By the time Jamie is a full-fledged adult, she has likely already gone through economic shocks that have depleted her savings, if she had any, and impacted her personal relationships. Unless Jamie’s family has enough money to cushion these blows, economic and job insecurity either for herself or her partner will take their toll. The moment Jamie starts getting comfortable in a relationship — planning for a future life as a couple and talking about having kids — the prospect of economic setbacks interferes.
Those constantly tossed around by their jobs and unable to find firm economic footing will have challenges getting to the commitment stage. Jamie may decide that given the insecurity of economic conditions, committing to a partner or a family is just too risky. When the future is unforeseeable, and you can’t really know what you’re signing up for, why sign up at all? Another possibility is Jamie may decide that economic calculations are more important than romantic attraction or compatibility in her choice of mate.
In middle age, Jamie will want to feel a sense of usefulness and pride in her accomplishments. But American society is structured to make these things elusive.
Americans can no longer count on a stable career, and unfortunately, we have not set up reasonable policies, like basic incomes, to compensate for this situation. Between deliberate wage suppression, deregulation, unfair tax polices, and austerity measures, Jamie, like so many Americans, may find herself at the mercy of ruthless corporate practices. For Jamie, this means that her strong psychological need for security and stability may keep her from achieving social cohesion and stable family life. With little free time and precious few vacations, Jamie has not had enough time to establish hobbies, connect with nature, or engage in civic activities. She may find herself with little deep involvement in the world.
As a woman, things are especially precarious for Jamie. Recent research by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers suggests that the subjective well-being of American women has dropped both in absolute terms and in relation to men.
This seems overly negative here. Sure, there are many who are struggling in this current economy…which did not have to be. But there are also many who are doing just fine and haven’t had too many setbacks. There are some who do have totally secure employment. Not everyone is the same in that regard. I know well off singles and couples who are doing just fine. The singles are not single because of financial strife but for other reasons.