Marital Parenthood and American Prosperity:

As Goes the Middle-Class Family, So Goes the Nation The middle-class family—as both a cultural ideal and a social reality—has contributed significantly to American prosperity. From the yeoman farmers of Jefferson’s republic to the white-collar workers of today, the middle-class family has passed the torch of liberty to the rising generation. The heterogeneity of America’s middle-class voters stabilized the twentieth-century political spectrum sufficiently to forestall the pressures of working-class demagoguery that fueled fascist regimes in other nations. The African-American civil-rights movement owes much of its success to the black middle class. The adage may in fact ring true: as goes the middle class, so goes America. A second adage is like unto it: as goes the family, so goes the nation. The achievements identified above did not spring from individuals in isolation, nor from individuals united primarily into non-familial institutions. Rather, the coordinated efforts of fathers and mothers, on behalf of and assisted by their children, built a class of “middling sorts” which has sustained the American Dream amid the challenges of global warfare, economic depression, and political turmoil. This is not to say families always are self-sufficient, for the middle-class family of the industrial age owes its preservation to both private corporations and public welfare. The irony, however, is that the same institutions that strengthened American families and fostered middle-class prosperity in the early-twentieth century weakened family bonds and eviscerated the middle class in the late twentieth century. The story of the twentieth-century American middle class involves both triumph and tragedy as individuals and their families sought to adapt their inherited wisdom to changing circumstances. Male Breadwinning and Republican Motherhood Two particular family values shaped the formation of the American middle class during the 1800s. Specifically, t
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