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The One Parenting Decision That Really Matters
Posted by Heebie-Geebie on 06.29.22

I hate this article so much. It starts off fine - we overstate the importance of the parenting decisions we make, and underestimate the effect of genetics, in determining how our kids turn out. Fine. That seems like standard locus-of-control thinking. If you have agency over something, it occupies a much bigger portion of your mental bandwidth.

The point of the article is to say, "Well, then scientifically, which parental decisions do make the biggest difference in their kids' lives?"

Something interesting happens when we compare the study on adoptions with this work on neighborhoods. We find that one factor about a home--its location--accounts for a significant fraction of the total effect of that home. In fact, putting together the different numbers, I have estimated that some 25 percent--and possibly more--of the overall effects of a parent are driven by where that parent raises their child. In other words, this one parenting decision has much more impact than many thousands of others.
Why is this decision so powerful? Chetty's team has a possible answer for that. Three of the biggest predictors that a neighborhood will increase a child's success are the percent of households in which there are two parents, the percent of residents who are college graduates, and the percent of residents who return their census forms. These are neighborhoods, in other words, with many role models: adults who are smart, accomplished, engaged in their community, and committed to stable family lives.

I'm entirely sure that this result is true. Here's something they link to called the Opportunity Atlas, which gives you a map of the US and measures success mostly by income, but also by education/marriage/etc. (I didn't play around with this too much.)

The problem is that it is one thing to understand this on a society level, like the Opportunity Atlas may be doing, and another thing entirely to pitch it as advice to the kind of people that read The Atlantic. Parents are so insecure when they have little babies and they're trying to figure out where to live for the next 15 years, and this tilts them towards making the more-segregated-by-class decision. Which they're already doing, so this article really doesn't matter.

But I do think this article should have discussed the collective action problem of having everyone self-segregate according to resources. That's the part that bugs me - that there's a lot more complexity to this. Your white, well-resourced kid might really benefit from growing up around some economic and racial diversity. Your adopted kid of color might have some trauma growing up in the all-white, high SES school district. The readers of the Atlantic shouldn't necessarily be thinking of this in the same stark terms as someone who is economically precarious and trying to get an apartment on the edge of a better school district. Like, you don't necessarily have to ask parents to self-sacrifice for the greater good. You can just introduce the idea that once you've shored up significant resources, you could think about other factors than just maximizing the wealth of the neighborhood you live in.

(Help me: mid-2000s we discussed some article - maybe Peggy Orenstein? - on how you should push your daughters to do something, and all I remember is that it boiled down to a collective action problem. Should you push your daughter to do the kind of thing that will move feminism forward, or should you encourage them to take the prisoner's dilemma plea deal? I just can't recall the specifics.)(Since yesterday, when I originally wrote this, I remembered it was probably Linda Hirshman, and here's an article from 2006 where she complains about all the bloggers attacking her. But the topic seems to be Mommy Wars and stay-at-home-moms, and my memory is that we were discussing How We Raise Our Daughters, but maybe that's just how our thread drifted. Or how my memory has drifted.)

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Posted by LizardBreath on 06.28.22

If you haven't been watching the January 6th hearings, catch up now. This is unbelievable. Trump tried to throttle a Secret Service agent. Discuss in comments.

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Church and State
Posted by Heebie-Geebie on 06.28.22

(I changed my mind, in case you noticed that a post disappeared.) Instead I want to talk about the praying coach. What are the implications, etc. How quickly will my kids be praying in school. How it will play out when a non-Christian teacher does this. Etc.

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By popular request
Posted by Heebie-Geebie on 06.27.22

How about a Senate Election strategy thread?

Full disclosure: I think we're hosed. Cynicism is counterproductive and unhelpful, but cynicism is not quite the same thing as grappling with what it means to live in a society that is successfully constraining and slowly strangling liberty and safety.

I suppose that's not entirely fair. Can we get to 50 senators who are willing to dispose of the filibuster?

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