
Imagine - demanding that the men who actually fathered the children do more, instead of just demanding that childless people work longer hours and pay higher taxes. Perhaps the German chancellor as a childless woman herself, does not buy into the mass-subsidy hysteria that has seized her country.
The country is currently embroiled in a debate over reconciling career and family, with a government proposal to provide more nursery school places igniting a war of words between political and religious leaders.
Ah yes, well. It is still Germany after all.

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Women not getting enough sleep

So, women aren't getting enough sleep. And this is childfree news how?
The study found that 72 per cent of working mothers and 68 per cent of single working women suffered from insomnia. Stay-at-home mothers had even more difficulties, with 74 per cent of them saying they suffered insomnia at least a few nights a week.
"Women are blindsided by their biology," he told Canada AM. "They have periods, they become pregnant, they have babies and the babies keep them awake. "

Yes, clearly the difference between 68% and 72-74% isn't huge, but it's still significant. The moral of the story? If you want to reduce your risk of insomnia, don't have babies.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Purple Women & Friends: Theoretically Speaking

Purple Women & Friends: Theoretically Speaking

I have written a post for the Purple Women blog:
"I have heard many times that those with low intelligence are out-breeding us. There is some substance to this: the more education a woman has, the fewer children she has, and the more likely she is to have none at all.
. . .
From this problem, people immediately jump to the conclusion that intelligent people should go out and have more kids to compensate. Side-stepping for a moment the disputed idea that intelligence can be so readily passed on genetically, and ignoring the offensive eugenics overtones, this conclusion has other serious flaws . . ."

What is Discrimination?

Two congruent events have come together to inspire this post. The first is the recent New York Times Article Mom's mad -- and she's organized, and the second is the fact that less than an hour ago, I left a thought-provoking debate in Randall Kennedy's Race Relations class between young Ben Shapiro, Prof. Kennedy, and the remainder of the class. The subject was whether it was valid to compare racial struggles to those of gays, and centered around the question of whether behavior is a significant enough distinction to make the comparison invalid.

Which brings me to the subject at hand. Theoretically, conservatives like Shapiro would have no objection to parental-based discrimination. After all, parenting is a behavior, it is even more so a choice. It is a far cry from race, gender, and ethnicity, all of which are beyond the (initial) control of the person in question. It is even a less objectionable discrimination on these terms, both because the choice of sexual orientation is very much in doubt, and because parenting is distinctive in the fact that their behavior creates a very real obstacle.

No one is going to leave work early because they are gay. Someone will not spend an hour on the phone midday because they are black. No lesbians are demanding special employer expenditures by virtue of their sexual orientation, at best additional policies requesting same-sex partner benefits require the same exact expense as that of straight employees. And no one is going to demand that their job be held open for them for months simply because they are Italian.

Simply put, the interference with job performance that is caused by being a mother is very real, and a compelling, pragmatic argument against hiring them. To state that this is 'discrimination' begs the question of what discrimination really means - no, not the dictionary definition, but in the vernacular sense that it is being used. No one is refusing to hire new mothers because of some anti-mother sentiment. The tide in this country is quite sharply in the opposite direction.

So the distinction here to be drawn is between discrimination - which is making choices based on characteristics, and bias - which is making distinctions based on a negative perception of a group, usually unsubstantiated one. Because we use the terms nearly interchangeably, it is an easy to confusion to make. But insofar as we are using the term 'discrimination' negatively, what we are really mean is bias. In this sense, mothers are never, ever discriminated against.

The article asserts:
Using data and personal stories of mothers who have been discriminated against in the workplace, the film emphasizes that mothers are less likely to be hired, will make less money, and are more scrutinized for wrongdoing than either single women or men. The reason it cites: There are not enough family-friendly policies in place to help parents.
. . .
At many house parties, the issue that has generated the most discussion is something activists call "maternal profiling." That is using information about a woman's status as a parent to make managerial decisions, such as whether to hire her and how much to pay her.
If I went into an interview and told them that I was the spokesperson for No Kidding, that this often amounted to a 20 hour per week job, and that it occasionally resulted in hour-long emergency phone conversations, I would be less likely to be hired. Fortunately for me, I share the role with my husband, a fact I emphasized when explaining this necessary inclusion on my resume. If this was not the case, would I be discriminated against when someone passed me over for a job? Of course not. The decision would not be based on who I am, but on my ability to do the job well. That is a fair and valid reason not to hire someone.

