Niranjan Chatterjee’s Weblog

April 10, 2015

How to find out your skin tone to find the best nude lipstick for you

Filed under: Beauty Product — niranjanchatterjee @ 4:05 pm
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A nude lip need not be as nude as it appears. A clever choice of nude lipstick, deftly applied on lips creates that irresistible attraction that ladies would be willing to give a limb for. But to make the attraction genuinely lethal, the lips should neither be too matte nor too glossy but just seamlessly match with skin tone to give that additional fullness that makes a female metamorphose from an ordinary Jane to femme fatale. Even the slightest error in choosing the best nude lipstick would give a garish over made up look that is enough to turn away even a sailor that had been on high seas for over a year. It might sound exaggerated, but over made up lips often mar the overall impression of even daintiest of ladies as it makes them look like scavengers on the prowl for juicy preys.

So, the first step in the right direction would be to exactly determine the exact skin tone before venturing to purchase a nude lipstick. Skin tone depends on the amount of melanin present in skin and the density of veins near the skin surface. But medical terminology apart, it would be worthwhile to be acquainted with the few practical and sure fire steps that provide a near accurate feedback of skin tone as that is crucial in choosing the best nude lipstick that would perform that much sought after magic.

First step in finding true skin tone would begin with a thorough washing of face with a gentle cleanser to remove all traces of makeup. Once the face is absolutely clean, it should be gently patted dry with a soft fluffy towel without rubbing too hard as that causes blood to rush to the surface and provide a reddish hue that often isn’t the actual skin tone.

Once the face is absolutely dry, one should wait for at least a quarter of an hour to allow the skin to return to its normal state. Then one should find a place that has a mirror and is flooded with natural light and hold a white paper to one’s face and using it as a foil determine whether the skin is looking yellowish or pinkish. If it veers towards yellowish, skin has a warm tone and if it borders pinkish the skin has a cool tone.

The other process would be to hold one after the other gold and silver foils against the face and the foil that gives a radiant warm look would be the one that is sought after. If gold foil imparts that glowing look skin tone is warm and if silver foil does the trick, skin tone is cool.

One other method would be to hold wrists out in the sun and find out the color of blood vessels. If they appear greenish skin has a warm tone and if they appear bluish skin tone is cool.

Once skin tone is rightly determined, hunt for the best nude lipstick begins in real earnest.

A warm skin tone would be perfectly complemented by a sheer cocoa hued nude lipstick that would highlight lips by making them fuller without crossing that fine line between attractive and garish.

For those that possess pale lips a little bit welcome boost is necessary to present those in a “come hither” platter by applying a beige nude lipstick with just a hint of pink.

There are numerous nuances that need to be borne in mind while choosing the best nude lipstick. So, there’s no need to hurry and make a grotesque mistake to repent later. One should proceed with slow but steady steps.


March 5, 2015

Behavioral Conceptualization of Tourism and Leisure

Filed under: Tourism industry — niranjanchatterjee @ 11:16 pm
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Review of article “Behavioral Conceptualization of Tourism and Leisure” by Kevin Moore, Grant Cushman and David Simmons (Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 22, No. I, pp. 67-85, 1995)

In this article the authors have tried to analyze relationships between tourism and leisure. While some previous researchers have categorized tourism as a special type of leisure time activity, others have hardly found any reason to typify tourism as a special type of leisure time activity. Rather, they have concluded tourism as a direct extension of leisure attributes of tourists.

However, not much research has been done to examine the interconnection between leisure attributes of tourists and their choice of tourist destinations. In fact, tourism studies and psychological examination of leisure attributes have been undertaken in near mutual isolation of each other. There are also continuing confusions about concepts of “perceived freedom” during leisure and just who could be defined as “tourists” or what is the exact definition of “tourism industry”. Thus, any composite theory that unifies and resolves queries about leisure and tourism is yet to be derived with any degree of certainty.

The authors of this article have hence refrained from attempting to derive any unifying theory and have tried to examine the behavioral aspects of tourists in choosing tourism destination while investigating the existence of any conceptual similarity between tourism and leisure. As a result, certain psychological similarities exhibited in leisure time activities and touring an attractive destination have been highlighted while underscoring the reasons why these two have been considered as separate fields of study by some researchers.

Though there are at least five different definitions of leisure the common thread that runs through these definitions is freedom to do what one wishes during leisure time. Thus, leisure is basically a state of mind than free time. Tourism, similarly, has been defined in quite a few ways. While one group of researchers emphasize the industrial aspect of tourism as in people engaged in providing goods and services to tourists the other group concentrates on behavioral aspects of tourists. There is a third group that focuses on the geographic content of tourist flow by identifying “generating area”, “transit routes” and “destination area”.

Just as has happened with definition of tourism, there have been three groups of thinkers that have divergent opinions on the subject of tourism. While the first group harps on the economic benefits of tourism in the destination country the second group cautions about the polluting impact of visiting tourists and the third group prefers to trudge the middle path by advocating a policy of adapting to the inflow of tourist in a manner that would be beneficial to the economy with least disturbance in ecological or social fabric of the destination country.

The authors have embarked upon behavioral analysis of tourists, especially the demand side phenomena. While travel facilitators operate on the same broad principles that other service providers in other forms of leisure operate, there is indeed a marked difference among travel motivators and motivators of other forms of leisure. The most important difference between motivations to travel as a form of leisure as compared to spending leisure time at home or very near it is the extra sense of independence and freedom that tourism offers, especially the physical withdrawal from known environment. This provides an immense sense of freedom that no other form of leisure can offer. Moreover, tourism doesn’t occur as frequently as other forms of leisure do and is much costlier compared to other options, hence touring is much anticipated and provides more value for money as compared to other forms of leisure.

However, this approach clubs all other forms of leisure in a single homogenous group which might not be factually correct. In fact, tourism and other forms of leisure activities have different appeal to different persons and purely from behavioral standpoint it would be unwise to put tourism on a separate pedestal from other forms of leisure activities.

Thus it would be improper to either segregate tourism as a special form of leisure time activity or club tourism together with all other available forms of spending leisure time.

Attitude determinants in tourism destination choice

Filed under: Tourism industry — niranjanchatterjee @ 11:08 pm
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Review of article “Attitude determinants in Tourism Destination Choice” by Seoho Um and John L. Crompton (Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 17, pp. 432-448, 1990)

The authors begin with an assumption that the perceived notion of tourism destination is a gestalt, which actually means a perception about the proposed destination that is the result of interaction of several stimuli and is generally not an aggregate of individual stimuli but a completely different construct that arises out of mutual interaction of mostly related but often unrelated stimuli. As potential tourists generally do not have crystal clear ideas about desired destination, they form a perception about the place through authentic and often not so authentic sources and derive a construct that might or might not reflect ground reality. The authors examine the relation between attitude of tourists and their final choice of a tourist destination.

The authors have segmented their research into three slots – external inputs, internal inputs and cognitive constructs.

Generally external inputs in case of potential tourists consist of both, information from friends that have visited the destination earlier and from printed brochures or presentations made by travel operators. The authors have found from the data they have accumulated while 74% of respondents have received information from their friends 20% have received it from material supplied by tour organizers and operators.

Internal inputs depend on the attitudes, values, social mores and demographic status of potential tourists.

An interaction and integration of these two types of inputs generate a third and totally independent awareness of all possible destinations and an evoked set of destinations that consist of some form of a shortlist of all destinations that the potential tourist will consider for the current trip. The evoked set is constructed after a decision has been made about making a trip but not quite certain as to where it might be. Therefore, the evoked set is an intermediate stage between awareness of possible destinations and a zeroing in on a particular destination as the final choice.

Though it is widely accepted by researchers that attitudes play a significant part in making the final choice some researchers have observed that often attitudes have little impact on the final choice, especially in case of purchase of white goods and kitchen appliances. However, authors of the present article have incorporated situational variables into attitudes to remove subjectivity to the extent possible in such cases of social science research and have defined attitude as the quantum difference between perceive facilitators and perceived inhibitors thereby implying positive attitude as being directly variable with the magnitude of the difference between perceived facilitators and perceived inhibitors. The authors have also introduced an economic aspect in their study in the form of choosing a destination that would maximize utility of potential tourists which in simple terms means getting maximum utility out of every dollar spent in travelling to a particular destination.

The authors finally arrived at three criteria that potential tourists check before finalizing a destination. They are, need satisfaction, social agreement and travelability. Need satisfaction generally implied the extent to which a destination would be able to satisfy a tourist’s personal inclinations while visiting a particular place and that includes inter alia needs for novelty, challenge, relaxation etc. Social agreement implies the extent to which a particular destination would meet approval of peer group. Travelability includes more practical concerns as money, time, health and skill if any necessary to visit and enjoy the beauties off a particular destination.

The data was collected through sample survey and passed through rigorous mathematical processes and authors concluded attitude is indeed a vital determinant in choosing a final destination by potential tourists.

Sport Tourism as Celebration of Subculture

Filed under: Tourism industry — niranjanchatterjee @ 11:04 pm
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Review of the article “Sport tourism as Celebration of Subculture” by B. Christine Green and Laurence Chalip (Annals ofTourirm Research, Vol. 25, No. 2, PP. 275-291, 1998)

The authors have examined the attractiveness of a tourist destination as a venue of a sporting event and have specifically examined the motives of participants travelling to a particular destination as it was hosting a women’s flag football tournament. With changing attitudes and a desire to portray an active and youthful persona, sporting activities is no longer the domain of only the young but people that are not so young are also becoming increasingly interested in sports and eager to visit destinations that host sporting events. Therefore sports tourism is gradually developing into a specific and well define genre of tourism industry.

However, it must be remembered that there is a very vital difference between participating in a sports event and being there as a spectator. Generally tourism literature concentrates on spectator volumes rather than number of participants that take part in a sporting event and it is always economical to host a sports event that has minimal participants while drawing vast number of spectators. Also there needs to be a differentiation between participants that engage in a sporting activity more as a recreation and for the pleasure of playing the game and those that engage in a competitive sporting event with the aim of winning the trophy. While the former group would be more interested in availability of sporting and recreational facilities the latter would be more intent on defeating competitors and lifting the winner’s trophy. The researchers preferred to term the former group as “activity participants” while the latter as “players” to identify the intent and focus of these two groups.

The authors have studied Key West Women’s Flag Football tournament and tried to investigate and analyze the motives that coaxed participants to travel to a particular tournament. While one of the authors participated as a player the other was not attached to any particular team. This provided the authors both an insider’s as well outsider’s perspective to the whole issue as they debriefed each other and assimilated their observations and findings.

This tournament has gradually increased in terms of participation of teams as well as spectators and has now acquired a significant place in the country’s sporting calendar. This sporting event has also acquired some form of a cult status and participants have started finding an affinity and bonding towards not only this sport but also this particular tournament. The organizers have also been quick to grasp the opportunity and included quite a sprinkling social events along with the main sporting event and specified venues where participants from various team can mix and gel with each other. In order to retain some form exclusivity and consequent elevation to some form of a subculture, the organizers charge fees for entry in all venues where social events are held. Fees automatically reduce the number of participants and as a natural consequence those that throng such social events start feeling they are privileged members of some esoteric gang.

The development of a subculture associated with women’s football has been facilitated by male dominance in this sport and the geographical distance between centers where women’s football is actively played. Women who play football consider themselves as somewhat different and consider this an opportunity to give back to the society that promotes male dominance. It is a form of protest and women footballers feel proud to be part of the gang that breaks social customs and mores.

