Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Siding with Atheists

In reading about and listening to people who discuss (and debate) the relationship between science and religion, I fall pretty clearly on the side favoring the compatibility of religion with a scientific world view, and on the side of their being good reasons to believe in God. That said, I not infrequently find myself siding with the arguments of those who speak against God.

For example, I listened to some debates between William Lane Craig and Lawrence Krauss. In these debates, Craig stated that the New Atheists typically argue against the 'God of the gaps', and that he argues against that God, too. He believes in a God that is throughout everything. Those words sound so close to what I believe. I believe we see evidence of God in science, not where science leaves off. But I think some of the arguments Craig gives as strong evidence for God are weak. As Krauss says, arguing for the Christian God based on historical scientists who believed in God, or even based on the fact that Christian scientists and a Christian culture were responsible for the development of modern science, is proof of nothing. They are facts consistent with multiple hypotheses. And again I side with Krauss when he says the arguments from purpose and design are meaningless. To say that there must be a reason for existence, and then follow a chain of logic through to what characteristics that meaning for existence must have and then say "that is God," is not sound argument. Why must there be reason for existence? And even if I admit there must be reason, why must it lead to belief in a transcendent God rather than a simple creator from which great complexity emerges? It doesn't have to. Why must purpose always have been? Why can't it, too, emerge with complexity? The arguments may be reason for belief (although they aren't reasons for mine), but they are far from logical proofs of anything.

But perhaps my biggest criticism of Craig's position is that he isn't arguing against a God of the gaps. He is arguing for the God of the great, eternal gap. He is arguing for the God that is the originator of science, and by definition forever out of the reach of science. He is arguing for the God that is the creator and encompasser of nature, so forever indistinguishable from His creation to the eyes of science. He is arguing for the Omni-God, and to my mind the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God is also omni-unknowable and omni-unreachable. So what if His condescension makes him a tiny bit accessible, it's not the God of Mormonism. It's not my God. If science allows a God that isn't by His very definition beyond science, it isn't the omni-God. It's a God made from the dust of the stars, a God we can become one with in the heavens, a God we can become.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Poor Women in Rich Countries: All the rest

While each of the seven countries studied in the book Poor Women in Rich Countries is different, some patterns became very clear as I read. As I list them you may well think, "That's just common sense." It seems that way to me. At the same time, I believe this common sense can give new perspective on persistent problems. Here's what I saw:

Being unemployed or underemployed for any significant portion of your life puts you and your family at risk for poverty. If you are not fully invested in the labor market for your entire adult life, you are at much greater risk for poverty. The details of the risk vary from country to country, but the patterns are the same. Even if not being invested for a lifetime in the labor market doesn't make you poor, it is likely to put you in a position where one serious mishap may make you poor. As a recap, who is at most risk for poverty?
  • The unemployed
  • The underemployed
  • The precariously or low-wage employed
  • Immigrants
  • The sick, injured, or disabled
  • Older workers and the elderly
  • Young workers in a bad economy
  • The unskilled or uneducated
  • Lone parents
  • Large families
You may have noticed I left out women and mothers even though this book was primarily about lone mothers and elderly women. To see why, let's look at the common consequences of choosing to become a mother:
  • Most women leave or delay employment or education to have children--often because there is no good alternative.
  • Many women work part time and low paying jobs to allow them to care for children.
  • Women provide most of the child care after divorces or separations without receiving economic security (in all forms) equal to what they would have had in a continued marriage.
  • Women risk injury, sickness, and disability every time they bear a child.
What do these things result in?
  • Many women have less education and work experience than their contemporary men because they chose to provide our society with children and to dedicate their efforts to raising those children. This means they earn less money over their lifetimes.
  • Many women receive fewer benefits toward retirement, healthcare, etc. that are provided by employers contingent on employment (and often on full time or skilled employment).
  • Many women receive fewer state benefits related to employment (like Social Security in the U.S.)
  • Many women receive fewer state benefits offered as incentives toward employment.
In short, most mothers are dependent on others to have any sense of economic security. When the state effectively provides this security, poverty rates among mothers are significantly reduced and can be nearly as low as among other groups, and occasionally lower than some other groups. When the state doesn't provide this security, or has policies that exacerbate the natural problems encountered by choosing motherhood, women have higher risk of poverty than other groups, and lone mothers and elderly women tend to be at highest risk.

