From the Publisher
“A landmark book.” San Francisco Chronicle
“Powerful and important . . . Written with a fine passion, The Price of Motherhood challenges the received ideas of economists, feminists, and conservatives alike and ought to be read by all of them.” The New York Times Book Review
“A scathing indictment of policies that cheat mothers . . . Crittenden turns out a fresh, persuasive argument. Sure to inspire vigorous debate.” Megan Rutherford, Time
“Fascinating . . . shows how women have been consistently denied social and, more important, monetary equality for raising their families.” Susan Straight, Los Angeles Times
This stunning read addresses the harsh reality of a society that, while glorifying motherhood in theory, relegates mothers to second-class status. In fact, the author identifies motherhood as the "single biggest risk factor for poverty in old age," a chilling assertion. With a mix of outrage and sensibility, Crittenden pinpoints the failings of society toward mothers and offers suggestions for improved treatment of this marginalized sector.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Americans extol motherhood as "the most important job in the world," yet when couples divorce, mothers' and their children's standards of living usually decline precipitously, while fathers' rise. Crittenden, a former economics reporter for the New York Times, lays out the going rate for a woman's time: "$150 an hour or more as a professional, $50 an hour or more in some businesses, $15 an hour or so as a teacher, $5 to $8 an hour as a day-care worker and zero as a mother." Mothers (whose labor is not calculated in any official economic index) have no unemployment insurance to tide them over after divorce, no workers' compensation if they're injured and no Social Security benefits for the work they do, although a housekeeper or nanny paid for the same work would earn such benefits. In a breezy, journalistic style, Crittenden chronicles how the Industrial Revolution created the idea of the "unproductive housewife," how this concept penalizes women after divorce and how tax policies encourage mothers to quit work. Crittenden proposes several remedies, some available in most industrialized countries (paid maternity leave, flexible work hours for parents, universal preschool, free health coverage for children) and others seemingly utopian (Social Security credits for mothering, remedying the tax bias against married working mothers). This thoroughly documented and incisive book is must reading for women contemplating parenthood or divorce, and could prove an organizing tool for women's organizations. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Crittenden (Killing the Sacred Cows: Bold Ideas for a New Economy) draws upon hundreds of interviews to illustrate the irony of American society's praise of the "profession" of maternal love/care while undervaluing and exploiting mothers. Even as late as 1995, "married working mothers in the United States with children earned half of what their husbands earned." These economic dependents have been paying the dreaded "mommy tax": lost income (more than $1 million) owing to the "wages foregone by the primary parent." Obviously, well-educated, high-income individuals are the most severely penalized. This exemplary book covers the economic myths of motherhood through the stark testimonies of childcare hardships and financial inequality in marriage: "The pay $580 a month was barely enough to cover the bills for a family of four, but not enough for decent day care .Her ex-husband never paid a nickel in child support." A wonderful resource for students of economics, women's studies, politics, and for parents-to-be, this book should be a wake-up call to America. Kay Meredith Dusheck, Univ. of Iowa, Iowa City Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
A newspaper reporter told me that his wife used to be his boss before she quit to raise their two children. She now makes one-fourth of his salary, working as a part-time consultant. "It was her choice," he says.
But mothers' choices are not made in a vacuum. They are made according to rules mothers didn't write. Married working mothers pay the highest taxes in the country on their earned income, which powerfully affects their choice of whether to work or not. And what many mothers really want is a good part-time job, yet there is no rich and vibrant part-time labor market in the United States.
To most women choice is all about bad options and difficult decisions: your child or your profession; taking on the domestic chores or marital strife; a good night's sleep or time with your child; food on the table or your baby's safety; your right arm or your left.