Hence this tournament is much more than a competition between teams; it is more of social reunion of a small but determined community and all participants feel a sense of homecoming when they gather together to take part in the tournament.

The authors thus conclude that sports tourism actually helps participants to reaffirm their identity and existence and is much more than mere act of travelling to a destination and participating in a competition.

August 2, 2014

Workers’ Participation in Corporate Governance

Filed under: Corporate Management — niranjanchatterjee @ 10:47 pm


The generally accepted principle in law is that Directors should act in the best interest of the corporation but the issue becomes a little unclear as to what exactly would be defined as the best interest of the corporation. To put it more clearly, would best interests of only the shareholders or the best interests of other stakeholders also be considered while delineating the contents of the best interest of the corporation? This thesis examines the highly debated issue of how workers’ participation in corporate governance would serve the best interests of a corporation.

In BCE Inc. v. 1976 Debenture holders and in Peoples Department Stores Inc. (Trustee of) v. Wise court was extremely ambiguous about the exact nature of what would be the best interest of the coporation and chose a somewhat middle path by harping on good coroprate citizenship. But such ambiguity creates a situation where each stakeholder feels that they have got the best but inreality none of the stakeholders get anything substantial.

The issue becomes more complicated since in a globalised world individual countries and their courts have little control or jurisdiction over companies that are spread across continents. Thus, the issue of what would constitute the best interest of a company becomes a genuine conundrum that needs serious thinking to achieve even a modicum of a solution.

Moreover, stakeholders in a corporation have diverse and often conflicting interests and how could directors serve the best interests of such a diverse group also becomes an equally serious concerns. While shareholders might wish directors take excessive risks as that would increase the possibility of earning higher rates of return, workers might be inherently averse to such risk taking as that might jeopardize their jobs if things went wrong without the prospect of any corresponding rise in wages if things moved in right direction. So, solving such diverse desires in a fair manner is surely a very difficult matter.

According to Ed Waitzer and Johnny Jaswal, courts have never maintained any specific stand on this issue and very often court judgments reflected the popular mood or notions of the time. In fact, Dickerson Committee had the opportunity of unambiguously explaining the nuances of ‘corporate responsibility and could have got it incorporated in Canada Business Corporation Act (CBCA) but they perhaps shirked the duty and preferred to leave it to the judges to explain. The Committee thus lost a golden opportunity of rectifying the imbalance that many feel is there in English laws that mainly define corporate responsibility as mainly responsibility towards increasing net worth of shareholders.

The situation does not improve by introducing the concept of good faith on the part of directors since good faith is something that is not quite specific and is open to several contextual interpretations. Such an act of good faith is obviously connected to fiduciary duty of directors where fiduciary duty is defined as self disciplined behavior on the part of actors that have access to others’ assets for some limited purpose (Flannigan 2004).

The situation becomes really complicated if workers are allowed to sit on Boards and become party to corporate decision making. It is an undeniable fact that workers are one of the most important stakeholders in any business organization and their interests will in most cases be divergent to interests of stakeholders. So, the issue at hand is whether workers should be allowed to participate in corporate decision making and if they are indeed allowed would Board decisions be in convergence and within the ambit of Canadian law and would pass the test of fairness as stated in Ebrahimi v. Westbourne Galleries Ltd.

But one thing might be said with a fair degree of certainty. Workers are more interested in long term stability of an organization and thus would be averse to taking any decision that might seem attractive in the short run but could jeopardize long term financial health of the organization they are working for. So, the possibility of decisions taken by Boards that have worker participation passing the fairness test would surely be more under normal circumstances.

The need for revision of corporate governance in Canada

There are many examples that existing laws were not enough to ensure fair treatment of stakeholders. One of the most prominent companies that failed to ensure proper corporate governance was the so-called ‘Canadian Microsoft’ which was considered one of the icons of Canadian success stories of Canadian technology. Shares of this company were traded at $120 when the company was at its peak but slumped to 5 cents when the company collapsed. Not only were shareholders left in the lurch, employees lost their jobs and even their pensions since the company lost so much money that it did not have money to pay even pensions of employees. So employees were suddenly left out in the cold without any money or safety net to protect them against this sudden catastrophe.

Irrespective of the political storm that raised the moot and far more serious question was a lacuna in Canadian corporate governance laws that allowed such a thing to happen. Top executives who made millions in salaries and perquisites when the company was going strong (or the general public was made to believe so) went scot free and none could be held liable for their lack of foresight or mismanagement of corporate funds that resulted in such widespread chaos.

The total disappearance of the guaranteed pension of $58,000 dollars per year to each employee sure generated a lot heat and dust. But, workers had only demonstrations and fiery speeches to remain contented with and nothing material evolved from all the commotion.

The main reason for the demise of the company was a determined and well planned mismanagement of funds by Directors and a diabolic cooking of books to give an impression to workers that the company was financially stable. While this criminal act was being perpetrated, executives made millions in compensation and the future of workers was ruined.

A similar situation occurred in Toronto where insider trading was the main reason for the demise of another reputed company. This insider trading continued for a decade resulting in nine million dollars benefit to the perpetrators while the corporation and all stakeholders lost money and they were left with ruined futures.

Court was very ambiguous about the extent to which Board should pay attention to the interest of employees as it was not mandatory for the Boards to do so. It was left to the management to decide on whether they would consider it or not before taking any particular decision. Actually the interest for shareholders was implicitly given more importance over interests of other stakeholders, especially workers and if workers’ interests are compromised Directors would never be held responsible for committing any illegal act and would hence be never penalized.

The issue boils down to what would be the legally defined duties of directors. If directors are found to be lacking in such well defined and legally enforceable duties, they would sure then be brought to book for their misdeeds. This again brings to the forefront the basic question as to how would the directors manage divergent interests of two most important group of stakeholders – shareholders and employees.

A common sense approach would be to allow more participative powers to the workers as that would ensure an automatic check on irresponsible and risky actions by top management but the Court did not utter a single word about it. The Court was not progressive enough to delineate a new structure of corporate governance and did not incorporate any of the European structures like work councils and supervisory boards that permit considerable participation of workers in management of a company. The Court stuck to responsibility of Directors and did not feel the need to include the voice of the workers in corporate governance. There was no progress in the power equation between labor and capital which are both equally necessary for the successful running of a company.

But considering the success of German and Japanese companies it could have more beneficial for Canadian corporations if there was a legal requirement of including employee voice in corporate decision making. At least that would have surely prevented sudden demise of corporate icons due to mismanagement and deliberate fudging of books by top management.

Board as a mediator between competing stakeholders

Margaret Blair and Lynn Stout have elevated the Board to some sort of a coordinator that is entrusted to somehow balance conflicting stakeholder interests (Blair and Stout 1999). But these authors have clearly delineated as to which shareholders would get priority if and when such balancing do takes place. They have stated that only those stakeholders that have made firm-specific investments and their continuance and support is absolutely essential for future success of the business would be considered when such balancing of diverse interests would have to be done. From this standpoint, workers are clearly one such group of shareholders that require extra care and attention and if workers are themselves members of the Board it would be that much easier for the Board to take decisions that would surely not jeopardize the interests of workers. But one thing must be made clear at this juncture.

Even if workers do become members of the Board they must be prepared to sacrifice some of their interests and adjust to a considerable extent for the long term health of the organization.

As has been already mentioned, the issue becomes complicated as immediate gains oftentimes tend to overshadow long term gains that might not be immediately tangible and the lure for immediate benefit is too strong for many people to not fall prey to it. This of course includes workers too. The lure for short term incentives often at the cost of long term stability might force workers on the Board to take unfair decisions. As the law is not that clear and prescriptive in this regard, it might be possible for the Board to get away from this misdeed.

It would be a case where stakeholders that are usually on divergent poles coming together for short term expediency and committing a team scam of sorts. It is possibly for this reason that Richard Ellsworth feels customer primacy should be the only touchstone against which all corporate decisions be judged (Ellsworth 2002).

Conflict between suppliers of capital and suppliers of labor

It is only natural that corporate governance would place more emphasis on taking care of the interests of the suppliers of capital rather than the suppliers of labor although both are vitally necessary for the continuance of a business corporation. Such a biased approach might be traced to a very deep rooted perception that labor is always cheap and easily available while capital is difficult to come by and is comparatively far more costlier than labor.

While this bias in favor of capital is commonplace among those that control business houses existing laws also protect the interests of suppliers of capital in a very big way. While the debenture holders have their capital fully secured against fixed assets of the borrowing company, shareholders have the option of airing their grievances in annual general meetings and special meetings of shareholders. But Scott is of the opinion that as shareholders offer vast amounts of capital without either any clear cut promise of a predetermined rate of return on their investments or any form of security of the capital they have lent to the corporation, they are exposed to extreme risks especially if the management is prone to mismanaging funds or take recourse to cooking up books or any other form of fraud. Hence, this class of stakeholders needs special protection and management should give first priority to enhancing the wealth of shareholders (Scott 1998).

The concept of good corporate governance also varies from country to country. In France, however, primacy of shareholder interest is ignored and a good company is considered to be one that is able to effectively reconcile stakeholder interests. Germany also feels mostly in the same manner. While managers are supposed to be market oriented they should discuss with different stakeholders their interests and take a position that would be acceptable to all. The uniqueness of this approach is twofold. Firstly, the directors must engage in some sort of discussion with stakeholders before coming to a decision and secondly they have a responsibility to ensure that no stakeholder group feels that they have been neglected or their concerns have not been addressed properly.

It would be of interest to have a brief discussion of German system of corporate governance as that system presents a unique arrangement where conflicting interests of employees and shareholders are reconciled to a very great extent.

In accordance with Codetermination Act of 1976 every organization that has more than 2000 employees is legally bound to have two tiered management system. The two tiers in that system are, supervisory board and management and executive committee (Halpern 1999).

The supervisory board cannot be involved in day-to-day management but it has certain very important powers to oversee the functioning of the management and executive committee which is involved in daily management of the organization.

The supervisory board of which half the members are from the employees of the company has the power to appoint or dismiss members of management and executive committee and also to monitor the performance of this committee. Moreover, the supervisory board is the ultimate authority to approve or dismiss any investment plan mooted by the executive committee and also determines what information should be passed on to shareholders subject to, of course, relevant provisions in the Company Law of the country.

The only concession management has in the formation of the supervisory board is that the chairperson of the board is from the management side and has two votes that could be used in case there is a tie in a voting in the board. This serves very well to create some sort of balance and equitability in management decisions in Germany where concentration of equity is extremely high compared to other developed countries of the world. Generally, the concentration of equities vests more with founding families and where such families are not that dominant, commercial banks take their place. So, some sort of veto wielding authority which consists of a sizeable number of employees also safeguards them from any reckless decision of management in quest of short term spectacular gains.

Arguments about shareholder primacy

Discussions till now have been concentrated on how to negate primacy of shareholder interest and also include voices of other stakeholders, especially that of employees, in corporate decision making. But it would be fair in the interest of a properly balanced discussion to delve a little deeper in the arguments put forward to support shareholder primacy in corporate governance and decision making process.

The first and possibly the crudest argument in favor of shareholder primacy is that according law a corporation belongs to the shareholders and therefore it is the bounden duty of management to further the interests of shareholders. This line of argument was echoed by Milton Friedman in his famous essay “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits”. But where Friedman possibly went wrong, at least legally, was that shareholders do not own the corporation; what they own is a financial asset known as stock. Legally speaking, shareholders have only limited rights as owners of corporate stocks. It might be worthwhile to mention at this juncture that shareholders do not have any right over the assets of a company; actually that right is conferred on the Board of Directors. Also, shareholders cannot decide how much dividend they would earn in particular year; Board of Directors decides on the rate of dividend.

