• Sandra Ericson

Human Ecology - The Root of Economics

Updated: Oct 21, 2020

WHAT IS 'FAMILY'? -- MOM?, DAD?, THE KIDS?

  • 64% of college graduates were married; those not, 48%.

  • 44% of high school educated women gave birth out of wedlock; those with college, 6%.

  • 9% of children were raised by single mothers in 1960; in 2008, over 25%.

  • Adolescents who have lived apart from one of their parents during some period of childhood are 2X as likely to drop out of high school, 2X as likely to have a child before 20, and 1.5X as likely to be idle, out of school and out of work, in their late teens.

  • 30% of single-parent households were poor at some point; married family households, 5%.

  • 26% of children from divorced lower third income families moved up as adults; married parents, 50%.

  • The US economic value of human capital, $700 trillion; the value of physical capital, $45 trillion.

In 2013, Nick Schultz wrote, Home Economics: The Consequences of Changing Family Structure, in which he reminded the nation that the basic economic unit and its most determinate unit of national economic and physical health is the family -- as the family household goes, so goes the nation. Shultz begins with the origin of the word 'economics'. It is from the Greek, 'oikos', meaning home and 'nomia', meaning management. It was originally meant to describe the basic economic unit of the home; however, over time in the US, the concept of 'home' was scaled up from the family's four walls to mean the nation's four walls, specifically those of business. Since 1975, family was dropped from the metrics and academic economics was applied almost wholly to markets and money, not people. It is this ground level difference that makes the current pandemic crisis unnecessarily lethal in both contexts, markets and people. It is why so many are now seeing, that the US, to its detriment, was allowed to become dependent not on human resilience but on transactions. ​ What Makes A Nation Successful?  Capital! Where Does It Come From? Capital comes from people and is built within an individual from the home environment. Destructive social problems are the result of the lack of social and emotional skills. Both are helped by fostering the development of (1) empathy and (2) self control. Empathy refers to a willingness allow for the rights, needs and feelings of others. Self-control means understanding the distant consequences of present actions, delaying rewards. Empathy and self-control form a large part of human capital. They make it possible to hold a job, work within a team, support the least among us, see the importance of paying taxes, contribute to community welfare. They are the foundation for growth and stability on any scale. The home is the first place that all individuals learn these skills and the most permanent social learning takes place in the first 2 years of life. ​ The Economist magazine stated that " The iconic American family, with mom, dad and kids under one roof, is fading". The American economy has changed from one built upon brawn to one built upon brains and social skills. Families are key to national well-being, yet their nourishment and support, the essence of Home Ecology, is left out of the national discussion on economic sustainability. The US discussion of economic policy is, therefore, divorced from reality. Of US families, those headed by single mothers represent the demographic that have the least resilience, least earning power and most negative outcomes for their children. The proliferation of single motherhood is a leading predictor of poverty and future social costs, including homelessness. ​ Nick Schultz' bottomline:  "If you do these three things, the odds are low that you will be poor." 

  1. Finish high school (if not college).

  2. Work.

  3. Don't have a baby before you are married.

As the US generates less intact families, ignores child development and accelerates a consumer economy, the national economic prognosis is not hopeful. Understanding economic success, both personally and nationally, is directly related to Human Ecology education.