It is clear that the solutions are hard. Every country tries different things to reduce poverty, and success varies. There are many competing interests and ideologies. Countries like the U.S. and Germany have followed the male-breadwinner model for combating poverty. While helping some groups, mothers who are divorced, widowed, or never married (for whatever reason) are generally disadvantaged (or at least less benefited) by many policies. The U.K. and Sweden (and others) have followed a full adult employment model where many benefits are geared toward encouraging every adult to work. Many of these policies disadvantage (or benefit less) mothers because mothers require time out of the labor market to bear and raise children.

I do not have answers. It is clear that they must be developed within specific contexts and real constraints. What I am convinced of is that we can measure how much we really value things, as a society, by how much money we give them. We will be able to tell that we value mothers and motherhood equally with other pursuits when motherhood brings no more risk of poverty (or straightened means) than any other valued life path. I don't think we will get there until we have mothers making decisions on all of our governing councils--in public and private life. I intend to lend my voice, my vote, and my aid to get us there.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Poor Women in Rich Countries: France

Another chapter summary about France:
  • Unemployment, underemployment, and precarious employment are high for a European country. Young people and women are disproportionately represented in these groups (and that doesn't count women who are not in the labor market), and lone mothers are additionally disadvantaged.
  • A two point pattern is appearing with Sweden and France. Common risk factors for poverty:
    • having children: the more the poorer
    • being a lone parent: never married is worse than divorced or separated
    • being young in a troubled economy
    • being weakly integrated into the labor market
    • being an immigrant
  • I probably haven't captured everything, but the more of these factors you have, the greater your likelihood of poverty. Being a single mother is likely to compound other issues more than simply being young, a father, or an immigrant. Single mothers are likely
    • to be employed less than they wish
    • to be employed in temporary jobs or jobs with irregular hours (making child care harder)
    • to have barriers to getting education and training
    • to not qualify for employer sponsored assistance programs (parental leave, sick leave, retirement benefits, etc.)
    • to not qualify for or receive less from government sponsored incentives to work (lower income dependent benefits, like Social Security in the US)
  • Social transfers do a lot to reduce poverty among lone-parent families
    • in Sweden they very nearly eliminate poverty
    • in France they reduce poverty among lone parents from what would be 41.7% before transfers to 13.9% after transfers.
      • Family transfers (money given to households simply because they have children) account for the biggest reduction in poverty rates
      • Housing transfers are second
      • Basic minimum income transfers were least significant of the three
  • Elderly women in France receive pensions (after all sources of income are included) roughly 60-65% those of men in all 65+ age groups. Women are twice as likely to be poor. [This seems like a pretty clear indicator that the French have economically valued the contributions of women less than men. I can see plenty of ways to justify this discrepancy, but I can't see any moral way around this fact. Put simply, we don't care enough about what you did raising children to care for you equally with men after your working years are past--despite the fact that caring for children was likely the single biggest factor in your lower retirement income. Is there an easy solution? I doubt it. But there will be no solution until we face the problem squarely and call it what it is.]
  • There is a lot more on specific stuff that makes a few things clear:
    • Policy solutions are difficult for many reasons. Really difficult.
    • Two parent (and two earner in most cases) households are very important for avoiding poverty and the resulting consequences for children.
    • If you don't integrate yourself into the workforce fully because you chose to care for children instead of doing the things required to be fully integrated in a stable, well-paying job, you are at greater risk of poverty--whatever age and whatever your family situation, but particularly for lone women.
    • Social transfers of money (in cash and services) can significantly reduce poverty rates.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Answers to Prayers

I have often made analogies for myself between learning the gospel and learning science. I tend to think they are essentially the same, so I'm sure my analogies sometimes overreach, but I have long thought of learning to recognize the Spirit as a grand experiment. I'm sure Alma had some influence on that, but I continue to find the comparison fruitful.

When you are learning to do new experiments in the lab, you begin by repeating others' experiments. You do things that already have an answer. We call them controls. Every experimenter has to make sure that he or she is a master of the technique. If you can't get the right answer on something that is known, how can you trust any new results? And you have to get it right lots of times to show you are a master. I have found listening to the Spirit to be very similar. How can I know if the Spirit was speaking to me, or if it was simply wishful thinking and ever-present emotions? I struggled with this for a long time. What I did was I looked for the experiments with known answers. I looked to see if I could get answers that I knew corresponded with good fruits. Then I looked for less certain answers and tried to pay attention for when they came. When they did, I looked to see if they produced good fruits. If they did, I thought, that was the Spirit. And I tried to pay attention. I thought I could discern a difference between emotional manipulation and the Spirit, or I at least knew enough warning signs to be cautious if there was significant possibility of the former.