Thus shareholders have neither any direct control nor any direct access to either a company’s assets or its earnings. It is true; however, that Directors are appointed by shareholders and any control they can exert on the management of a company is indirectly through Board of directors. But in current economic scenario shareholding is so widely dispersed such indirect control has become a myth without any tangible or practical significance.

Hence, shareholders as owners of a corporation has very little legal base and is more an economist’s notion than a lawyer’s. Some economists have even challenged the concept of shareholders being owners of a corporation from an economic perspective too. They maintain that in a corporation, even one that is closely held by one person or a family of shareholders, the concept of ownership gets significantly diluted once the firm issues debentures as debenture holders have lien on fixed assets of the corporation which even shareholders do not have (Scholes and Black 1973).

The second and oft repeated argument about shareholder supremacy maintains that all other stakeholders have some form of contractual agreement with the corporation about the return they would be entitled to during and at the end of the contracted period. But shareholders are not protected by similar contractual obligation. They are entitled to residual income after all contractual obligations have been met by the corporation. Therefore, they bear the greatest risk and thus should be protected the most and all management decisions should be made with an eye towards maximizing shareholder returns (Easterbrook and Fischel 1996).

However, from a legal perspective the assertion that shareholders are sole residual claimants do not have much strength. According to corporate law, shareholders can be considered as sole residual claimants only during bankruptcy proceedings of a corporation.

In other situations, shareholders are entitled to dividend only when the company is financially sound and is performing well and has enough reserves and surplus, and, what is most important, directors decide to declare a dividend.

Actually, shareholders would get dividend only when directors decide to give it and, frankly speaking, such decision is not that much related to the financial health of a company. It could very well be that a company is doing extremely well financially but if the directors decide that the increased revenue would be spent on employee benefits and bonuses, that extra income would be diverted towards these expenses and nothing much would show up as profit or surplus. Moreover, existence of reserves and surplus by itself does not guarantee that shareholders would most certainly get dividend. It all depends on the discretion of directors. Hence, the claim that shareholders are sole residual claimants does not have much legal or economic basis (Stout 2002).

Considering what has been discussed above it is apparent that corporate governance based on the sole objective of maximizing shareholders’ wealth is a very narrow window and would grossly undermine the efforts of a corporate entity from discharging its duties and functioning like a good corporate citizen.

Shareholder primacy might cause international convergence of corporate law

There is a dominant view that irrespective of all legal and economic logic that attempts to dilute shareholder supremacy, the overwhelming trend in corporate governance all over the world is tilted towards maximizing shareholder wealth. One of the reasons for this bias could be the failure of any other workable alternative or more likely due to the emergence of more vocal representatives of shareholders and a significant increase of importance of share markets in a market driven capitalist economy (Hansmann and Kraakman 2000).

There have been alternative models of corporate governance through nineteenth and twentieth century. These models were either manager-oriented, or, labor-oriented, or state-oriented depending on peculiarities of countries and their economies and the influence each stakeholder class had at that particular point of time.

Over time all these models lost their hour of glory and shareholder primacy has come to rule the roost. Of late stakeholder model is being touted as an alternative to shareholder primacy model but this new model is nothing but a combination and permutation of earlier manager-oriented model and labor-oriented model. So, detractors of those earlier models have come out in full force and are berating this new model with great vehemence.

 This of course does not mean that interests of other stakeholders should be sacrificed at the altar of shareholder supremacy. It only means that corporate law could and should concentrate only on ensuring shareholder supremacy is maintained and every corporate entity should strive to maximize shareholder wealth. All other stakeholders can and, possibly must, address their concern in forums that are outside the ambit of corporate law.

There are enough legal remedies available to other stakeholders and they should take recourse to such remedies instead of trying to search for remedies and protections within the ambit of corporate legal framework. Workers and employees, for example, can seek remedies in the law of labor contracting, pension law, health and safety law, and antidiscrimination law. Consumers can also seek remedies within the ambit of product safety regulation, tort law that governs product liability and law governing warranty.

But one must remember that no matter how forceful the arguments in favor of shareholder primacy are, it would not be proper to highlight only shareholder supremacy in corporate law as that would lead to irresponsible and often rash and highly risky management decisions that might ruin an otherwise flourishing company. Management would, quite obviously, be intent and over eager to maximize shareholder wealth in short term in order obtain higher bonuses and remuneration for themselves and such a short term approach and attitude will surely spell doom for not only a couple of firms but the entire economy of a country.


An examination of the current status of legal acceptance of workers’ participation in corporate governance reveals that primacy of shareholders’ interests is still the dominating trend though there are some exceptions as found in the form of work councils and supervisory boards as is prevalent in Germany. However, it would be wrong to assume that employees are taking it lying down as they find increased emphasis of shareholder supremacy in corporate laws across the world. Rather, employees have thought out a way of gaining advantage especially in United States of America. However, in Canada similar concerted activity is yet to materialize. Maybe Canadian labor will finally follow in their US brethrens’ steps someday.

Employees who are also shareholders have become increasingly active and organized labor is now playing a very important part in corporate governance in USA. These activists have already scored certain important victories for shareholders and labor and recently AFL-CIO have actively started to coordinate voting practices of union pension funds. If these newfound tools actually succeed, organized labor would become the single largest block of shareholders in entire United States. One would expect Canadian labor also to become aware of their role as shareholders and try to work around the problem as it were to wield more influence in corporate management.

It would, however, be grossly unfair to state that Canadian shareholders (among them there might be a fair number of employees) are totally inactive. Shareholders of magna International Corporation had, way back in 1984, implemented a so-called ‘Corporate Constitution’ which mandated an allocation of profits between management, shareholders and employees. Though it was targeted to reduce influence of labor unions, Magna also implemented ‘Employee’s Charter’ that promised job security and a share in profits and equity. The point that should not be missed is labor is indeed getting an increased importance whether directly or indirectly through the efforts of shareholder activists.

Casio Computer Company has also taken a leaf out of Magna’s book and incorporated a ‘Charter of Creativity for Casio’ where the company has pledged to consider the interests of all categories of stakeholders. The salient points in this charter are twofold. First, there is a marked shift from shareholder focus to stakeholder focus and the second; there is a serious attempt to balance interests of all categories of stakeholders. This is indeed a genuinely welcome step towards granting more importance to labor in Canadian corporate governance.

This debate and consequent divergence of opinions would never have occurred had Dickerson Committee which had raised this issue been more forthright and included an unambiguous definition of what constitutes ‘best interests of the corporation’ in Canada Business Corporations Act. It had the opportunity to do so but left it to the courts to define it instead.

So, we may conclude that workers have indeed found a way to exert their supremacy through the roundabout route of shareholder primacy in corporate law and their newfound tool of self defense would surely lend some form of protection against risky and often adventurous attempts by managers to increase shareholders’ wealth at any cost.


BCE Inc. v. 1976 Debentureholders. (3 S.C.R. 560 BCE, 2008).

Blair, Margaret M., and Lynn A. Stout. “A Team Production Theory of Corporate Law.” Virginia Law Review (Volume 85), 1999: 247.

Easterbrook, Frank, and Daniel R. Fischel. The Economic Structure of Corporate Law. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.

Ebrahimi v. Westbourne Galleries Ltd. A.C. 360 (H.L.) (1973).

Ellsworth, Richard. Leading with Purpose: The New Corporate Realities. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002.

Flannigan, Robert. “Fiduciary Duties of Shareholders and Directors.” J. Bus. L. 277 at 281, 2004.

Friedman, Milton. “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits.” New York Times Magazine, September 13, 1970: 32–33, 122–26.

Halpern, Paul. “Systemic Perspectives on Corporate Governance Systems.” Conference and Symposium on Corporate Governance and Globalization. Toronto: Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, 1999.

Hansmann, Henry, and Reinier Kraakman. The End of History for Corporate Law. Discussion Paper Series, Cambridge MA: Harvard Law School John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics and Business, 2000.

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Stout, Lynn A. “Bad and Not-So-Bad Arguments for Shareholder Primacy.” Southern California Law Review, 2002: 1189-1209.

Waitzer, Ed, and Johnny Jaswal. “Peoples, BCE, and the Good Corporate “Citizen”.” Osgoode Hall Law Journal 47, 2009: 439-496.

Women Poverty in Canada – Issues, Arguments and Possible Solutions

Filed under: social awareness — niranjanchatterjee @ 10:45 pm

Introduction – Anatomy of Poverty among Women in Canada

The title of the paper might raise a few eyebrows as it apparently sounds somewhat surreal that poverty can at all be an issue in such a prosperous country as Canada with its elaborate social security measures and liberal policies towards life and society. The issue is further confusing when one intends to focus on a particular sector of the population, i.e. women who are fighting the curse of poverty in such a flourishing country as Canada is.

Some may simply wish to brush the issue out of sight assuming that it is being blown out of proportions by an interested group that is out to get a few fleeting moments of spotlight by raising a bogey that does not exist in reality.

Others, though not so radical, might introspect a few moments on the issue but would, sooner rather than later, get blinded by glare of riches of the economy as a whole and would conveniently forget the plight of these unfortunate group that fights with its nose perilously close to the unforgiving grinding wheels of abysmal poverty.

Monica Townson in her seminal work published in 2000, shakes us up, rather rudely, from our willful suspension of disbelief and makes us aware of the existence and extent of poverty among Canadian women. She exposes the harsh fact that as Canada stepped into 21st century, nearly 19% of Canadian women were languishing in poverty.

Perhaps one other information would put the issue in proper perspective. While there were 1.8 million poor adult women in Canada in 1980, their numbers had increased to 2.2 million in 2000 (Townson 2000). So, the issue is not only trivial but also needs serious attention as the numbers that are afflicted by this social malady are steadily increasing.

It might, however, be argued by some that Canadian government does not have an officially accepted poverty line. So, how could one declare with such assurance that a certain number of Canadian adult women are poor? The answer to such a query can be found in statistics published by Statistics Canada. It publishes data based on LICO which is nothing but a relative estimate of incomes of families of a certain area. This estimate effectively brings into focus the number of families that are relatively poorer than their neighbors and serves as a good measure of finding out the number of people that can be termed as poor.

Though such an estimate is not uniform throughout the country as it depends on the level of the prosperity of the area that is investigated, it surely brings out the extent of poverty in Canadian society. LICO estimates the percentage of income spent by a family on necessities as food, shelter and clothing and those families that spend a high percentage of their income on these necessities are termed as low-income or poor.

Statistics Canada also provides another measure termed as ‘average income deficiency’ which defines the amount of additional income that is necessary to bring families that are in low-income group above the poverty level. This measure actually helps one to estimate the extent of poverty in Canadian society.

The anatomy of poverty among women in Canada is thrown into sharp focus by this measure when we face the disturbing fact that in 1997 while 49% of the elderly women who were on their own had an income deficiency of nearly $3,000; 56% of single mother families faced an income deficiency of $9,000 (Townson 2000). This fact makes us aware that single mother families are the worst hit and what is more consternating is that more than half such families consist of single mothers tending to children.

Finnie and Sweetman add another interesting dimension to the concept of poverty. They are of the opinion that unless a dynamic perspective is brought into consideration, the genuine impact of poverty can never be estimated. In simple terms, the extent of poverty in terms income deficiency is not enough to study the malaise. It is also necessary to estimate the duration of such poverty to get a complete picture of the hardships faced by the Canadian poor.

