Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Doing the Math

The Wall Street Journal has an article on finance and children, that begins with the Duggar family (soon to be nineteen children) and ends with some numbers.

Two interesting things, first on numbers, second on language.

First, the numbers. The article states that “By 1998, the median two-earner family paid 40.9%.” (I can’t imagine it is much less today.) The article also says that full-time day care averages $14,591. It then gives the following illustration:

If a parent making $45,000 a year stays home with a child until the child begins school, and then returns to work part time until the child graduates from high school, she is forgoing more than $800,000 in lost wages (counting normal inflation and raises).

But let’s do the math. 40% in taxes on $45,000 is $18,000. So right off the bat, the second wage earner (usually the mom) makes $27,000. She pays $14,591 for full-time day care in order to have that job (though it doesn’t specify whether that is for one child or multiple). Now, her income is $12,409.

That means that she makes $238/week, or $5.96/hour. That’s not even minimum wage.

And that doesn’t count the cost of getting to work (which at $2.50 a gallon could add up), and all the other incidental costs of being employed (lunches, Starbucks on the way in, etc.). Plus there is the emotional toll of workplace stress, traffic jams, regular house duties, juggling schedules, etc.

Plus she gives up the time to interact with and teach her children.

Is that worth $5.96 an hour?

I wouldn’t think so. So folks, before the wife takes a job, do the math. Figure out if it is worth it.

Second, on language. The article states,

In 1800 the American fertility rate—that is, the number of children born to an average woman in her lifetime—was 7.04 for whites and 7.90 for blacks. (The first census was taken in 1790, and the numbers for the races were tabulated separately.) Over the years, the fertility rate trended inexorably downward. Today the average American woman has only 2.09 children, just a hair beneath the replacement rate of 2.1.

The statistics are given for “an average woman.” I  would think it hard (not the mention controversial) to determine just what constitutes an “average woman.” What kind of standards do you use for that? And what about the women who are not average. What is their birth rate?

I would think it much easier to determine an average number of children born to a woman.

And I would imagine that is what they meant. My question is, Where’s the editor (either to recommend explaining what “an average woman” is or to get the modifier in the right place in the sentence)?

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