Enough of the framework. There are some difficult implications of this--at least for me. I had to learn to get answers to prayers by getting the expected answers. People had to teach me how to ask the questions and what the answers would be. I had to be indoctrinated in the discipline of recognizing the Spirit. There is no way around it that I can see. We all have to be indoctrinated in a new discipline if we ever hope to master it. But once you begin to master it--even a little--you have to step away from the known answers, and that is when the unexpected can happen. My unexpected answers have led me away from the mainstream. I wonder if this is unavoidable? If you ask questions that haven't been answered in scripture or by prophets, or questions where prophets have contradicted each other, or questions where two moral goods are in need of balancing and neither can be satisfied fully, then you are going to get answers that lead you away from the mainstream at least sometimes, and maybe away from some prophets when there are necessary contradictions. Asking new questions is dangerous by definition if safety is in conservatism. Here are some of the Safe and Dangerous questions I have asked on my journey:

Safe question: Is man woman marriage ordained of God and an essential part of his plan? I got a yes to this.

Dangerous question: Do any other family arrangements fit in the plan? What ones? How? I didn't get an answer to this at all until after several years of studying biology and family. It took time for me to even think of these questions, and more time to be willing to ask.

SQ: Is it right to pray to Heavenly Father? I still haven't asked this question. It works for me. The fruits are good.

DQ: Is it good to pray to Mother in Heaven? Ever? When? Where? It took a close friend telling me that he couldn't picture a loving Heavenly Father. He could hardly picture a loving father of any kind, and didn't believe in God as a result. Then other people shared with me their views of God and why they had to change their views from the Old Man in the Sky that they learned as children. When they did, they found connection with Deity that they had never known before. It took me years to really believe this. My Dad in Heaven works great for me. But is this image I have of Him worth fighting for to the point that I would deny others connection with the divine? Or label them as flawed or inauthentic? When I could no longer deny them this, then I was ready to ask the questions. My answers surprised me, and I think these are just for me. But I'm glad I asked.

SQ: Is this Your true church, guided by You through living prophets, and capable of leading souls to salvation? Should I be baptized (serve a mission, go to temple)? I got a yes, yes, yes, etc. I safely generalized these yeses.

DQ: Will anyone else be saved? What about someone who no longer believes in Mormonism? Only partly believes? Believes but had to leave to be healthy and happy? Are there really righteous people who leave? Are there really people feeling the Spirit telling them to become nuns? Isn't that just because they didn't have the chance to be Mormon? If they had learned about Mormonism, wouldn't the Spirit have told them to do something different? I answered the first with an "Of course. God will straighten everything out in the Millennium and after. Everyone will have a real chance to become Mormon." Then I didn't have to deal with the logical and emotional consequences of the other questions. It took about seven years of being a missionary (two full time and five as a stake/ward/member missionary) to sincerely ask the next of these questions. It took another ten years of life experience to force me to ask the rest and not just accept my simple answer. Now I don't have an answer. I've lived the value of ordinances, but I can only trust that they have eternal significance for me--and I'm not sure what their place is for everyone. I have answers to some of these questions, but they have left me with more questions than before. I hope they've given me greater compassion.

SQ: What should I do to help my home teaching family in need? I call it safe, but this is frequently a harder question than many of the others.

DQ: What should I support to reduce poverty and injustice in my city, state, and nation? I have Spirit motivated opinions, here, but I can tell you God hasn't given me clear answers. I'm not sure I even know the right questions, or that I've studied it out enough to understand. But what I have understood sometimes makes me a stranger among my people.

SQ: Is ___________ called of God? I've had numerous yeses to this question.

DQ: Is this teaching from __________ good and true? Should I do what _________ counseled me? I've had both yeses and stupors of thought on these. I've had numerous silences, as well. I've had yeses that I later learned were partial mistakes--it was good for me to do what I did, but it wasn't good or true in a fuller sense.

How do I live in this minefield? As carefully as I can. I watch my step and trust the Doctor (and don't ask Doctor Who? It's not him) will be able to put any mistakes I make back together. Every once in a while I rush headlong after someone that seems to be in danger, forgetting that there might be mines between him and me. Sometimes I get sad or scared and just hide where I am, wishing it would all go away. Sometimes I yell at all the people I think are responsible for the mines. Sometimes I accuse people of not being serious or good or thoughtful if they aren't wandering around the same field with me. I'm sorry. I also think God has drawn me to the danger. If it isn't where He wants me to be, I'm not sure I've learned anything about hearing His answers. This is my path, for now. Hopefully it's the strait and narrow, because it definitely isn't the straight and narrow.

