The Baby Boon

How Family-Friendly America Cheats the Childless

By Elinor Burkett
(Free Press, Paperback, 9780743242646, 272pp.)

Publication Date: March 13, 2000

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Description

Who stays late at the office when Mom leaves for a soccer match? Whose dollars pay for the tax credits, childcare benefits, and school vouchers that only parents can utilize? Who is forced to take those undesirable weekend business trips that Dad refuses? The answer: Adults without children -- most of them women -- have shouldered more than their share of the cost of family-friendly America. Until now.

"Equal Pay for Equal Work" is one of the foundations of modern American work life. But workers without children do not reap the same rewards as do their colleagues who are parents. Instead, as veteran journalist Elinor Burkett reveals, the past decade has seen the most massive redistribution of wealth since the War on Poverty -- this time not from rich to poor but from nonparents, no matter how modest their means, to parents, no matter how affluent. Parents today want their child and their Lexus, too -- which accounts for the new culture of parental privilege that Burkett aptly calls "the baby boon."

Burkett reports from the front lines of the workplace: from the hallowed newsroom of The New York Times to the floor of a textile factory in North Carolina to a hospital in Boston. She exposes a simmering backlash against perks for parents, from workers who are losing their tempers and fighting for their rights. She spells out how tax breaks for families with six-figure incomes are not available to childless people earning half as much. And she tells the dramatic story of how pro-family conservatives and feminists became strange bedfellows on the issue of pro-family rights, leading to an increase in workplace and government entitlements for parents -- at the same time as the childless poor lost their public benefits.

Americans are on a demographic collision course between the growing numbers of mothers in the workforce and the swelling ranks of a new interest group: childless adults. Armed with hard data and grassroots reporting, Elinor Burkett points the way to a more equitable future. With an inside look at what some companies are already doing to redress the grievances of childless workers and a hard assessment of what the truly needy -- children and adults -- require in order to survive, Burkett fires the first shot in the battle to come.

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