Riding in trains across Pennsylvania these past months [first half of 2004], I became interested in learning a little more about the Amish. Farming is their main occupation, and many of them use older, horse-powered methods. An interesting point for what follows is that at the beginning of the 20th Century their agricultural practices and lack of financial opulence were not nearly as distinctive as they are now. They stayed as they were and the surrounding world changed.
In many American communities, it is the common practice for husband and wife to both be employed. It wasn’t that way forty years ago, but it is now. Among Latter-day Saints, though, generally only the husband is employed, in keeping with the guide of church leaders. This will have the result of Latter-day Saint families having less money than they would otherwise and being overall a poorer people.
It may be objected that there are costs associated with having both spouses work that take away from the gains. True, but the offsets only offset a portion of the gains generally. The women and men in question are rational actors able to figure out what is in their own best interest financially.
It may also be said that those choosing to have both spouses employed may be better off financially, but worse off in other ways. This seems like the Amish attitude that there is peace found in plowing with a horse that is worth the loss of productivity. I agree with this concept as it applies to the Latter-day Saints. I think there is a financial sacrifice involved that “pays off” in ways that don’t mean that we get back that which we have sacrificed.
Supposing that the ideas above are correct, what do you think of the losses involved? If as with the Amish, the financial lives of Latter-day Saints and other Americans are separating, how do you feel about being part of a poorer people? Poorer in terms of smaller, older houses on less desirable streets, cheaper cars, fewer luxuries compared with your peers. Peers are those who have the same earning capacity that you do. This will even carry over to the opportunities to “obtain as much education as possible,” and result in your children’s financial peers being a poorer class than your own.