The Parent Trap: How to Stop Overloading Parents and Fix Our Inequality Crisis
How parents have been set up to fail, and why helping them succeed is the key to achieving a fair and prosperous society. A next Big Idea Club nominee.
Few people realize that raising children is the single largest industry in the United States. Yet this vital work receives little political support, and its primary workers—parents—labor in isolation. If they ask for help, they are made to feel inadequate; there is no centralized organization to represent their interests; and there is virtually nothing spent on research and development to help them achieve their goals. It’s almost as if parents are set up to fail—and the result is lost opportunities that limit children’s success and make us all worse off. In The Parent Trap, Nate Hilger combines cutting-edge social science research, revealing historical case studies, and on-the-ground investigation to recast parenting as the hidden crucible of inequality.
Parents are expected not only to care for their children but to help them develop the skills they will need to thrive in today’s socioeconomic reality—but most parents, including even the most caring parents on the planet, are not trained in skill development and lack the resources to get help. How do we fix this? The solution, Hilger argues, is to ask less of parents, not more. America should consider child development a public investment with a monumental payoff. We need a program like Medicare—call it Familycare—to drive this investment. To make it happen, parents need to organize to wield their political power on behalf of children—who will always be the largest bloc of disenfranchised people in this country.
The Parent Trap exposes the true costs of our society’s unrealistic expectations around parenting and lays out a profoundly hopeful blueprint for reform.
About the Author
Nate G. Hilger is an economist and data scientist in Silicon Valley. His work on the origins of success in children has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and other media outlets. He has published articles in the Quarterly Journal of Economics and other leading academic journals.