Poor Women in Rich Countries: Sweden

Another chapter summary, this time about the study on Sweden:
  • Low poverty by any measure because basic services and wealth transfers are provided to lift most people to the level of 50-60% of median income.
  • This was accomplished to a significant degree through a focus on the right to work (attempted universal employment).
  • Lots of parents--mothers and fathers--are paid to stay home with their infants for more than a month, however there are many pressures and incentives for both parents to work. Sweden isn't the best place for someone who wants to be a full-time stay at home mom or dad (I think there are many part-time SAHMs, still). That said, the U.S. may not be statistically very different, and public support services for working parents (whatever your income level) are much better than in the U.S.
  • Guaranteed child support (the state pays "alimony" whether or not the father pays the state) for solo mothers, and payed time off to care for sick children (used more by solo mothers than any other group) have prevented poverty for many solo mothers.
  • Sweden did away with the legal concept of illegitimacy, and all children have the same rights, whatever their parentage.
  • Lower economic barriers for divorce (women aren't afraid they will be poor if they leave an unhappy marriage), and increased acceptance of cohabitation (among other factors) have increased the number of unmarried parents. About 25% of households are single parent households. About 1/3 of the remaining households are cohabiting, two-parent households. [Again, I wonder how statistically different this is from the U.S.?]
  • Benefit cuts in 1990s-2000s hit unemployed people harder than others, and single parents were more likely to be unemployed (30% unemployed part of the year and for longer periods than other households in the late 90s, higher rates of temporary employment, more with two jobs, more working and looking for work at the same time, and more leaving the labor market).
  • Early 1990s, 6% of unemployed solo mothers were in poverty, and less than 1% of employed solo mothers were in poverty. In 2000, 4% of employed solo mothers were poor, and even more unemployed were poor.
  • Risk factors for poverty (among solo mothers, in particular, but some are general)
    • never married/cohabiting higher risk than divorced or separated. Married mothers were more likely to have been integrated into the labor market and to receive significant parental leave benefits and guaranteed work after leave, even if they were currently divorced.
    • young children was the strongest factor (ages 1-3)
    • number of children was significant, with 4+ more likely to correlate with poverty
    • being an immigrant
  • Elderly women still have very low poverty rates, even if their income is roughly 60% that of elderly men.
  • Both solo mothers and elderly women have fared pretty well in Sweden, even though recent policies have created some increased disparity in gender income. More women are close to the poverty line, but not many more are below it. Immigrants are the group that is suffering the most poverty, currently, in Sweden.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Books that Changed Me

Thinking about books I've read that I can identify as life-changing. Books that literally and quickly changed the way I think. Here are the ones that come to mind right now, roughly in chronological order:

Ethics, by William Frankena (~1994)

full text
This was recommended to me by a graduate student or post-doc at Brigham Young University who taught my introductory symbolic logic class. It took me three times reading the first chapter to understand Socrates's arguments as presented by Frankena. Then it all of a sudden clicked. I learned how hard it is to think like a philosopher, and I developed my first muscles in that pursuit.

The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen (~1994)

I read these poems for my History of Civilization class taught be Wilfred Griggs and Alan Keele. I started them early in the semester--several weeks before they were required--and as a result I was able to really live with them rather than cramming them into a week. I experienced the pity of war, just as Owen hoped, and it was terrible. His use of my own religious symbolism, with Abraham slaying Isaac when he should have been saved, and other messages, stole much of the thoughtless joy I had in war games and stories of violent heroism. It was replaced with a longing sadness for peace.

Reviving Ophelia, by Mary Pipher (~1995)

I had no idea what the girls I lived with growing up experienced in safe, middle class America. I just had no idea. Thank you, Candice and Adria, for telling me I would like the book. It is an ultimately hopeful book, and Pipher's book The Shelter of Each Other about strengthening families is perhaps even better.

Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, by Hugh Nibley (1996 or 1998-9, or both)

full text
This book includes Hugh Nibley's calls to be socially conscious, be thoughtful and truly educated, effectively lead, and care for the environment. Nibley showed me using LDS authority that Mormonism is not conservative, American Christianity, but something both greater and more demanding. I have never looked back.