This point becomes even clearer when we realize the limits of discrimination laws in employment. Although employers are required to make reasonable accommodations when doing so would allow a disabled person to do a job just as well, this is about as far as it goes. If a person has kidney disease that requires time-consuming dialysis, it is valid for a law firm that has a billing minimum to refuse to hire, even to fire that person who cannot meet it. This isn't discrimination either. It is merely applying a blanket policy, and applying it to all equally.

If employers can use physical, uncontrollable characteristics as he basis for denying employment, why should doing so on the basis that one is a mother be any more offensive? The only answer I can find is that it is based on assumptions about how well mothers can do their jobs; assumptions that are often false. In my opinion, this is an open question. It can easily be argued that this is a fair assumption; that a time-consuming, vitally important commitment outside work will often take priority, require immediate attention, and will otherwise interfere with work. Are these women asserting that mothers do not take more time off, that they never have to leave to pick up a sick child, that they never leave early to see a child's play? I think one would have to concede that these situations are common to almost every mother.

Now if the objection is based on extrapolating these assumptions to all women, I would need a lot more information. Are people refusing to hire women with stay at home husbands? Are there really a significant number of mothers who do not have these conflicts? And are these rare women really blocked from demonstrating this fact?

I will concede, however, that some of the assertions are valid complaints. If mothers are really being more harshly criticized for the same mistakes, this would stem from assumptions, not from actual performance concerns. However, such a charge is necessarily made subjectively, and would be very difficult to substantiate. If they are really being paid less for the same work, that is also a problem. How sure are these advocates that less pay isn't based on the fact that they work less? Absent some proof that this is not the cause, this charge, too, needs testing.

Lastly, the real danger of MomsRising is that there is no opposition. Like McCarthy's blacklist, people are understandably afraid to oppose the demands made by this group. Being 'anti-mother' would be political suicide for any politician. It is sort of like the conversation-stopping "Why do you hate freedom?" rhetoric, except much less funny. No matter how valid the claims are, when the demands of such groups are so many, and the cost so great, there needs to be someone pushing back from the other side, someone to challenge their assumptions and point out the costs to society. Childfree people just do not have that sort of voice, organization, or legitimacy yet. I fear that until we do, the agenda of this group will rage on, checked only by the slow process of democracy. I am beginning to appreciate our founding fathers all the more for purposefully designing it that way.

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Uterus on Strike

Opinion - Columbia Spectator
[O]ne would think that having the majority of women actively participating in the workforce would be cause for celebration. That is, until one notices the disparate differences in wages between mothers and non-mothers, the United States' failure to administer paid maternity leave, and the lack of laws that protect the rights of mothers. These problems were brought to light in Kara Jesella's New York Times article "Mom's Mad. And She's Organized." and were some of the same factors that piqued the attention of Cornell sociology professor Shelley Correll. Her interest in the "motherhood penalty," or the how "stereotypic beliefs associated with motherhood bias affect workplace evaluations, pay, and hiring decisions of women who are mothers," has led to studies conducted both with undergraduates and real employers who were asked to evaluate resumes of potential employees.
Sigh. I'm really into breaking down ideas these days, so let's continue.

At heart, the assertion is that we need to change the structure and nature of the workplace so that women who are taking on stereotypical mothering roles can participate without the hardships and obstacles naturally posed by that lifestyle choice.

There well may be some teeth to this. It would have to be seen as a kind of affirmative action - bending the rules so that we can incorporate women into the workforce in greater numbers. It would be based not on any one woman's individual right to have special accommodations, but on an idea that it is generally better for society if we make sacrifices to accomplish our collectively beneficial role of being more inclusive.

