I had an interesting conversation today with Amelia Tyagi, co-author of The Two-Income Trap
, a book I really can't recommend enough. Over the course of our talk it became clear that policies oriented towards the middle-class really need to take into account the innate competition
among middle-class families. For instance, offering free child care to working mothers may help working mothers, but it puts families with stay-at-home moms at a comparative disadvantage, and encourages those
moms to enter the workforce.
What sort of disadvantage are we talking about? The main competition, it seems, arises when families start jockeying for homes—especially jockeying for homes in good school districts. Most middle-class families have realized that both parents need to work, not as a luxury, but as the only possible way to shelter their children from crappy schools. A child-care policy that encourages this rat race only makes middle-class families more insecure.