Thursday, August 9, 2012

Response to CBCP's "Akerlof Contradicted What?"

On Monday, August 6, the CBCP released a counter article to Rappler's "Nobel Prize Winner Contradicts CBCP."

As the situation goes, a freelance journalist (for Rappler?) contacted Akerlof because the CBCP had cited him to augment their anti-RH argument by using his study on Reproductive Technology Shock. In the CBCP's interpretation of Akerlof's study (read full article here):
Will the greater availability of contraception improve the conditions of the family? Contraceptives bring about the downgrading of marriage, more extramarital sex, more fatherless children, more single mothers, according to the studies of Nobel prize winner, George Akerlof.
Let me comment on this. The concept of "downgrading marriage" is purely the CBCP's interpretation and not a scientific finding of George Akerlof. Yes, there has been an increase in extramarital sex and children born out of wedlock, but this is because of the drop in shotgun weddings (which, I must say, are not really quality marriages if we're talking about downgrading here).

I summarize Akerlof's findings in his America-based study here:
  1. Widespread birth control and legal abortion (beginning in 1970) caused Reproductive Technology Shock in the American society.
  2. There was a change in social contract between men and women: In the past, American women agreed to have premarital sex with a man only if the man promises to marry her in the event that she gets pregnant. This is called the Shotgun Marriage. Now that contraception and abortion is widely available, American women engage in premarital sex to keep their man. As the study states: "These women feared, correctly, that if they refused sexual relations, they would risk losing their partners. Sexual activity without commitment was increasingly expected in premarital relationships."
  3. Change in male / female roles: The decision to keep the child is now left to the female, whether she will abort it or not. Biological fathers have lost the idea of paternal obligation and no longer feel the obligation to marry the mother (Thus the rise of the Single Mom).
  4. Conclusion 1: The dramatic increase in out-of-wedlock first-birth rate between 1965 and 1990 is directly tied to shotgun marriages being rendered obsolete.
  5. Conclusion 2: The change in social contract between men and women due has proved disadvantageous for women.
  6. Note: Akerlof did NOT recommend any restrictions on the availability of contraception nor the legality of abortion.
Akerlof himself, in a written response, said, "In my opinion, giving women, whether single or married, the right to choose can only increase the dignity of marriage and its sanctity." If the CBCP asks Akerlof Contradicted What?, here you have your answer, that you took his study out of context. The CBCP has failed to acknowledge that this research is based in America, premised on the societal fact that shotgun marriages were the established social contract during the day, before contraceptives and abortion became the norm.

But in the Philippines, is this the case? Do women agree to have sex only when they have secured the man's promise to marry her if she gets pregnant? Is the establishment or re-establishment of shotgun weddings better, or in this case "upgrade marriage"? Will marriage assure a better family life? Will contraception destroy existing families or prevent the formation of a good one?

Can the CBCP answer these questions with Philippine-based studies to back them up? Because all I see are moral theories that hardly connect with present societal truths. I see them just merely relying on citing a research here and there to push their Anti-RH argument. CBCP claims that contraception destroys families. Does it? Because last I checked, having children doesn't necessarily keep the family intact, as is evident in the 14 million single parents in the country.

If the contraceptive mentality creates single moms, then I will go with what Akerlof and coauthor Janet Yellen write:
Anyone who fathers an out-of-wedlock child should be forced to help support that child... On top of that, they suggest that men be taxed for fathering children outside of marriage. - from `Technology Shock' Creates Single Moms, Miller


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