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The Price of Motherhood, by Ann Crittenden

By an everyday book reader
June 1, 2007

This stunning read addresses the harsh reality of a society that, while glorifying motherhood in theory, relegates mothers to second-class status. In fact, the author identifies motherhood as the "single biggest risk factor for poverty in old age," a chilling assertion.

With a mix of outrage and sensibility, Crittenden pinpoints the failings of society toward mothers and offers suggestions for improved treatment of this marginalized sector.

This is an admirable - and charged - defense of motherhood, reminding us that unpaid female labor is "the priceless, invisible heart of the economy," and those who engage in this labor deserve the same rights, and the same respect, as other workers.

The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued
by Ann CrittendenBook Picture

Softcover: 336 pages
ISBN: 9780805066197, 0805066195
Owl Books
January 2002

"Written with a fine passion and at times a biting wit, it challenges the received ideas of economists, feminists and conservatives alike ...As informative and engaging in its details as it is compelling in its overall argument." - Paul Starr - New York Times Book Review

Many mothers have long suspected that they're getting the short end of the deal - and finally, a highly respected economics journalist proves they're not just griping. Despite all the lip service given to the importance of motherhood, American mothers are not only not paid for all the work they do, but also penalized for it. "The gift of care can be both selfless and exploited," writes Ann Crittenden in this intrepid and groundbreaking work.

Motherhood is dangerously undervalued - it's now the single biggest risk factor for poverty in old age. Mothers lose out in forgone income if they stay at home, an inflexible job market makes part-time work scarce or inadequately paid, and in the case of divorce, they're refused family assets by divorce laws that don't count their unpaid work.

"A bracing call to arms ...a mind-blowingly sensible alteration of America's present parenting arrangements." - Ben Dickinson, Elle magazine

Crittenden is fond of pointing out the hypocrisies plaguing America, and one is the belief in a welfare state enabling single mothers. The true welfare state, she says, protects paid workers from unforeseen risks through social security, unemployment insurance, and workman's compensation.

Mothers who work part-time or not at all have no such safety net and typically take a nosedive into poverty, along with their children, after divorce or the death of their spouse. Married working moms are also punished - they pay the highest taxes on earned income in America.

"A wonderful resource for students of economics, women's studies, politics, and for parents-to-be, this book should be a wake-up call to America." - Library Journal

Crittenden's impassioned argument is based on research in a variety of fields, from economics to child development to demography. She shows how mothers were demoted from an economic asset to dependents, why welfare for only a certain group of mothers bred bitterness among the rest, and why there is currently an exodus of highly trained women from the work force.

"A scathing indictment of policies that cheat mothers ...Crittenden turns out a fresh, persuasive argument. Sure to inspire vigorous debate." Megan Rutherford, Time Magazine

Crittenden also travels far and wide for solutions. She finds them not only in such European nations as Sweden - which has abolished child poverty by giving mothers a year's paid leave, cash subsidies, and flexible work schedules - but in the U.S. military, which runs the best subsidized child-care program in the country and knows the value of providing special benefits to those who selflessly serve their country.

Ultimately, Crittenden insists, the equality women have been fighting for will only be achieved when mothers are recognized as productive citizens creating a much-needed public good - human capital, or in layman's terms, well-raised children who grow into productive, law abiding citizens (and who pay into social security).

"Fascinating ...shows how women have been consistently denied social and, more importantly, monetary equality for raising their families." - Los Angeles Times

In the pathbreaking tradition of Backlash and The Second Shift, this provocative book shows how mothers are systematically disadvantaged and made dependent by a society that exploits those who perform its most critical work. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and the most current research in economics, history, child development, and law, Ann Crittenden proves that although women have been liberated, mothers have not.

The costs of motherhood are everywhere apparent. College-educated women pay a "mommy tax" of over a million dollars in lost income when they have a child. Family law deprives mothers of financial equality in marriage. Stay-at-home mothers and their work are left out of the GDP, the labor force, and the social safety net. With passion and clarity, Crittenden demonstrates that proper rewards for mothers' essential contributions would only enhance the general welfare.

"Crittenden's critique of our treatment of mothers, working or otherwise, may prove vital to continued efforts to improve the status of all women in the U.S." - Bonnie Johnston, American Library Association

Bold, galvanizing, full of innovative solutions, The Price of Motherhood offers a much-needed accounting of the price that mothers pay for performing the most important job in the world.

Ann Crittenden is the author of Killing the Sacred Cows: Bold Ideas for a New Economy. A former reporter for The New York Times and a Pulitzer Prize nominee, she has also been a reporter for Fortune, a financial writer for Newsweek, a visiting lecturer at M.I.T. and Yale, and an economics commentator for CBS News. Her articles have appeared in The Nation, Foreign Affairs, McCall's, and Working Woman, among others. She lives with her husband and son in Washington, D.C.

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