VITAL SIGNSrnECONOMICSrnGlobalization andrnthe Decline of thernFamilyrnby William R HawkinsrnBy many important indicators, thernAmerican economy is soaring. Unemploymentrnhas hit a 30-year low, andrnproductivity is on the rise. These two factors,rncombined with low inflation, havernfinally started to push up real wages forrnmost workers. Yet below the surface,rnconditions are not so encouraging on therneconomic front and even less so on thernbroader social-cultural front. As “globalization”rnincreases the pressure on thernU.S. economy, the American family isrnfeeling the strain. And as the family fails,rnthe culture implodes.rnThe pay of the typical worker in mid-rn1998 was still not as high as it was inrn1989, the year of the last business-cyclernpeak. When the business cycle nextrnturns, the average American worker mayrnfind he has not gained much from thernseven “fat years” of the 1990’s. This isrnparticularly true for men. The wage ofrnthe median male has fallen 0.5 percentrnper year since 1989. Mostof the loss wasrnduring the 1989-96 period, when thernmedian male wage fell 1.1 percent annually.rnStrong growth in the last two yearsrnhas helped low-wage male workers regainrnsome of the ground lost, but theirrnannual income from wages in the firstrnhalf of 1998 was still about $1,000 belowrnthat of 1989. And it should be rememberedrnthat wages in 1989 were lowerrnthan in 1979, having fallen an average ofrn0.2 percent per year during the 1980’s.rnThe wage of the median female worker,rnwhich rose consistently during thern1980’s, fell 0.2 percent per year fromrn1989 to 1996. Wage increases over thernlast 18 months, however, yielded a 0.3rnpercent annual growth rate over the Rillrnperiod. Thus female workers lost lessrnduring the 1989-1996 period and haverngained more since 1996. Wliile medianrnmale workers’ real wages fell about 6.7rnpercent over the 1989-97 period, women’srnwages increased slighfly.rnIncluding non-wage fringe benefits,rnsuch as health care and pensions, doesrnnot change the overall picture. Thernhourly cost of benefits grew slightly fasterrnthan wages in the 1980’s, but slightlyrnslower than wages in the 1990’s (primarilyrndue to health-care cost-containmentrnefforts). Moreover, the share of workersrnreceiving employer-provided health carerndeclined 7.6 percent between 1979 andrn1997.rnThis may explain the “angry man”rnantiestablishment politics of the earlyrn1990’s, when President Bush was defeatedrnby “the economy, stupid” in 1992 andrnthe Democratic Congress was overthrownrnin 1994. It also helps explainrnwhy working women have been morernsupportive of President Clinton thanrnhave been men: Women fared betterrnduring Clinton’s first term than did men.rnThe increasing role of female workersrnin “saving” both families and male workersrnfrom substanfial declines in materialrnliving standards was seen most dramaticallyrnin the 1980’s. After a large increasernin the annual hours of paid work inrn1979-89, many working families had fewrnadditional hours to devote to work.rnWives and mothers entered the workforcernin large numbers in the 1980’s, butrnthis shift had run its course by the end ofrnthe decade. In 1975, only 38 percent ofrnmothers with children under the age ofrnsix were working; by 1990, this hadrnreached 60 percent. It now stands atrnabout 65 percent. Surveys consistentlyrnreport that mothers would prefer to stayrnhome and care for their children, butrnthey have been pushed into the workplacernto support the family budget.rnThe social costs of this shift fromrnmother to worker have been enormous.rnMuch of the decline in discipline, so evidentrnin the deterioration of school performancernand in public behavior, can berntraced to lack of parental supervision.rnPeer-group pressure and the media fillrnthe gap. Parental responsibility has beenrntransferred to the schools, where teachersrnand administrators complain of havingrnto spend instructional time on problemsrnmore appropriately handled atrnhome. Besides the improper burden beingrnplaced on the schools by this trend,rnthe kind of advice that polifically correctrnschools provide to yoimg people mustrngive us pause.rnFor decades, radical educators havernvied with parents for control of children’srnlives. Nothing could have better aidedrnthe educators than to have their opponentsrntaken from the fight and consignedrnto the workplace. Parents at work not onlyrncannot supervise their children afterrnschool, they cannot supervise the classroomsrnduring school. In the attempt tornprovide a better material life for theirrnchildren, working parents are sacrificingrntheir responsibility for developing therncharacter and values of their children.rnConservatives, above all others, shouldrnbe concerned with this trend, yet fewrnhave made the connection between economicrntransformation and the familyrncrises. Conservative political leaders oftenrntrumpet statistics on job creation andrnon how a larger share of the Americanrnpopulation works compared to otherrncountries as examples of the power ofrn”free-market” capitalism. Then, a couplernof paragraphs down, the same speakersrnwill deplore the decline in educationalrnstandards and the rise in immoralrnbehavior among the young as if these developmentsrnwere an entirely separaternsubject. Indeed, there are those on thernpolitical right who argue that the RepublicanrnParty should concentrate enfirelyrnon economic issues and abandon “social”rnissues as too difficult and controversial.rnThose advocating this free-market orientationrnmost loudly are the very peoplernresponsible for the transformation of therneconomy and the resulting social problems.rnA Fortune magazine cover storyrnpublished as the new GOP Congressrnopened in 1995 expressed alarm that itrnmight be dominated by “small businessrnpopulists and the religious right.” Lastrnsummer, the Business-Industry PAC,rnwhich advises big business on whichrncandidates to support, complained thatrnthe GOP was “coddling social conservatives”rnand not being “reliably pro-business.”rnThe demand from business was torndrop the “culture war” and instead enactrnan assortment of “free trade” measures—rnor risk a loss of contributions. HousernSpeaker Newt Gingrich immediatelyrnsought to comply, but was stymied by anrnad hoc coalition of labor Democrats andrnRepublican nationalists.rnThe fear on Wall Street is that a seriousrnattempt to address the agenda of socialrnconservatives will lead to constraintsrn42/CHRONICLESrnrnrn