The Deconstruction of Marriage, Part 2:

Is the Political Economy of Gender-Based Affirmative Action Good for the Home Economy? George Steven Swan, S.J.D. When the new governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, was on the campaign trail last summer, the Washington Post expressed alarm about his 1989 master’s thesis that had noted, among other things, the impact of rising rates of labor-force participation among mothers on the well-being of children and the health of the family. Fearing that his research paper would distract from his disciplined focus on “jobs,” the Republican candidate moved quickly to distance himself from a controversy the newspaper seemed anxious to create. He told the media that the matter he had written about at Pat Robertson’s graduate school twenty years ago “was simply an academic exercise and clearly does not reflect my views.” In fact, he pointed out that his wife and three grown daughters currently work outside the home and that he had hired five women in senior posts as Virginia’s attorney general.[1] That McDonnell went on to win the largest gubernatorial victory in the commonwealth in a generation may confirm that the heat of a campaign is not the place to shed light on problems that an academic paper identifies or quantifies. At the same time, McDonnell’s reluctance to concede that his thesis raised a legitimate question illustrates that few Americans today understand the disastrous consequences of the obsession of American public policy, since the 1970s, with moving more women into “jobs” via affirmative action. The consequences of this aspect of political economy go beyond the concern of McDonnell’s thesis, the well-being of children who lack the full-time care and attention of their mothers. Expressed in terms of modern functionalism, the latent functions of affirmative action for women include the debasement of the very home economy that makes marriage a bargain. By eroding the liberties that men and women formerly enjoyed as breadwinners and hom
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