Stay-At-Home Wives & Social Capital

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I’ll cut President Obama some slack. When he said that women staying at home with the kids is “not a choice we want Americans to make,” I assume he meant that it shouldn’t be a choice that women are forced to make. Even so, I have a beef with the tunnel vision that accompanies the conversation about women staying at home, as if it’s a balancing act between income and child care.

“What’s your schedule today?” I asked my wife a few minutes ago. Today, it starts with a trip into the nearby small city to do volunteer work for the local Literacy Council, which provides free English instruction for immigrants. That’s today. Tomorrow, it will be one of a half-dozen other civic obligations she has chosen to take on. She’s not unusual. In that crucially important reality—she’s not unusual—is something that needs to be front and center when we talk about women who “stay at home.” Better parental care is one of the benefits, but I think the effects on America’s social capital are even more important.

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