Monica Potts

Monica Potts is an Arkansas-based writer, currently writing a book about the women of her rural hometown.

Recent Articles

Studying the American Marriage.

A new study has found that, despite all the conservative hand-wringing over the decline in marriage, most couples who live together before marriage eventually get married. Two-thirds of marriages last 10 years, though that depends a lot on the couple: The factors that determine whether a marriage lasts have stayed the same over the past decade. You're more likely to hit the 10-year mark if you marry someone much like you: similar in race, background and education; if you're over 26; if you are college educated, with at least a bachelor's degree; and if you have a child during the marriage. Whether you have a college degree also makes a big difference on your income level, and apparently maturity matters despite all exhortations to the contrary. Lately, there have been a number of articles on marriage and women, particularly black women, as if the behavior of the American couple were fodder for a Discovery-channel nature show. But people don't get married because they're enacting some...

School Reform vs. School Choice.

A former champion of No Child Left Behind has written a book criticizing the policy as a failure, especially because it relies on standardized testing. Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch also says school choice is a bad idea: "There should not be an education marketplace, there should not be competition," Ravitch says. "Schools operate fundamentally — or should operate — like families. The fundamental principle by which education proceeds is collaboration. Teachers are supposed to share what works; schools are supposed to get together and talk about what's [been successful] for them. They're not supposed to hide their trade secrets and have a survival of the fittest competition with the school down the block." The idea of school choice fuels the charter school and voucher systems, and the hope is schools become better through a sense of competition. A steady, if unproven, criticism of school choice systems is that the best schools simply enroll the best students. Even if...

Getting Women to Run for Office.

Dana Golstein interviewed the new president of Emily's List , the group that raises money for progressive female candidates, about the dearth of women in political office. While Stephanie Schriock says that women aren't obligated to vote for women who run for office, she points out the stark numbers showing just how important it is to vote for women, who make up only 17 percent of Congress. While giving money to selected candidates early can help women overcome daunting fundraising barriers, there are still many reasons women aren't highly represented in politics. In a 2008 paper, Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox wrote that there's a gender ambition gap in electoral politics: We link this persistent gender gap in political ambition to several factors. Women are less likely than men to be willing to endure the rigors of a political campaign. They are less likely than men to be recruited to run for office. They are less likely than men to have the freedom to reconcile work and family...

Court Fees, Sales Taxes, and Other Regressive Ways to Balance a Budget.

A sheriff in Lawrence County, Arkansas, is working to collect $500,000 in unpaid court fees from those previously convicted of felonies, according to an Associated Press story. If they don't pay, they could be jailed. This type of push by local and state courts began a year ago. The New York Times reported a story from Florida about the state's efforts to crack down on those who don't pay fines as a way to close budget gaps. Many states considered following Florida's lead. The Times told the story of Valerie Gainous , a single mother of four who wrote bad checks. She had otherwise paid her restitution and performed community service, but she faced going to jail over $240. If society decides it's important to prosecute those who write bad checks, then society should pay for it. But charging court fees on top of meting out punishment helps hide the true cost of pursuing that prosecution. It also targets a state's poorest citizens, and it doesn't raise a lot of money. And it's just...

Lifting Wages With Government Money.

As part of his effort to reform the way government contracts are rewarded, Obama plans to favor companies that offer higher wages and better benefits packages in government contracts, reports the New York Times . It would also reinstate controls started by Clinton and rolled back by Bush that prevent the government from doing business with companies that frequently violate regulations. Not surprisingly, the plan is drawing fire from business groups, who say it's an excuse to reward big labor and will hurt small businesses. What's most astounding, though, is how this policy can have the effect of pushing wages up across the economy: Because nearly one in four workers is employed by companies that have contracts with the federal government, administration officials see the plan as a way to shape social policy and lift more families into the middle class. It would affect contracts like those awarded to make Army uniforms, clean federal buildings and mow lawns at military bases. John...

Pages