Cahn and Carbone on “Red Families vs. Blue Families”

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Feminist Law Professor Naomi Cahn (George Washington Law School) and June Carbone (University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Law) has posted to ssrn her article Red Families v. Blue Families.   Here is a portion of the abstract:

This Article argues that two different family systems underlie the increasing political polarization in the United States. Each system has developed its own legal structure, moral imperatives, and expectations of the state. In blue states, what we term the”new middle class morality”seeks to realize the promise of the post-industrial economy through investment in the workforce participation of both women and men. The hallmark of the new system is marriage and childbearing at later ages, with greater autonomy, more egalitarian gender roles, and reduced fertility for those who postpone family formation into their late twenties and beyond.

By contrast, the red states, which correspond to the”moral value”vote in the 2004 Presidential election, affirm more traditional understandings that celebrate the unity of sex, marriage and procreation. Driven in part by religious teachings about sin and guilt, they emphasize abstinence, and see divorce and single parenthood as moral failings. While blue families have prospered, red families are in crisis on their own terms – red states have the nation’s highest teen pregnancy and divorce rates, and the growing separation between the beginning of sexual activity and marriage makes abstinence increasingly untenable.

* * * The Article first chronicles the emergence of the two different family systems, comprehensively developing their logic and legal attributes. Next, the article links the two systems to demographic differences throughout the country. In light of the new neuroscience findings that twenty-five is the age of physical and mental maturity, the Article shows that red versus blue political differences correspond to differences in the age of family formation. Political divergence becomes more intense as red families and blue families live different lives. Finally, the article connects political polarization to family law, and considers the implications for the role of the courts. Family courts, whether they wish to be or not, are on the front lines of the culture wars. The legitimacy of that role depends on judicial ability to guide, diffuse, and manage cultural conflict.

The full paper is available here.

-Bridget Crawford

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