The authors also raise a very serious issue. Policy decisions would be substantially different when dealing with short term poverty for a large number of individuals than a long term poverty suffered by a relatively lesser number of individuals. While a temporary income support to affected individuals would be enough to weather short term poverty, much longer and more focused policy measures as equipping the affected individuals with employable skills would be a remedy for tackling long term poverty. So, the duration of poverty is a very important aspect that needs to be given serious attention. An emperical study by Finnie and Sweetman indicates lone mothers have a greater propensity to remain poor over longer periods than other groups (Finnie and Sweetman 2003).

The most obvious question that arises after perusing these details is what could be the reason for such deterioration in the state of affairs in an otherwise affluent economy that prides itself on its liberal and egalitarian outlook – one that never interferes in an individual’s freedom to pursue personal prosperity.

Apathy of Canadian government

The Canadian scenario got worse with global recession that played havoc with most economies of the world. It had become imperative for any government that prides itself on its welfare agenda should take extra precaution to protect those that have already been languishing in poverty. Thus anti-poverty policies had become all the more important as wages got reduced, jobs became scarce, pensions became more and more insufficient and at times even scarce and the all pervading and ever so reassuring social security became riddled with gaping holes (Mackenzie and Murray 2007).

However, Canadian government was caught in a dilemma of whether to incorporate poverty removal in its stimulus packages or whether to push the programs of poverty reduction in the background while concentrating on overall priming of the economy. The other issue that bothered social scientists and economists was whether these stimulus packages would help poor people or whether these would further put them in even greater depths of poverty.

A case in point was the inability of Canadian government to suitably address the issue of Employment Insurance Program which at any point anyway excludes 60% of those that deserve to be included. Reluctance to provide assistance to a program that offers to succor to even a minority among the targeted group amply demonstrates governmental apathy towards the poor.

One must also remember in this regard the unpalatable fact that women in general are less likely to get that benefit as compared to men. Thus, poor women would, it is needless to state, would be even more hamstrung by recession than their male counterparts due to governmental lack of appropriate attention towards improving their lot (TD Economics 2009).

Thus, Harper government’s palliative measure of extending the period of time unemployed could avail of the benefits of this program did not at all help those that were unable to secure an employment in the first place. Ontario did not make any pretensions and clearly stated that its policy of reduction of child poverty by 25% within five years would be postponed due to changed economic scenario.

The annual spending of $63 million for the upkeep of 22,000 child care spaces would not be continued thus adversely affecting poor women in a major way. Provincial governments, however, would pool their resources to preserve around 9,000 of such child care spaces but that effort, though commendable, would not majorly improve the lot of poor women (Townson, Women’s Poverty and the Recession 2009).

Some provincial governments had announced minor raises in minimum wage rates but there had not been even a single announcement regarding increase of welfare rates. As it is they were minimal and now with rising prices, the real value of these cosmetic increases in minimum wage rate have been negligible (Lynch 2007)

Generally Canadian government has never approached the problem of women poverty with any degree of seriousness of purpose. A case in point is child benefits that are intended to ameliorate poverty and hardship of single mothers as they toil in bringing up their children. Though the policy monitors economic status of children under assistance, it never attempts to monitor the economic status of lone mothers that actually bear the brunt of grinding poverty as they struggle in the efforts to rear their children.

This glaring lacuna in implementation and monitoring of the policy indeed casts serious doubts about the honesty of purpose of Canadian government in this regard (Townson, Women’s Poverty and the Recession 2009).

Unemployment not the sole reason of poverty among women

In this connection, it may be mentioned that the roots of women poverty in Canada are not only in their unemployment or they being unemployable but can also be traced back to situations when they are in paid employment.

The refusal of Federal Government to implement pay equity in workplace among genders has also increased the discomfort of women in workplace with regard to pay and benefits parity.

The government had also excluded unemployed women from the benefits of Employment Insurance. Though it was based on irrefutable logic the fact remains that it did in no way help the economic deprivation of poor women, especially during the trying times of global economic recession. The government also did not take any measure to alleviate the hardships of lone senior women and instead shifted its attention to family based benefits. This move is surely appreciable but there is a serious flaw in this approach. It assumes equal access to family income by both men and women which is surely not the reality in most instances.

Though some provincial governments did announce increase in minimum wages the impact is yet to be perceived in a tangible manner in improving the lot of poor women especially as women constitute 60% of the minimum wage workers (Townson, Women’s Poverty and the Recession 2009).

The issue assumes added significance when we superimpose it on the statistical evidence that in 2008, 82% of women in the age bracket 25 – 44 were in the paid workforce but they earned only 65.7% of the average wage earned by men. Ten years ago, in 1998 they earned 62.7% of the average wage earned by men at that time. Thus, there has hardly been any relative improvement in the earning potential of women over the decade. So, even if employment level for women is increased, there is a big doubt whether it would effectively reduce poverty among women.

The data quoted above includes women that are not employed full time. If we consider only those women that are employed full time then though the picture improves but only slightly. The wage gap between genders still remains equally great. As on 2007 an average women who was employed full time earned only 71.4% of the average earnings of a man in full time employment. Thus, refusal of federal government to implement wage equity has gone a long way in making women financially less strong as compared to men (Townson, Women’s Poverty and the Recession 2009).

There is another aspect to the whole scenario. When a woman loses her job generally she does not have enough savings to sustain herself and her family and more often than not does not qualify for Employment Insurance or workplace pension plans. As a result women who head a family as a lone parent are usually part of the poorest group of people in Canada and the level of welfare assistance is so inadequate that National Council of Welfare reported that in 2005 it was as low as 48% of the poverty line level for a lone woman family in Alberta (National Council of Welfare 2006).

After its installation in 2006, Harper Conservatives have taken steps that seriously undermined improvement of economic status of poor Canadian women especially withdrawal of mandate for Status of Women Canada dealt a big blow to attempts of improving the lot of poor Canadian women.

Spillover effects of poverty among women

These days two terms – ‘feminization of poverty’ and ‘juvenization of poverty’ have gained much currency. The first term was coined by Pearce in 1978 and it connoted that out of the total number of poor in Canada progressively more and more women are finding themselves in the grips of this abysmal financial condition (Pearce 1978). Later, Peterson in 1987 and Pressman in 1989 offered slightly differing versions of the term. They defined the term as an increase in the number of families which are headed by lone females and are poor (Peterson 1987); (Pressman 1989).

Though it might appear that the change in definition was merely cosmetic, but deeper analysis threw up different results based on different definitions. Thus, policy decisions, if any, taken depended heavily on how feminization was defined.

Martin D. Dooley did an elaborate study on the topic of feminization and juvenization of poverty. While family data strongly indicated feminization of poverty, individual data did not. Individual data strongly indicated the dejuvenization poverty but family data did not. In simple terms it meant that while children improved their economic lot over time, their mothers; the ones that tended to them and helped in bringing them up, remained mired in the depths of poverty without any hope of any succor (Dooley 1994).

One reason forwarded by Dooley for reduction of juvenization of poverty was not due to children from poor families managing to get out of the clutches of poverty but due to lower rates of child birth. The number of children reduced, hence juvenization of poverty reduced. It was not due to any governmental initiative or conscious poverty reduction plan. Another rather startling revelation obtained from the studies of Dooley was that taxation rates and governmental assistance did not help in reduction of overall poverty.

All that those measures could do was a redistribution of poverty from the elderly women to younger women – those that were below 34 years of age. He forwarded several reasons for such an occurrence the most important among those was the income gap among the elderly were already lesser than those among the younger women and when this coupled with the extra benefits enjoyed by the elderly, the net result was a reduction in poverty rates among the senior women. So, it was more an effect of demography rather than any governmental measures.

Government’s approach towards poverty among women

With a drastic change in Canadian social welfare policy and steady reduction of safety net, the economic position of poor women in Canada has steadily deteriorated. Many citizens are of the opinion that such a drastic cutback of welfare measures has sown the seeds of insecurity in the minds of many Canadians and now not only the poor women but also others that are reasonably secure financially have started to feel the pinch of steadily disappearing social safety network (Pulkingham and Ternowetsky 1996).

It all started with the implementation of Canada Health and Social Transfer whereby federal Government started giving a lump sum amount to provincial governments to cover education, health care and social programs. Provincial governments were provided enough autonomy in deciding the standards of social programs they would provide to their people and provincial governments started delegating their responsibilities to municipalities which decided the standard of social programs they would offer to those living within their jurisdiction. The natural corollary of such widespread decentralization and delegation was a marked variation in the quality of social programs available throughout Canada and a steady erosion of Federal government’s hitherto leadership status with regard to such social welfare programs (McMullin, Davies and Cassidy 2002).

The Ontario government introduced in 1997 the Social Reform Act that focused on restructuring the welfare system with the laudable goal of lowering the ‘cycle of dependency’ on the system and encouraging the recipients of social assistance to become self sufficient. The Ontario Works Act (OWA) and the Ontario Disability Support Program Act (ODSPA) replaced the earlier federally administered General Welfare Assistance Act (GWA), the Family Benefits Act (FBA) and the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Act.

The Ontario Works Act provided pecuniary support for shelter and other basic needs to recipients together with dental and eye care. But this ultimately resulted in a 21.6% reduction in benefits for the recipients. The reduction of benefits was aimed at coaxing the recipients from the cozy comfort of social assistance to show some initiative and find an employment. However, the ground reality was entirely different.

Lone young mothers when faced with the 21% reduction took recourse to running up debts rather than compromise on the children’s nutrition and landed into greater financial difficulty with debt collectors hounding them. Thus, instead of encouraging them to become self sufficient, the new policy made them more financially insecure. The very aim of the policy was thus utterly frustrated (McMullin, Davies and Cassidy 2002).

Those that opted to join the labor force landed into greater trouble. Due to their lack of proper education and job related experience they could manage only the lowliest of jobs that did not have any social benefits and most of them ended up earning less than what they could get through social assistance which was promptly withdrawn the moment they got a job. Thus, the new policy effectively transformed them from unemployed poor to working poor without any real change in their economic condition (Little 1994). Such a situation induces a sense of helplessness and self pity among lone mothers and instead of empowering them, this law turned them into people that lacked self esteem who felt they were inherently worthless, useless and totally unfit to become contributive members of a society.

The reduction in welfare assistance in most provinces in Canada were drastic with British Columbia leading the onslaught as between 1995 and 2003 welfare assistance in this state was truncated by as much as 54%. It must be remembered that while poverty directly influences health and well being of poor women by inhibiting them from proper nutrition, shelter or health care, stigmatization and alienation from society scars their psyche beyond any redemption (Fuchs 1988).

They lead the rest of their lives bearing the albatross around their necks of being treated as unworthy, undeserving, reprehensible and more often than not as morally deviant. Such a tremendous burden is surely a very heavy penalty for being poor. Yet quite a few of those that reached such a pitiable situation did so for no fault of theirs. A divorce often shattered their earlier sheltered existence and, devoid of any previous work experience or even an educational degree, they faced the fury of modern urban life with no wherewithal to take shelter from the unexpected onslaught (Reid and Tom 2006).