I have in the past rejected the idea that mothers have such individual rights, but it deserves more attention. At heart, each woman is making a choice - not just the choice to be mother, but to become a primary caretaker - to enter into parenthood without a mate who shares equally in the task. This right must be based on some sort of argument that asserts the biological imperative of procreation creates such rights. After all, where else can we derive the assertion that someone's choices give them extensive rights for rules that apply only to them? However, I don't see how we would make the connection between biology and rights here, anymore than we could make the argument that someone has a right to surf on company time because finding a mate is a likewise natural drive.

While one could make a colorable argument that she is contributing to society, I will reiterate the point that this alone cannot substantiate a demand for special accommodations, any more than a returning Peace Corps volunteer could demand a right to be reinstated in her old job. Furthermore, this idea itself is disputable, especially in light of overpopulation and bad parenting. If we were to base assistance on the idea that mothers are doing a positive good, could we not then demand an accounting of that fact? I doubt many would endorse a scheme whereby we evaluate the quality of parenting.

But there is a need for more women in the workforce. Attaining a 'critical mass' would go a long way to making the office be a more open and comfortable place for all women. As long as females form a small plurality or act as 'tokens', the nature of the workplace will remain the same. We will be forced to adapt to a man's world, and the (arguable) results of a male-dominated workplace will remain in force. While changing that workplace might seem like a claim akin to the same special accommodations demanded by mothers, it is not. This culture has little to do with productivity, and what we are hoping for is a natural result, not a forced ban on sports talk and machismo.

And while it might be based on unfortunate and controllable factors, it still remains a reality that increasing the number of women in the workforce means changing the rules to suit primary care-giving mothers. No matter how much such situations are a choice, their existence will remain an obstacle to workplace gender parity for the foreseeable future.

If one is crafting this on par with affirmative action, the alternative scenario deserves attention. What is a workplace without such special rule for mothers? Imagine, for the sake of argument, that you could even remove the cultural aspects of this; the forces that allow mothers to leave early with little questioning. We would essentially have four types of workers: 1) the childless, 2) those with a spouse who bears most of the childcare duties, 3) those who share equally in the task, and 4) those who practice a form of nanny or daycare based absentee parenting. While both genders would be represented in the first group, men will dominate the second, while the fourth category will be mostly women. The workplace will become a space where childcare interference is rare, where an employer is not mandated to hold open positions for pregnant women, and where the special benefits granted to parents are less. In other words - a more efficient and productive place, at the cost of gender balance.

I would contend that there are both positive and negative aspects to both scenarios. Chosing between them is a matter of policy; a matter of choosing priorities, and of choosing the level of governmental interference with the free market. I seriously doubt that any of these issues are going to be resolved anytime soon.

However, unless we divorce ourselves from the assumption that mothers have an inherent, individual right to special workplace accommodations, an assumption based on deep-seated traditions and emotional underpinnings, we will never make an honest assessment of what the correct balance is.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Embracing the decision not to procreate

Kids R Not Us
Childfree organizations have been around for a few decades, but new social groups, books, an online magazine, unscripted: the childfree life, and myriad Web sites (Childfree by Choice alone links to 20 other resources) have sprung up in the past few years, their visibility fueled by the Internet but also by changing attitudes. In the 1950s, there was an assumption that everyone would get married, then have children. Family life "proceeded in lockstep," said Stephanie Coontz, a professor at Evergreen State College in Washington and director of research and public education at the Council on Contemporary Families. As many as 80 percent of people thought that staying single and childless was "deviant or abnormal," she said. But in the 1970s, amid turbulent social change, the availability of the birth control pill and public debate about population growth, those assumptions were challenged. These days, the "vast majority" of people think it is acceptable not to have kids or marry, said Coontz.
Congratulations to all those who gave such great interviews, especially Laura, Teri and Chris (all of whom I have had the opportunity to work with).

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