June Carbone (UMKC) has published “Unpacking Inequality and Class : Family, Gender and the Reconstruction of Class Barriers,” 45 N. England L. Rev. 527 (2011). This piece arises out of the Anna E. Hirsch Lecture that Professor Carbone delivered at New England Law | Boston during the 2010-2011 academic year. Here is the abstract:
The changing economy and evolution of political ideas have led to a resurgence of the idea of class in American discourse. Relatively little of that discourse, however, acknowledges the role of greater inequality as a critical force remaking the family along class lines and guaranteeing class-based disinvestment in the next generation of American children. To be sure, the political right exploits class resentments in championing “family values” but disavows any effort to link family changes to greater economic inequality rather than individual moral failings. The political left consistently acknowledges economic exploitation, but insists on addressing it primarily within identity categories such as race, gender, or sexual orientation rather than as a force that deserves attention on its own.
Family scholars, however, are providing irrefutable data that the tendency to marry, stay married, and raise children within two parent families has emerged as a potent marker of class, and that the results reinforce class barriers and dramatically affect America’s human capital acquisition. Renewed attention to “class,” as a category in its own right, is accordingly warranted and, indeed, long overdue. The idea of “class” refers to categories of social construction more fluid than race, ethnicity, or caste and more fixed than occupation, religion, or party. Class, in contrast with other categories, is a product of the allocation of resources, an allocation that depends on the organization of the family to channel investment in children. This Article will accordingly examine the social construction of class through the lens of gender and family. In doing so, this Article will examine the growing economic inequality that has rejuvenated interest in the idea of class and the relationship between the changing economy, gender, divorce and non-marital births. It concludes that an important factor in the relationship between class and family is the role of greater inequality in segmenting marriage markets, writing off large numbers of men as effectively “unmarriageable” because of incarceration, chronic unemployment, substance abuse and violence, and the consequent altering of gender ratios to the disadvantage of all but the most elite women.
The full article will be available here.