Coulter analyzed the relative inaction, rather abdication of responsibility of the Federal Government through the prism of neoliberalism which measures an individual by the quantum of his or her consumption and propounds the supremacy of marketplace (Coulter 2009). Thus all policies enacted by neoliberals almost invariably shifted their focus from groups to individuals and tended to treat each individual as an independent entity unique in itself and not having anything in common to each other. Such an approach quite conveniently releases the government from its bounden duty of providing for welfare measures to disadvantaged sections of the society and concentrate on efficient and smooth functioning of the marketplace which neoliberals consider to be the final, impersonal and equitable arbiter of utilization of the resources of a society and capital accumulation (Harvey 2006).

When the Conservative Party came to power in 1995 elections in Ontario, neoliberals like Mike Harris came out in the open with all their guns blazing against tenets of welfare state and governmental responsibilities towards economically disadvantaged and consequent spending of governmental funds for their support. They also blamed governmental regulation for the tumultuous economic scenario that plagued Canada at that time. But the real reason for such a recessionary situation was not welfare policies of the government or security net but because of a global economic downturn, however, these neoliberals took advantage of public anxiety and scrapped or drastically reduced welfare schemes and worsened the economic conditions of lone mothers. Instead of helping those that needed such assistance the most, the government pushed them further to the brink of annihilation in its mad desire to establish supremacy of marketplace and a consumption oriented economy (Coulter 2009).

Policy Priorities for Women – through the prism of racial and class differences

Erin O’Brien observes that women never think as a single group bout the burning issue of poor women in Canada; rather they analyze the issue through the lens of their individual racial and economic standings. As an example, the author draws the analogy of a woman driving a SUV and another driving a Hyundai and yet another that is forced to take a bus and tries to examine whether all three women think alike on issues of poverty and deprivation among women in Canada (O’Brien 2004).

But O’Brien is not the only scholar who has come to this conclusion. Authors have earlier also recorded their experiences and analyzed trends and events and have come to the conclusion that women tend to have divergent opinions about any political or societal issue depending upon which strata of society they come from, their nationalities and races and of course their economic status (Gordon 1994).

As their economic status improves, women tend to consider poverty as an issue that should not merit as much as attention as it did when their economic status was not so sound. Thus advent of economic prosperity tended to make women impervious to the miseries of those that have still not been able to overcome that crucial economic barrier. This situation becomes even more acute if the fruits of economic prosperity do not permeate equitable through the society. If those that have been able to take advantage of various assistances and social benefits to break away from the shackles of poverty belong predominantly to a specific ethnic group, they would almost always become callous about the trials and tribulations of the other ethnic groups that have not been able to, or were not allowed to, take advantage of social benefits or a booming economy.

Thus organizing women to fight against poverty is a double-edged sword in the sense that while all of them face the same hardships, women would stick together and fight together but once there is a discrepancy in economic improvement among individual members of the group, those that have been able to clinch the benefits would most certainly stop struggling for their less fortunate fellow members. Hence any women’s movement that attempts to tackle women’s poverty in Canada by organizing affected women to fight the battle collectively must be extra cautious that such a movement does not end up creating divides and chasms among fellow members. If women become apathetic to problems of women it would indeed be an uphill task for those that are fighting the battle for survival.


Women in Canada are still suffering from unacceptable levels of poverty and the government seems all too happy to abdicate its responsibility to protect that are most distressed in the name of rationalization and empowerment of recipients of social security assistance. Global recession has given them a convenient excuse to shrink the social security net even further. But such an approach must be vehemently opposed and the government must be pressurized to bring back the issue of women’s equality at workplace back on the active agenda. Further, the issue of Employment Insurance must be ironed out so that women get the same benefits and access as men do.

The minimum wages should be brought up to $10 and a thorough review of social assistance is absolutely urgent and imperative so as to ensure that they come up to post-tax LICO for lone parents and elderly women so that they do not remain stuck in the depths of poverty while suffering the opprobrium of useless social parasites. Recent modes of evaluation of a woman’s economic status that is linked with her relationship with a man must be removed and social assistance and tax structures should be so modified that a woman’s economic autonomy is not only respected but also actively encouraged.


Coulter, Kendra. “Women, Poverty Policy, and the Production of Neoliberal Politics in Ontario, Canada.” Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, 30, 2009: 23-45.

Dooley, Martin D. “Women, Children and Poverty in Canada.” Canadian Public Policy, Vol. 20, No. 4, 1994: 430-443.

Finnie, Ross, and Arthur Sweetman. “Poverty dynamics: empirical evidence for Canada.” Canadian Journal of Economics, Vol. 36, No. 2, 2003: 292-325.

Fuchs, V. Women’s Quest for Economic Equality. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988.

Gordon, Linda. Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare. New York: Free Press, 1994.

Harvey, David. Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development. London: Verso, 2006.

Little, M.H. “Manhunts and Bingo Blabs: The Moral Regulation of Ontario Single Mother.” Canadian Journal of Sociology, 19, 1994: 233-247.

Lynch, Robert G. Enriching Children, Enriching the Nation. Study, Washington: Economic Policy Institute, 2007.

Mackenzie, Hugh, and Stuart Murray. Bringing Minimum Wages Above the Poverty Line. Report, Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2007.

McMullin, J. A., L. Davies, and G. Cassidy. “Welfare reform in Ontario: tough times in mothers’ lives.” Canadian Public Policy, 28 (2), 2002: 297-314.

National Council of Welfare. “Welfare Incomes: Patterns and Trends.” National Council of Welfare. 2006. (accessed March 29, 2011).

O’Brien, Erin. “The Double-Edged Sword of Women’s Organizing.” Women & Politics, 26: 3, 2004: 25-56.

Pearce, D. “The Feminization of Poverty: Women, Work and Welfare.” Urban and Social Change Review, 2, 1978: 1-2.

Peterson, J. “The Feminization of Poverty.” Journal of Economic Issues, 21, 1987: 329-337.

Pressman, S. “Comment on Peterson’s “The Feminization of Poverty”.” Journal of Economic Issues, 23, 1989: 231-238.

Pulkingham, J., and G. Ternowetsky. “The Changing Landscape of Social Policy and the Canadian Welfare State.” In Remaking Canadian Social Policy: Social Security in the Late 1990s, by J. Pulkingham and G. Ternowetsky (eds). Halifax: Fernwood Publishing Co., 1996.

Reid, Colleen, and Allison Tom. “Poor Women’s Discourses of Legitimacy, Poverty, and Health.” Gender and Society, Vol. 20, No. 3, 2006: 402-421.

TD Economics. Is Canada’s Employment Insurance Program Adequate? Special Report. April 30, 2009. (accessed March 28, 2011).

Townson, Monica. A Report Card on Women and Poverty. Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2000.

Townson, Monica. Women’s Poverty and the Recession. Report, Ottawa: Canadian Center for Policy Alternaives, 2009.

The Primary Reasons Why African American Women Find it Difficult To Attract Compatible African American Men to Commit to Marriage

Filed under: social awareness — niranjanchatterjee @ 10:42 pm


The purpose of this project thesis was to determine the primary reasons why African American Women find it difficult to attract compatible African American Men to commit to marriage and ways to solve this problem. This issue has been around for years and it is not getting any better. The men in our society are afraid to commit to marriage for various reasons. Men not committing is causing women to feel unwanted, abused, lose trust and for some even low self-esteem, which lead to depression.

An article printed in Diverse Education African American women states that it is not only women who want marriage, family and stability. The realities take shape by gaps in labor market opportunities between men and women, and gaps in the training possibilities that men and women face.

Women stated in an extract posted by Dr. Michael Gurian, that men take longer to decide that this one bond of marital love would be the bond on which they formed their future life.  Men prove worth and base their lives on tests, challenges, and proofs of self.  They take a lot longer to commit themselves than women.  Many men would rather wait for engagement and marriage until they are sure that can keep their worth and status high enough for a sustained period to live up to their future family and social responsibilities.

Men are afraid to become responsible for woman’s happiness. Men are very smart:  They know from adolescence onward that women make men greatly responsible for their happiness.  Men, especially today, know that it can easily become a zero sum game to become responsible for not only a woman’s physical and financial safety once children come, but also her deep inner life, too.

Many men fear they will not be able to completely bond with children.  Men do not have oxytocin which women have by which they bond not only instinctually and socially to children, but also biochemically.  Men often have to work very hard to bond with mates and offspring in order to feel parallel in their bonding intensity with women.  Men biologically mature later than women, their brain development finishes later in adolescence than girls’ do and women’s.  Therefore, in some case, the woman seeking commitment might be more psychologically mature than the man she wants to marry. She may be ready.  He may not be.  Because men have no inherent biological path to worth, they often take longer than women do to feel they have proven themselves worthy of marriage. They may be just as focused on the personal journey of self-worth development as they are on marriage, whereas in case of a woman, the very fact that a man is courting may have the inherent advantage of self-worth, and she may be more focused on marriage.

Meanwhile, men have many reasons for not committing as quickly as women might like. Some men are simply so terrified of committing to one woman that they reflect quite well the cliché, “Men are afraid to commit.” Yet men are immensely courageous, too.  Especially in today’s social environment, in which many females are putting not only the responsibility for their financial and material needs in the hands of men (men are still required, in most households, to earn more than women when the children come), but also the responsibility for the emotional health of the marriage, men still marry at very high rates. Men are committing themselves to romantic partners and striving to adapt and adjust to those partners. Men fear women, but know they need them. The biological compulsion to marry is still very strong, as are the biological factors that drive a man’s mind and body as he passes the tests of commitment. (Gurian, 2005)


ABSTRACT                                                                                                                  3

DESCRIPTION OF THE PROBLEM                                                                       6

Purpose of the Action Research Project                                                                     6

Setting of the Problem                                                                                                6

History and Background of the Problem                                                                    7

Scope of the Action Research Project                                                                                    8

Importance of the Action Research Project                                                                9

Definition of Terms                                                                                                  10

LITERATURE REVIEW                                                                                          11

OPTION SELECTION                                                                                                          22

DESCRIPTION OF THE INTERVENTION                                                                      23

Statement of Objectives                                                                                           23

Description of the Intervention                                                                                24

       THE EVALUATION PLANS                                                                                               27

Evaluation Design                                                                                                     28

Interpretation                                                                                                            29

PRACTICAL ASPECTS OF INTERVIEWS                                                                     32

Design of Questions                                                                                                 33

CONCLUSION                                                                                                           35

       REFERENCE LIST                                                                                                   37





African American women find it difficult to attract compatible African American men to commit to marriage due to fear of committing to a permanent, one on one, male/female relationship, lack of trust due to past hurts and fear of divorce. For years African American women have been getting involved in relationships with African American men to build a foundation for marriage and to have a family and as a result of various reasons, marriages have ended in divorce. This issue has been around for years and causes men and women to talk about relationships, think about them, read about them, ask about them, and even get in them, without a clue how to move forward in them. In Steve Harvey book, Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man he states what men really think about love, relationship, intimacy, and commitment. (Harvey, 2009)

Statement of Purpose 

The purpose of this project was to determine the primary reasons why African American women find it difficult to attract compatible African American men to commit to marriage and ways to solve this problem.  It is indeed surprising that after all these years women have yet to figure out why is it so difficult to get men to commit to marriage. It is high time that the pathetic excuses that our African American men give about not being ready, not being able to get along, or not having a good enough careers are discarded in the dustbin. (Mitchell, 2006)

Year after year, men have been abusing and disrespecting women. Year after year, men have been lording over women and in the process have taken away or crushed their rights and dignity.  There are women who are driven to mental penury after their encounter with these men. (Abidde, 2005)

The purpose of committing is putting all blame aside, believing you should focus on bridging the gaps in African American relationships by exploring solutions and engaging in dialogue that is more meaningful.  In other words, take a moment and shed some light on how we got to this point in the beginning.  Purpose of defining commitment could be define our relationship ideas, communicate our desires, and look for balances that sustain us for the long haul.  These traditional roles with new millennium personalities will help both African American women and men satisfy their relationship needs and expectations.

