G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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So here’s the question: isn’t this exactly the kind of economy that should have a strong welfare state? Isn’t it much better to have guaranteed health care and a basic pension from Social Security rather than simply hanker for the corporate safety net that no longer exists? Might one not even argue that a bit of basic economic security would make our dynamic economy work better, by reducing the fear factor?
Now, none of this will bring back traditional mores — but that’s really a different issue. In Sweden, more than half of children are born out of wedlock — but they don’t seem to suffer much as a result, perhaps because the welfare state is so strong. Maybe we’ll go that way too. So?
What is it with liberals and Sweden? While it is true that Sweden has a higher unmarried female birthrate, it also has a lower percentage of single-parent households. According to the U.S. Census, in 2008, 40.6% of all U.S. births were to unmarried women. In Sweden, the figure was 54.7%.
However, of all households with children, 29.5% in the U.S. had only one parent compared to Sweden’s 18.7%. So Sweden has less marriage and more cohabitation and more two-parents households. Krugman would have to convince us that intact households are a result of a stronger welfare state.
The more interesting question is why Swedes don’t distinguish much between marriage and cohabitation. The obvious answer is that Sweden and the Nordic countries are more secular and therefore don’t think that marriage is a special designation. This has relaxed social pressure on public policies towards marriage:
During the 1960s, “the tendency” to marry when pregnancy occurred began not to be “the tendency.” By the late 1980s when a majority of all births were out-of-wedlock and two-thirds of first births in fact were out-of-wedlock, “the tendency” had clearly become not to marry when pregnancy occurred. The explanation for Swedes having such a high level of out-of-wedlock births is that childbearing has become disconnected from formal marriage as it never was before the second half of the 1960s. There are now no legal distinctions between married and cohabiting couples in Sweden except that women married before 1990 are allowed certain spousal benefits that women married after that date are not.
So the next interesting question is why do Swedes tend to stick together without the inducement of marriage?