The Emperor's Embrace, by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (~2003)

This book about animal fatherhood shaped my aspirations as a human father. That is the biggest personal influence it has been on me. But it also opened the door to the idea that family structures other than the man-woman nuclear family may be valuable. It first disabused me of the idea that homosexuality was unnatural--it is found among many animal species. Second, it showed documented examples of where same-sex parenting in the animal world provided better care for young than mixed-sex couples. I honestly didn't believe it, at first. I couldn't fit these facts in my world view, but I couldn't deny the documentation. This was the beginning of the shift in my views on homosexuality and marriage equality, although the process to arrive where I am now took another 12 years.

Don't Call It Love, by Patrick Carnes (~2003)

If you've experienced the process of feeling bound by sin, weakness, and personal failure to understanding you are human, normal, and free to undergo real change (rather than the imagined change of being cured of your humanity), then you understand how this changed me.

Can Science Be Faith Promoting, by Stirling Talmadge (~2004)

I found in Brother Talmadge a friend and an example. A faithful Saint who blamed dogma for destruction of faith--even if a prohpet said it--not scientific inquiry. A scientist who embraced revelation and said scientists who rejected it had their eyes closed to great truth and beauty. I understood more deeply my responsibility to learn for myself--from science and from God.

Sex and World Peace, by Hudson et al. (2015)

This book begins identifying how treatment of women relates to the safety and security of our whole world. It puts numbers on Feminist policies (from mandatory maternity leave and educating girls to stopping genital mutilation and female infanticide), and finds that the lot of women in a country corresponds more strongly with peacefulness than do democracy, wealth, or the degree of Islamic civilization--the three main contenders for predicting war and peacefulness in most of the literature. While a portion of the book is statistically dense (although not detailed in the way research articles would be), it begins as an eye-opening and accessible description of just what difficulties women in different parts of the world face. I believed I was privileged as a man, but I thought it was a little less fear taking a walk at night, a little easier time getting my students or colleagues to listen to me, and a few more opportunities at church. I had no idea of the divide between my experience and that of women in my own life, which is almost nothing compared to the distance between me and women of some other countries. It took seeing numbers and hearing the stories for this second Feminist awakening to sink in. And quite frankly, this is the most painful change of all these stories. Maybe this is "welcome to mid-life".

It's a good ride, so far.

Poor Women in Rich Countries: Intro

The studies in the collection, Poor Women in Rich Countries, primarily examine the situation of single women--single mothers and single elderly women--but not exclusively. "Focusing solely on single women, however, fails to tap the gender-related poverty of married women and the likelihood that many of them would join the ranks of the poor if they were on their own." ". . . feminization of poverty is a measure of both the risk of poverty and the composition of the poor. It depends on the proportion of women in a particular population group who are on their own and the difference between their poverty rates and that of other individuals and families in that group." By the late 1980s, single-mother families made up the majority of poor families in the United States. Japan and Canada had poor, single mothers, but not a lot of them. Sweden didn't have many poor people, even though they had as large a proportion of single mothers as the United States, and France didn't have many poor people or single mothers. Consequently only the United States had a marked feminization of poverty. Data were insufficient to say much about Poland or the Soviet Union at that time.

The studies in PWiRC cover Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Trends are mostly not studied or reported, but since six of the countries are the same as those studies 20 years earlier, some trends may tentatively be inferred. Poverty is considered feminized if women predominate among a particular group of the poor.

Large percentages of women have low or no income in most of the countries in the studies. "A wife's small income that keeps the family out of poverty or in modest comfort can become a path to poverty if she has to support herself as a divorcee or widow." "Over two decades ago, Hilda Scott estimated that between two-thirds and three-fourths of American women of working age would be poor if they were obliged to support themselves and just one dependent." "As the principal caregivers in their families, married women suffer disadvantages in the labor market that lower their earnings, skill acquisition, and occupational mobility." "Why, then, do we spotlight lone mothers? One reason is that the way a society treats them is an indication of its policies toward women, generally."

"sex differences in longevity mean that it is women who are affected most by the income risks associated with the loss of a partner."

Four factors contributing to feminized family poverty:
  • Labor market conditions
  • Equalization policies
  • Social welfare
  • Demography

Social Policy

Social welfare and demography are most important for single, elderly women. The proportion of elderly women among the poor is greater than their proportion among the elderly (higher percentage of poor elderly women than men). [how much? Check Smeeding & Sandstrom, 2005] Also being a racial or ethnic minority woman increases likelihood of being poor further.

While dismantling, retrenchment, and restructuring of the post WWII welfare states have been limited, they have been effectively and measurably reduced in the United Kingdom and the United States. One example is the Clinton era welfare reforms requiring single parents (mothers mostly) to leave the home and go to work. [What does this choice say about our desire to have children cared for by their mothers? I think this is a question we need to seriously think about. What are the alternatives?]