Setting of the Problem

This problem is affecting African American women and men worldwide, who have not found their sold mate; and it is not getting any better.  If it is not thought of and evaluated in a more respectful, and loving manner it could have a devastating effect on our African American women and men globally.

The problem is an internationally known problem that African American men and women are facing emotionally and physically.  The problem of women not being able to find a compatible man to commit and marriage is ongoing all over.

History of the Problem

According to research found on the website for National Health Marriage Resource Center, “Marriage is clearly linked to psychological, social and economic benefits.”  African American is significantly less likely to marry. Only 50 percent of African Americans born between 1960 and 1969 were married by the age of 30 (compared with 78 percent of whites).

African Americans have higher rates of divorce compared to other racial and ethnic groups. Well, because of the lower marriage rates and higher divorces rates, African-American women are about half as likely to be married at any time. Marriage is no longer a moral issue; it is an economic issue. (Mary Mitchell)

Research indicates that African American men lack the education and financial sources.  They are undependable, uncommitted to marriage, prone to engage in violence, physically absent due to abandonment or incarceration.

The absence of African American fathers at home might also be a primary factor of the insidious deterioration of African American families. These missing men are at the root of family disorganization and dysfunction. Accepting this notion without taking into account the rampant inequity, racial discrimination and legal difficulties that often create insurmountable barriers to marriage and fatherhood would give the observer a wrong impression about the whole scenario.(Fiske, 2003).

A recent study by Lane, Keefe, Rubinstein, Levandowski, Freedman, Rosenthal, Cibula and Czerwinski (2004) examines the current plight of African American Families and barriers to marriage and parenthood.  Research reveals that the declining marriage rate for African American women is most likely due to the scarcity of marriageable men and the disproportionate sex ratio within the African American population. The research also brings to light the fact that the high rise in single motherhood since 1965 through 2000 is not due to personal choice, but rather the effect of structural violence. Lack of educational and /or employment opportunities inhibit marriage ability.

The African American male-female sex ratio disparity is highest between the ages of 25-29, when for every two African American men there are nearly three African American women.  Lane, et al (2004) note, heterosexual, monogamous marriage is thus an arithmetical impossibility for one third of African American women in this age group, if they want marital partners of near age and same race.  Overwhelmingly, incarceration is the largest factor that accounts for this skewed male-female sex ratio among African American men and women.

Researchers have frequently theorized that sporadic employment leads to disengaged family involvement for low-income African American men.  Low-income women often do not consider men with unstable work histories to be worth a lifetime commitment.  Successful fatherhood has hinged on men’s stable and consistent participation in both work and family life (Roy, 2005).  With limited opportunities to fulfill the provider role for their families, African American men have had few opportunities to open the door to other forms of familiar involvement as parents or partners.  Failure as providers has harmed fulfillment of other roles in the lives of African American men, such as the regular involvement with their children (Roy, 2005).  Research suggests that African American men, as with men from all ethnicities, in fact, desire marriage. (James, Tucker, Mitchell-Kernan,(1996).  Married men derive a high level of well-being, more so than never married singles or divorced males.  However, among African American women, only about 70 percent born after 1980 will marry and those who do marry will face increased chances for divorce (Besharov and West, 2001).  Considering the shortage of marriageable African American men, marriage unions between African American men and women are in serious decline; with a reversal of this trend unlikely in the near future.  If they marry, the high rates of divorce among this population are indicative of the severe stressors (poverty, high unemployment, etc.) that interfere in the lives of these families, jeopardizing the health of the marriage.

Scope of the Project

The project will focus on fear of commitment, educational differences, financial compatibility, fear of divorce with or without children, and religious differences.  There are several reasons why African American women have difficulty attracting compatible African American men to commit to marriage.

1) The fear of commitment due to economic status and feelings of inadequacy in handling family life,

2) Women are unable to attract men because of educational differences; single motherhood has forced women to further their education in order to provide adequate life, health and safety for themselves and their children. This causes men to feel intimidated by the knowledge women have and they do not.

3) Financial compatibility because of advances educational levels, which allows or contributes to job promotion and an advance in salary, again cause men to be intimidated by a woman that makes more money than he does and he fears that he will not be in control as being the family “bread winner”.

4) Fear of divorcees with or without children listening and observing family member’s marriages, I’ve learned that in previous years, husband and wives communicated more and forgave and tolerated incidents that couples today will divorce over without seeking counseling or giving the other party “another chance”.  The marriage vows are quickly forgotten when situations are not happening to their satisfaction.

5) Religious differences under which African American women attend church believing in the Lord and living according to his word.  Locating an African American man who is committed to living according to the “Word” is difficult, as some of them believe that their indiscretions are acceptable and they do not have any problems in having an affair outside marriage as long as their wives do not find out. They are comfortable sitting in church singing praise to the Lord all the while knowing they have sinned. They are willing to be in church, but not to completely adopt the ways of the Lord.

Importance of the Project

The importance of this project was to educate and inform African American women that all is not in vain in attracting an African American man to commit to marriage and that they do not have to sacrifice themselves in order to marry within their race.  It is also important to educate and inform African American men that not all women are out to trap them into a life of misery, and that communication and understanding is one of the keys to having a healthy and happy marriage.


Definition of Terms


Oxytocin – is a pituitary hormone that stimulates uterine contractions during childbirth and triggers lactation.

Use: sometimes given to assist labor


Instinctually – is a powerful motivation or impulse


Biochemically – is the study of the chemical substances and vital processes in living organisms


Immensely – is extremely large, huge, excellent


Penury – extreme poverty; destitution


Insidious – is working or spreading harmfully in a subtle or stealthy manner.  Intended to entrap, treacherous


Rampant – Growing or spreading unchecked.


Insurmountable – is impossible to surmount; insuperable


Monogamous – is marriage to only one person at a time


Sporadic – is occurring at irregular intervals; having no pattern in time


Indicative – is serving to indicate




An exploration of family origin and contextual influences; African American women’s perception of men and their experience of romantic relationships have been examined in detail. African American men also face impacts and effects that relate to educational differences, commitment, financial compatibility, divorcees with or without children and religious differences.  These are the topics that will be discussed in my paper.

Educational Differences

Nationally, a mere quarter of the 1.9-million black men between 18 and 24 attended college in 2000, the last year the American Council on Education reported such statistics.  By contrast, 35 percent of black women in the same age group and 36 percent of all 18 to 24 year olds were attending college.

According to the American Council on Education, is that the graduation rate of African American men is the lowest of any population.  Only 35 percent of the African American men who enrolled in NCAA Division I schools in 1996 graduated within six years.  Caucasian men, on the other hand, graduated at a rate of 59 percent; Hispanic men, 46 percent; American Indian men, 41 percent; and African American women, 45 percent.

According to the autumn 2003 issue of the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, “In 1999 there were 757,000 African American men in federal, state and local prison”.  In the United States, in 1999 there were 604,200 African American men enrolled in advanced education.  Meanwhile, there were 25 percent more African American men in prison in the United States than were enrolled in institutions for advanced education.  In today’s society, black men make up 41 percent of the inmates in federal state, and local prison, but African American men are only 4 percent of all students in American institutions of advanced education.

Many African American and Caucasian educators at major colleges and universities, including Amherst, historically black Howard, Swarthmore and Wesleyan, are trying to help end this crisis.  Several years ago, the University of Georgia established the African-American Male Initiative, a research program with the purpose of removing the hurdles to college enrollment and graduation for black men.

The obstacles to African American males earning college degrees are several, various apparently inflexible.  They include central public education before college, the absence of black men as role models, low opportunity from teachers and other adults, low self-worth; black men’s hold low aspirations and their propensity to drop out of high school in inconsistent numbers.

Yes, these are serious obstacles to college enrollment and graduation for African-American men, but, taken together, they symbolize the least significant part of the problem.  A role model, for example, means nothing or next to nothing to a child who is ill prepared to emotionally and academically apprehend the significance of the role model’s accomplishments.

Ronald Mincy is a professor of social work and editor of “Black Males Left Behind”.  The African American population in Prince George’s County, Maryland and DeKalb County, Georgia are some of the nation’s most satisfied.  The poverty rate for African Americans has decreased from 26.5 percent in 1998 to 24.3 percent in 2006.  In addition, a study by the National Association of Realtors’ for 2006 discovered that single female homebuyers were up from 14 percent to 22.  Additionally, in the midst of single females, 46 percent are time buyers.

A staggering number of African American household continue to be headed by women; and shortage has a common way of life inherited from one generation to another.  Some seven out of every ten African American children are raised in single households.  Additional data reveals that African American households are at an economic drawback compared to white households.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2005 employed African Americans earned only 65 percent of the earnings of whites in comparables jobs.  Moreover, John Macionis, a sociologist, suggests that a soaring risk of unemployment and poverty makes maintain a constant marriage difficult.  In addition, that 27 percent of African American women in their forties have never married compare to about 9 percent of white women the same age.

Many African American women are losing faith in a man’s ability to be responsible.  Twenty of the twenty-seven (74%) women interviewed for this article agree that some African American men look forward to a woman to take care of them.  While this view is disturbing, the truth of the matter is that a growing number of African American men are out of work.  According the Erik Eckholm’s article titled “Plight of Black Men dire, Studies Says”, the share of young black men without jobs has climbed relentlessly, with only a slight pause during the economic peak of the late1990s.  In 2000, 65 percent of the black male high school dropouts in their 20’s were jobless-that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated.  By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white dropouts and 19percent of Hispanic dropouts.

Financial Capabilities

General Statistics

  • The number of working women has risen from 5, 1 million in 1990, to 18.4 million in 1950, to 65.7 million in 2005. The number of working women is projected to reach nearly 76 million by 2014.
  • Women accounted for 18% of the labor force in 1900, and 46.4% in 2005. In 2014, women will account for 46.8% of the labor force.
  • The number of women in the labor force is expected to increase by almost 10.9% between 2004 and 2014, while a smaller 9.1% increase is projected for men. This means men’s share of the labor force will decrease, from 53.6% to 53.2% between 2004 and 2014.
  • While in 1900 only 20.4% of all women worked, in 2005, almost 60% worked. The same percentage of women is expected to be in the paid labor force in 2014.
  • Almost 73% of working women had white-collar occupations in 2005, a percentage that should to increase. Women employed in professional and related occupations accounted for 24.7% of all working-women in 2005.
  • Women are the majority (56.3%) of workers in the occupational category expected to grow most rapidly: the professional and related occupations, which should increase by more than 21.2% from 2004-2014.
  • Labor force participation has increased most dramatically among married women.
  • Today most mothers-even those with the youngest children participate in the labor force.
  • Nearly half of all multiple jobholders in 2004 were women, up from 22% in 1974. Women are the majority of temporary and part-time workers.

