Tag Archives: Ross Douthat

Book Review: Red Families v. Blue Families

One of the things I intend to use this blog for is writing short (WARNING: my idea of short is probably longer than yours) reviews of books I’m reading. For those of you who know me, I’m an avid reader, which is aided by the 45 or so minutes I spend commuting on the bus each day. In fact, when I was away from work for 12 weeks on paternity leave, my overall reading went down.

So with that said, that brings me to some thoughts on a book I finished about two weeks ago (and is still overdue, sorry Seattle Public Library): Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture, written by legal scholars Naomi Cahn and June Carbone. A friend was visiting a few weeks ago and picked up this book from our dining table to comment that I read the weirdest books, and given that I have no legal background whatsoever, for me this book probably falls in that camp.

The impetus for picking the book up in the first place, however, was that I’m a new parent, at the early stages of forming a family and even though our daughter is still working on sitting on her own, I’m already thinking about what shape our family will take. What role do we want education to play in our children’s lives? What will we teach them about love and relationships? Will we encourage them to delay marriage into the early 30s, even longer than we did ourselves, so they can establish a foothold economically? Conversely, if we ever get a phone call from college announcing that they’re engaged, will we see that as a good thing or something to be, ahem, negotiated once grad school is completed and a job offer is firmly in place? What’s more important–starting a family or becoming financially independent? How you answer that question probably says a lot about what part of the country you’re from, your socioeconomic class and how you vote.

The main argument behind Red Families v. Blue Families is that economic changes over the past 40 years have created two different tracks for family formation within America, and that these tracks follow political differences in the country–the eponymous red states and blue states–very closely. The authors make clear, however, in this chicken or egg case that it’s family formation that has created the difference in our politics, rather than inherent differences in politics leading toward different types of families. (More after the jump.) Continue reading

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