Adventures in Reading

Revisted Reviews: Baby Boon by Burkett

I have a love/hate relationship with The Baby Boon as in I loved the second half and hated the first. Burkett explores an immense list of how the childless are “cheated” in the second half and if nothing else it’s food for thought. The politics in the book are definitely slanted and in more than 200 pages of how the government misaddresses these family issues, she only mentions the Christian right three times (the same amount of time she happens to mention father’s raping daughters). Overall, the book targets how family progressive taxes, funding, and institutions target the middle-class, (who for the most part parent by choice and in comparison to the poor perhaps don’t need nearly as much help) and that a good chunk of the support for taxes, funding, and institutions come from the childfree – a hugely growing part of the American population. I do confess that my relationship with this book really began to flounder 50-pages in when I saw the ever, lovely Ann Coulter featured on the back for “advance praise.”

I find the book problematic because much of the research is simply lousy. For example, in the first half of the book she visits a textile factory in North Carolina that had one of the best child/daycares available for parents. To display how unwanted this is and what a burden some workers find this to be (as without the daycare everyone would roughly make a $1 more per hour, and Burkett insists that the poor and people of color don’t ever use the day care) she goes to an unnamed grocery store and speaks with four unnamed women. In the world of research, I’m not really buying into this and had trouble moving beyond her scant interviews and lack of attempt to remain unbiased. At times like this the research really seemed to lack substance.

After the research, a point she belabors through the book is how parental tax breaks targets the middle class and doesn’t help those who most need it (i.e. the poor). While a good point she never provides any examples or goes into it more than this. Instead, she discusses how childfree professors are cheated because those professors with children can enroll their children for free. The question: why can’t childfree professors utilize this free enrollment as well for nieces and nephews, or even to give away as a scholarship? Certainly an interesting question but what portion of childfree people does this effect and how would Burkett like to see such scholarships utilized?

Because of the research and choice of examples, it was difficult reading but half way in I increasingly found myself pleasantly surprised. Burkett started to provide more substance and cultivated her arguments within the second half. She begins to explore the social stigma of being childfree, certain workplace activities that are clearly biased, as well as a list of companies that have remedied certain politics to be more considerate of the childfree. One idea throughout the whole book was the concept of family and what exactly it means. A problem she discusses is that the nuclear family is still privileged in comparison to any non-traditional family. At times I was concerned the book was taking on an anti-family edge. Not a terrible read, but a lot of technical and statistical information that I honestly don’t trust to be accurate.

Another book from my childfree summer and it was certainly something of a pickle to enjoy. Increasingly when reading nonfiction I have become somewhat obsessive about the research process and the works cited list. By no means do I consider this a bad thing. At work I often have customers asking if one book is better than another, and I try to explain the importance of citing research and statistics, and how a lengthy book without much citation most likely will have a lot of opinion versus more thoroughly researched book. Definitely not always true but at a glance it is perhaps the best advice I can offer.

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