Occupational Distribution

  • Women being the main source of professional employees, their profession distribution remains different from men:
  • In 2005, 92% of registered nurses, 82% of all elementary and middle schoolteachers, and 98% of all preschool and kindergarten teachers were women.
  • In comparison, only 13% of all civil engineers, 7% of electrical and electronics engineers, and 3% of all aircraft pilots and flight engineers were female.
  • The different distribution of men and women among specific professional occupations was less pronounced in 2005 than in 1985.
  • The percentage of technical writers who were female increased from 36% to 52% between 1985 and 2005
  • Women pharmacists increased from 30% in 1983 in 1985 to 48% in 2005
  • The percentage of female chemists increased from 11% in 1985 to 35% in 200
  • In 2005, women accounted for 30% of all lawyers, 32% of all physicians and surgeons, and 67% of all psychologists

The Wage Gap Persists

  • In 2004, women earned 80.4% as much as men when comparing median weekly earnings. Another way to measure earnings disparities is by comparing median annual earnings for full-time year-round workers; this figure includes self-employed workers and other sources of pay differences such as annual bonuses.  When measured in this manner, the wage gap appeared even more pronounced; women earned just 76.5% as much as men.
  • For most women of color, the earnings gap is even larger.
  • African American women earned just 70.8% as much as all men in 2004.
  • Hispanic and Latina women earned just 58.8% as much as all men.
  • Only Asian American women’s earnings were closer to parity with men’s: in 2004, they earned 86% that of all men. However, they earned 76.4% as much as Asian American men.
  • The wage gap is more pronounced for older women: in 2004, women over 35 earned 75% that of men in the same age group, while women aged 16-24 earned 95% as much as their peers.
  • Out of 19 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, the United States has the largest gender earnings gap, save for Austria and Switzerland.

Work, Family, and Women’s Economic Responsibilities

  • In 2004, 49% of women were not married, 58% of them were in the labor force
  • The proportion of families in which the husband, but not the wife, worked outside the home declined from 66% in the 1940’s and ‘50s to only 18% in 2003.
  • The overall labor force participation rate of mothers with children under 18 was 70.7% in 2004.
  • Whereas in 1970, 12% of all children lived in one-parent families, in 2004 almost 28% lived with only one parent. Over 83% of these children lived with their mothers.
  • In 2004, single mother almost 30% of all working families headed over seven million families with children under 18. The labor-force-participation rate of single mothers was over 77% in 2004.
  • Almost 36% of families where children under 18 lived with their mother (with no father present) were below the poverty level in 2004. Among Black single mothers, over 43% were below the poverty line.

Other important critical economic realities shape the status of African American women.  While more likely to be employed than African-American men, African-American women earn lower wages than African men and White women do, with White women earning a median $663 per week in 2007, compared to $629 for African-American men and $566 for African-American women.  All three groups earn less than White men, whose 2007 weekly median earnings were $850.  Moreover, while African-American women represent two-thirds of all African –American undergraduates, and the mass of graduate students, African –American women are less likely than African-American men to reach the high point of their occupations, especially in corporate America.  Indeed, while a handful of African-American men lead Fortune 500 corporations, as do a dozen or so White women, not a single African-American woman has ever led such a corporation.


Elina Furman, author of Kiss and Run: The Single, Picky, and Indecisive Girl’s Guide to Overcoming Her Fear of Commitment, calls her commitment phobic.  The world is altering and so as society, which is giving women more options for work, family and relationships.  In result, this has made women to become more independent than ever.  At 47 million strong, in according to the U.S. Census, single women are the fastest growing segment of the American population. Moreover, with society more accepting of their single status, women are free to follow whatever choices they desire to make.  However, conflicts can arise from all this newfound freedom:  More women are living life on their own terms but discovery it harder to compromise.

This trend is especially unsettling for men, the author says, “Men don’t understand why women are roaring so much.  A lot of men are much more relationship-and family-oriented than women.”  She says women often feel that men have more to gain in a marriage and many feel as if men always win and women always lose in a relationship.  In addition, when men play the nice guy, they may not get the girl.  The author says, often it’s not his issues but hers that interfere in a relationship. She says many women are saying to men, “It’s your fault,” rather than declare that they are scared of commitment.

Married African American men are more likely to be employed than never-married or divorced men, and they work longer hours and earn superior wages than unmarried men with comparable characteristics.  These specifics have been confirmed in the vase mass of economic studies why individuals with comparable and distinctive characteristics have different earnings.  Studies focusing on black men estimate that married men work two and a half more on average and earn wages between 14 percent and 18 percent higher than never-married black men earn while controlling for other differences between individuals.

Why do men earn more when they marry?  It may be that married men change their behavior to conform to social expectations of what it takes to be good husband-expectations such as maturity, loyalty, and the ability to provide economically for a family.  On the other hand, perhaps men delay marriage until they expect to be able to conform to these expectations. To explore this question, economists Sanders Korenman and David Neumark follow the employment patterns of men from two different types of surveys:  a nationwide representative sample studied over time and a smaller group of men working in a single firm.  They find that men’s wages enlarge during each year of marriage, and that, in the long-term study, unmarried men with advanced wage growth is actually less likely subsequently to marry.  The authors also find married men in the firm-level sample have higher performance evaluations than unmarried men with comparable company experience and other characteristics, which leads the married men to be employed in higher job grades and to earn more money.  This study provides verification that married men’s behavior, rather than preferential treatment or selection into marriage, causes them to earn more.

African American men also modify their behavior after marriage in ways that are valuable to their health.  The social and emotional support that married black men obtain from their wives is influential in encouraging healthy activities and protecting men’s emotional health.

How do wives have a direct positive impact on African American husbands’ health?

Married black men gain from the social and emotional support of their wives and from their wives’ support towards healthy behavior.  Married men are more likely than single men to report that someone monitors their health and reminds them to do healthy things, such as exercising or seeing a doctor regularly.  The everyday interaction provided by marriage also protects men against solitude and social isolation, which can negatively affect physical and mental health.  Marriage can also bolster men’s belief that their lives have meaning and purpose because someone relies on them and cares for them.

Married African American men accept more sustain from their extended families and religious communities, and in return supply to the social performance of their neighborhoods and communities.  In this way, married black men are more socially incorporated into their communities than unmarried peers are.

Encouraging marriage among African Americans should be essential to anyone-including policymakers, community activists, and individuals-who are concerned in improving the well-being of African American men.  With this goal in mind, researcher Linda Malone-Colon has outlined a plan to lecture to the crisis of low marriage rates among African Americans.

Divorcees with or without children

The most important cause of rise in divorce is considered cases worldwide of individualism among people.  Everyone worldwide is giving too much significance to his or her own self.  People are more career-oriented and want to rise high in life status-wise and financially.  No one has much time o think about the other person. “I before anyone else” is the attitude.

Such individualism is very conflicting of the concept of marriage, which is a bond of two people who vow to care for each other and put the other’s importance before their own.  This is the only way a marriage can function because it demands togetherness and collectiveness thinking, not individualism.  To make a marriage work, both the partners need to be equipped for a lot of self-sacrifice and ready to show an understanding and caring attitude towards the other.

Other most important causes of divorce are financial arising out of a lack of family resources.  The constant scarcity of money soon gives to such behavior as bickering, sarcastic comments, insulting each other and lack of respect for each other. This downhill slide finally ends in divorce.

Other reasons for divorce include factors like physical and emotional abuse, sexual dissatisfaction, and unrest in relationship due to a huge disparity in educational background and life goals between the partners as well as lack of shared chemistry between them due to ego problems.

Divorce leads to numerous serious repercussions in a person’s life.  One starts to blame oneself for the completely messy situation and failure in personal affairs.  Guiltiness complex saps your energy and erodes you from within.  To get out of this unsafe rut, you have to remember the good times you have exhausted together with your partner.  “It was good while it lasted” is the correct approach to capture.

Divorce often leads to depression.  You feel lonely and discover it difficult to accept the new situation.  Divorce creates a feeling of anger and self-pity because you question yourself “why this has happened to me? Why was I so unlucky?”  Your health begins to suffer.  Divorce not only affects you but your children too.  They get a feeling of insecurity and grow to be uncertain about their future.  If not handled properly, this can cause permanent damage to the personality of the growing-up children.

After divorce, you have to start thinking of reframing your life and getting it back on track.  You should also be patient.  It will take a lot of time and effort before you can fully overcome the unconstructive effects of divorce.  To hasten up the process, try to take up a new hobby and make it a point to meet new people and start fresh relationships.  Joining Yoga and meditation is another way of dealing with stress and anxiety.  Talking about your problems with your friends is also helpful in getting the pent-up feelings out of your system.

Religious Differences

According to a latest research released today, there is a very high level of interest and involvement in spirituality and religion, there are significant differences among student subgroups, most extensively between African American and Whites, and between men and women.

A survey of 112,232 students at 236 colleges and universities found that the major differences between African American and White students was in their rank of Religious Commitment, Ethic of Caring, Religious Engagement, and Spiritual Quest. African Americans are also far more prone than White Americans to believe in God, pray, and attend religious services frequently.

While gender differences are not always outsized, women score higher on 11 of 12 “scales” that measure various aspects of students’ spirituality and religiousness.  The most marked differences are in women’s higher levels of Charitable Involvement and Religious Commitment.

These results are base on the most recent investigation of statistics from a major national study conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies at UCLA.  The study was administered last fall to entering college freshmen who attend a representative sample of colleges and universities.  HERI researchers reported earlier that four in five students have an interest in spirituality, three-fourths say are “searching for meaning or reason in life,” and more than three-quarters believe in God.

“African Americans are far busier with religion and spirituality than other students,” said Alexander W. Astin, the Co-Principal Investigator for the project.  “And while women’s advanced levels of spirituality and religiousness might be expected, we were astonished that some of these differences aren’t more pronounced.

Racial Differences

African Americans registered as the maximum scorers on seven of the 12 overall measures of spirituality and religiousness studied – Religious Commitment, Compassionate Self-Concept, Spiritual Quest, Equanimity, Religious Engagement, Ethic of Caring, and Religious/Social Conservatism – compared to Whites, Latinos, Asian Americans, American Indians, and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders.  Whites had the lowest scores on five of the 12 scales:  Ethic of Caring, Ecumenical Worldview, Charitable Involvement, Spiritual Quest, and Compassionate Self-Concept.

Latinos were the least likely overall to display elevated levels of Religious Engagement and, along with Asian Americans, Religious/Social Conservatism.  Asian Americans were the maximum scorers on Religious Skepticism and the lowest on Spirituality, Equanimity, and Religious Commitment.  Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders were the uppermost scorers on Charitable Involvement, Spirituality, Ecumenical Worldview, and Religious Struggle.

Of the 112,232 students that did surveys, 76% are White, 8% African American, 7% Asian American, 5% Latino, 2% American Indian/Alaska Native, and 1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.

Additional findings include:

  • 95% of African Americans believe in God, compared to 84% of Latinos,

78% of Whites and 65% of Asian Americans.

  • 91% of African American pray, compared to 75% of Latinos and 67% of
  • 53% of African Americans attend religious services frequently, compared to 42% of Whites, 39% of Latinos, and 35% of Asian Americans.
  • 47% of African Americans have a high level of Religious Commitment, compared to 25% of Whites and 22% of Asian Americans.
  • 32% of African Americans have high levels of Religious Engagement, compared to 16% of Latinos and 19% of Whites.

About one-third of African Americans think it important to seek opportunities to grow spiritually and say that it is critical for them to follow religious teachings in their everyday life, while less than one-fifth of Whites and Asian Americans say the same.

Gender Differences

Men score higher than women do on only one of 12 major dimensions:  Religious Skepticism (21% of men versus 14% of women are high scorers). On each of the other 11 scales, women score higher than men do.

