01 January 2006

Whatever Happened To...

... people waiting until they could afford to get married; then, waiting until they could afford to have a child -- like they did in the 1930s and 1940s?


Mass Bradley said...

Just curious what stats or premises you're basing your assumptions on.
And please forgive me the ensuing prolixity:
Are you saying you see more poor people getting married and then being on welfare NOW than BEFORE (like in the "30's...")?
My Dad, who keeps up on these things, would say that IF younger and younger (thus poorer) people are getting hitched, it would be partly due to the post-war phenomenon of cheap credit flooding more segments of the marketplace than ever before.
Durable goods manufacterers (dishwashers, tvs, etc...) made it easier for newlyweds to instantly set up housekeeping. The GI Bill promised a house for every vet for $1.00 USD down(!) Cars didn't have to be co-signed anymore,--credit was so cheap that graduating high school seniors would get fully authorized cards (NOT applications!) in the mail for department stores, etc..
Fast-forward 30 years or so:
As more and more people assumed piles of debt (including the "default epidemic" of federally - secured student loans in the eighties, which by the way saw its worst offenders not as loutish "Humanities" majors but most often Healthcare Pros-- Doctors and Dentists...) as personal bankruptcies continue to skyrocket, as market bubbles have or will always someday burst, what we should be seeing is a general tightening of credit policies that make it tougher to get "big-ticket' items like houses. Which is a very windy way of saying that these days you'd assume it would be OLDER, more financially SET consumers who would hook up only when they could afford their first house.
Blame Clinton.
I love the ol' lug, but it was really his administration who made an entire wave of first-time buyers qualify for bigger chunks of credit for first-time house-buyers. Thus lots of business, thus PEOPLE BITING OFF MORE THAN THEY CAN CHEW, thus fear of speculation, thus rumors of inflation, thus Fed raising rates (choking off that cheap credit) thus people waking up one day and realizing they can't afford their mortgages anymore.
These weren't bad people. Thet ewere just people who waited too long to get the first house, or re-fi for lotsa cash, like we did. I'm liquid baby, and lovin' it. There's a WAR out there, and I say if you don't have AT LEAST 3 months resources in a savings account, you're running with the devil.
Yes, I DO sound like my Dad.
This time, I think Dad WAS right,

Christopher said...

Interesting points, Bradley.

My thoughts on this issue really went no further than: why are people not waiting? Why are they just getting married and having kids without being able to afford it?

The ramifications of not waiting never crossed my mind. I am sure many people who do not wait do not develop money problems (successfully riding the credit wave, or getting better jobs).

It is just odd to me that, back then, it seemed such an important issue to everyone that everyone waited; now, it seems almost no one waits. Why is that?

sarah said...

Are you sure that everyone really was waiting back then? Or is that just the way things were "supposed" to be but might not have been in reality (like people waiting to have sex, which certainly didn't happen back then either)?

My personal knowledge is quite the opposite; virtually every relative I have/had who was alive in those decade was married and having kids by the time they were around 20; and virtually everyone in my generation (on both sides) has waited on average a decade longer. And I know details on only a few, but at least half of those couples definitely could not afford to set up on their own until later on.

I guess the big difference may be that back then, if you couldn't afford it, you lived in a house with extended family. Now, you go into debt instead.

Christopher said...

Thank you for your thoughts, Sarah.

You actually might have hit upon something here about the "supposed to" side of the equation.

My question stemmed from my heavy exposure to media of the 1930s and 1940s (film, magazine stories, and radio programs). I have indulged myself in this era (between the wars, basically) for most of my adult life.

I think I can say without much exaggeration that in every story where marriage is being discussed, the couple always talk about waiting. I thought this was a reflection of the times (most popular media is); but perhaps, like sex, it was a reflection of what society thought people were supposed to do.

Hmmm. That puts an interesting light on the issue.

And you are totally correct about the option of living with extended families then. That often happened in media of the time. With the near-death of on-site extended families (geographically close to each other), people no longer have that option.

Miriam said...

I think you should take a look at The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap. Teen pregnancy is actually down in the US since hitting it's high in the 40s and 50s. The marriage age and the ages of fisrt-time-parents are rising. People didn't wait back in the "good old days" because there wasn't the availability of birth control and they just got married instead. And totalllllly what Mass Bradley said.

PS: Set your TiVo for No Down Payment, starring Joanne Woodward and Tony Randall. It comes up on TCM fairly often.

Christopher said...

Miriam: Regarding teen pregnancy: Is that unmarried or married teens? I find it hard to believe the astronomical rates of teen pregnancy today (unmarried) are down from the 1940s/1950s.

Have seen "No Down Payment" and thought it an overexaggeration of the troubles in the suburbs. It seemed so histrionic. Could it be more accurate than I thought?