Social security and old age insurance have been subject to cutbacks in a number of countries: Sweden, Germany, Britain, U.S. (in the form of reduced replacement rates and increased retirement age). [I think some of these changes are probably wise, on the whole, but some have disproportionately hurt elderly women.]

Germany and Japan have increased welfare in ways intended to increase birth rates. Long-term care insurance, parental and family leaves, public childcare, and support services for workers with family responsibilities were expanded in Japan. Germany added nursing home insurance and child care.

Sweden, Italy, and France increased or maintained high levels of child care, but decreased or maintained low levels of elder care.

Labor Market Conditions

Single mothers not buffered from poverty by dual income household.

Unemployment percentages don't differ by gender until you count the number of people who have left the job market because they have given up on looking for work. This group is disproportionately female. [This is illustrated by the fact that:] Single mothers have an unemployment rate 6% points higher than married mothers (in the U.S. in 2005). This difference likely also reflects the high proportion of minority women among U.S. single mothers.

Male breadwinner model breaking down in all countries, including Germany and Japan where it was formerly strong. A significant factor in this appears to be decreasing numbers of stable jobs and increasing numbers of "precarious" jobs (temporary, without benefits, without prospects of promotion, part-time, or some combination of these things).

Demographic Trends

Average increase in rates of single parenthood in wealthy countries in the last 15-20 years of the 20th century was 60%. [What was the overall rate? A 60% increase starting at 1% is only .6%, but starting at 20% is an additional 12%, or 30% would mean nearly half of homes were single parented. Judging by my approximate knowledge of LDS statistics, I'd guess it's closer to the shift from 20 to 32%.]

Average poverty for citizen households in six countries was 8%, compared to 26% for migrant households and 32% for ethnic minority migrant households (in 5 of the six countries).

Theoretical Perspectives

How closely are welfare benefits [or social benefits provided by the state] tied to the market status of the recipients? Three categories: social democratic, corporate/conservative, and liberal. Feminist theorists suggested adding the criteria of how closely benefits are dependent on family structure: do they aid lone women (i.e. single mothers) in escaping poverty? Asking this question shows the three categories to be oversimplified and incapable of addressing the data from multiple countries [e.g. not all social democratic countries are as similar and the welfare categorization would imply]. Lone mothers do best where benefits such as child care, employment, education, and retraining, desegregation and pay equity, and nurturing the very young without financial ruin, are provided to all mothers, irrespective of family situation.

"Dual-earner-dual-carer societies" may encourage men to be more involved in care of children (especially young children and after divorce), but they don't help single mothers. It could also be claimed that dual income and women's independence threatens family interdependence, but it is worth noting that dual-income societies developed as the economic necessity for two incomes developed [i.e. a consequence of economic changes, not primarily of ideology].

Does welfare make women subjects under the control of the state, or consumers of state provided services? While receiving help do they retain all rights, or forfeit some (or many)?

Single (and poor) mothers have high barriers to being politically involved.

How can lone women escape poverty? That's what this study asks.

The Countries

Continent Welfare Regime Other Differences
Sweden Europe Social Democratic Size and population,
population diversity,
% resources used to reduce poverty in vulnerable groups,
conceptions of men's and women's roles
(but all are among the world's wealthiest countries).
Germany Europe Conservative
France Europe Conservative
Italy Europe Conservative
Japan Asia Conservative
Canada North America Liberal
United Kingdom Europe Liberal
United States North Americ Liberal

Interesting events relevant to this study:
  • Reunification of Germany.
  • Large spike in unemployment in Sweden (after decades of nearly universal employment).
  • Substantial increases in poverty and economic inequality in the U.K. and the U.S. beginning in ~1980 and increasing throughout the time of this study.
  • Canada was willing to spend on social welfare throughout most of the study period until 2006.
  • Unemployment severe and prolonged in France, Germany, and Italy.
  • Japan appears to be expanding welfare under the duress of a severe decline in fertility.
"Social exclusion" includes unemployment, poor skills, poor housing, high crime environments, bad health, family breakdown, exclusion of people (particularly children) from full participation in society as the result of poverty or marginalization. "Quality of life" is another broad measure including more than just poverty.
"Employment is an important component of social functioning in Sen's conception, and as he and others have emphasized, it can contribute more to well-being than income. At the same time, employment at low wages under oppressive working conditions is a form of deprivation. Without relief of family responsibilities, it is especially oppressive." p. 18