The largest gender differences are on Charitable Involvement-a 10-point difference in high scorers (20% of women and 10% of men), Religious Commitment-a 9-point spread (30% of women and 21% of men), and Religious Engagement-a 6-point gap (22% of women and 16% of men).  Six-point gender differences are also evident on Equanimity (25% of women versus 19% of men) and Ecumenical Worldview (16% of women and 10% of men).

Women are also more likely to pray than men (75% versus 62%) and to score high on Religious/Social Conservatism (18% versus 13%) and being on a Spiritual Quest (27% versus 22%).

When it comes to gender differences in high scorers within racial groups, the largest gap is evident for African Americans on Religious Commitment-an 18-point difference (53% of women vs. 35% of men).  The 13-point gender difference in the percentage of African Americans who are high scorers on Religious Engagement (36% of women vs. 23% of men) is also nearly double that found in any other racial/ethnic group.

The Study

These result on racial and gender differences are part of HERI’s multi-year study, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, which examines how college students reflect of spirituality and its function in their lives, as well as how postsecondary institutions can better facilitate students’ spiritual improvement.




This thesis needs a selected option to determine the primary reasons why African American women find it difficult to attract compatible African American men to commit to marriage.  You could choose from three options. One can choose only one option for this thesis.  However, the three options are Applied Design Intervention, a Grant Proposal Submission, and Alternative Policy Decision. Applied Design Intervention, was the only option that best fitted this thesis, because of the intervention and evaluations in the process and procedures.

In this process option, one expresses the interventions and evaluations without the suggestions of a grant or proposals.  Meanwhile, Option One can best help African American men and women understand and to help them communicate with ways to try to face this problem.  It may also, help them come together and discuss ways to make changes.

Option two, Grant Proposal Submission was not an option for this project thesis, because it was not in search for a grant proposal, and it would not alleviate the problem.  This is the reason why option two was not the selection for this project.

Option three, Alternative Policy Decision, was not the appropriate choice, because this topic does not call for an Alternative Policy Decision.  The topic is based on the primary reasons why African American women find it difficult to attract compatible African American men to commit to marriage.  There are many alternatives already in progress, today.

Option one appeared to be the best possible solution for this thesis project resolution.  Interventions and evaluations are necessary to correct some of the past decisions that inadvertently affected African American men and women decisions, can be discussed and improvised.  This would release some of the burdens placed on African American women and would help in future decision that they face in relationships.








It has been observed through the second half of twentieth century that African American women are finding it increasingly hard to find men from their own race whom they could marry. The situation is gradually worsening, and some observers feel that unless some positive intervention is not initiated on an urgent basis, the entire race might be staring at a genuine demographic catastrophe.

But before any intervention is selected it would be better to recall in brief the salient features of this unusual situation in the African American society. The primary difference in status between African American men and women lie in their levels of education. There are 10% more college graduates among women than men and this imbalance gives rise to both, an inferiority complex and a sense of subordination in the minds of the African American men, and, a situation where women get better jobs and earn more than men. This also leads to a scenario where higher qualified women find lesser qualified men having lesser earning capacity unattractive and unworthy of getting into a lifelong commitment with.

Lack of college education and inability of finding a proper and stable job has the domino effect of many marriages ending in divorces and national statistics has some really disturbing set of data in this regard. In 2004, almost half (49% to be precise) of the African American women were unmarried and within a span of 15 years (1990 to 2005), the number of working women has increased 13 times. By 2003 there were only 18% households where only the husband worked outside and the wife did not. But that did not substantially improve the financial lot of the African American families as they have traditionally been paid only 60% of the wages their White American counterparts earned. So, we are faced with downward spiral where poor education leads to unstable jobs which in turn lead to divorces and lesser marriages.


Objective One

From the above it is apparent that the best way to try and ease the situation is to attack the problem at its root. That is, an intervention that aims at providing quality school education (which is a prerequisite for college education) might be the best way to tackle the crisis. It might take a little more time for the results to be seen, but the achievement will not only be permanent but will be self sustaining too. A child with good school education will be self motivated and might even get financial assistance in the form of scholarships to pursue college education. Once a young African American male is armed with a good college degree the first step of rectifying the current imbalance in the society is taken; the rest of the problems will start dissolving on their own.

Objective Two

Some would prefer to call this an extension of Objective One, but I would prefer to consider it as a separate objective.

It would not be enough to provide good school education to African American males; it is equally essential to prevent dropouts to a minimum because a study mentioned earlier in this project report has found that out of the African American males unable to find a job in 2004, 72% were school dropouts. So, it will be in the fitness of things to ensure that dropouts are kept at a minimum to ensure that the African American society gets the full benefit of proper and high quality school education.

As is the case with the previous objective, these interventions are of a social nature and try to tackle imbalances that have grown roots over decades. So, the results will take at least ten years to show initial indications (when the first batch of children complete their school education and prepare to enter college) and it would not be before fifteen years (when this batch leaves college and get decent employment) that one can say with a fair degree of certainty that these social interventions have indeed borne fruit.

It might seem like an eternity for some, but any far reaching and intervention that attempts to drastically alter the existing social structure cannot be expected to yield results any earlier.


Education of African American males has always been a hot topic for national discussion and irrespective of the quantum of energy and enthusiasm spent towards making the syllabus of public schools more interesting and attractive to the students, the general feeling that is gaining ground is the African American children are severely shortchanged. In fact it has been observed that as they progress from first to fourth grades, the African American children gradually become more and more disinterested about the school curriculum as they perceive a great disconnect between what they are taught and what they need to learn to survive in later life. So, there is an alarming negative correlation between the time these children stay in school and their educational progress and achievement. (Kunjufu, 2002)

It has also been found in certain studies that in every seven seconds of a school working day, an African American student is suspended and in every forty nine seconds of a school working day an African American student drops out of school. (Obiakor, Ford, & Patton, 1995)

So the situation is rather critical and something drastic and immediate needs to be done to attempt to restrict the downslide and the remedial action should start from sensitizing the teachers about the specialties of African American culture and their impact on learning process of children coming from this particular ethnic group.

The first step towards the proper direction that the teacher must take is to be free from any sort of bias against this ethnic class and be receptive and respectful towards the vast wealth of experience and cultural diversity that each African American child bring along while coming to school and try to find out how best the child can be taught without agitating his cultural sensibilities. The teacher should also be wide awake to the possibility of disparaging comments or behavior by fellow students and should immediately intervene should the colored student be subjected to any sort of denigrating behavior. In fact, the teacher should actively try to prevent any sort of segregation either real or perceived on ethnic lines in the classroom. The other issue that the teacher must always bear in mind is that the dialect used by African American children is mostly Ebonics and it should be considered as simply another dialect and not an inherent drawback or a sign of inferior upbringing. (Rodgers, 2009)

As far as classroom strategies are concerned, a teacher must make it a point to answer to queries and comments of all the students while being extra enthusiastic about any questions asked by the colored students and also make conscious efforts to engage these African American students in all discussions that take place in class. It has been observed that colored students are generally not that enthusiastic about science as a subject of study. So, the teacher should make sustained well measured attempts to stoke interest in these students about science. Initially there might be no positive response, but even a removal of negativity should be considered as a positive sign and a step forward. Special courses on computers and special discussions about how science helps in solving our everyday problems and how it makes our daily life that much smoother must be discussed in class and contributions by minority scientists towards the cause of science must be highlighted on a regular basis so as to make the minority students interested in science and technical subjects. (Rutherford, 2002)

It has another interesting side benefit too. Generally people who are technically qualified get jobs easily, so if the minority students can become technically qualified, it would very much be possible for them to make a jump start in life. The faster these students get established, more would be the enthusiasm among others that are skeptical about the benefits of school and college education. (Steele, 1992)

Should there be some minority students in the class that are not that much adept at picking up the details of what is being taught in class, the teacher must put in place alternative testing techniques and schemes so that the minority students never start feeling inferior or begin to lose interest in what is being done in school. (Sanchez, 2009)

It would perhaps be an unnecessary repetition to state that the teacher must be especially proactive to create a sense of fellow feeling among all the students so that the minority students never feel the urge to drop out of school. This would perhaps be the most important part of the entire intervention and it should steadfastly aim at reducing dropout rates as dropouts not only fail to lift the minority youngsters up from the social and psychological mess that they normally are in but also such cases discourage others to enroll and pursue good school education as a means of uplifting their social status. (Barbarin & McCandies, 2003)

Thus, with more and more African American males getting interested in technical subjects and getting technically qualified and successfully completing school level education it would be an automatic corollary that colleges will very soon more colored students thronging the classrooms. Once this trend sets in, it will just be a matter of time before African American women start finding more and more eligible men from their society who could be depended upon and who could be married to start a family. It is, however, a time consuming process but a sure way of rectifying the social malady that has infested the African American society.



One needs to have a proper evaluation plan to assess the effectiveness or otherwise of the intervention that is being described in this report. The choice of the evaluation plan also has a considerable impact on the analysis of the available data and information and can actually dictate to a large extent the result and conclusions that are drawn from the entire exercise. But irrespective of the approach taken by a researcher, it must above all be a scientific approach.


There are two basic approaches in knowledge creation, and they are hermeneutic approach and the positivist approach. The positivist approach is generally related to that school of thought that believes that truth is always evident and can be accurately measure through the use of proper methods. This approach also believes that truth is pristine and purely objective in nature and is unaffected by the point of view of the observer. (Bryman, 2002) The other basic approach to knowledge creation is hermeneutic approach that bears very close reflection of the idea of Verstehen as propounded by Webers. This approach in its most rudimentary form deals with interpretation of the text where the researcher gets to the underlying subtext of an existing text to unravel the context and the interplay of various forces that has given rise to the text and the final form in which it has been presented to the researcher. Philips and Brown (Phillips & Brown, 1993) feels that the researcher should interpret the available text from the point of view of the author’s and while analyzing the underlying subtext must surely take into consideration the socio-cultural context and the interplay of various related vectors while the text was actually written. Once such a perspective is obtained, a close examination of the structure of the text is undertaken and, if necessary, in the light of intensive examination of the structure of the text, the earlier interpretation of the text and the conclusions drawn from it are altered. This approach very closely approximates the qualitative approach adopted while adopting the interview and questionnaire method of data collection and interpretation because in this method the researcher needs to evaluate and analyze the responses against the backdrop of prevailing socio-cultural context and interpret them accordingly keeping these socio-cultural parameters in mind and place them in proper categories. Any error in properly evaluating the impact of the all pervasive socio-cultural backdrop will most surely throw up wrong conclusions from the research.

In the research undertaken in the present instance, the results, as has been repeatedly emphasized, will only be visible after a long period of at least a decade. So, there is no scope of adopting the positivist approach as there is no truth as such that needs to be uncovered and dispassionately observed and analyzed; all that is available is a series of impressions and expectations from interested groups and experts in this field of human endeavor. The approach would be to collect these impressions and expectations in as unbiased manner as possible and attempt to analyze the responses from various respondents keeping in mind the socio-cultural milieu to which the particular respondent belongs. Thus, hermeneutic approach would be the most suitable approach in the present context where available responses will be critically analyzed to arrive at concrete logical conclusions.


  1. William Emory had laid down certain basic prerequisites for an effective research design and it would be worthwhile to recall those details at this juncture. (Emory, 1985) Design is basically a three tier structure and at the very lowest (or, first stage) tier a clear description should be available regarding the nature of information that is relevant to the research question and the desirable sources from where such information can be obtained. The second tier should mention the strategies and techniques that need to be adopted and applied for collecting the relevant information and in the final tier an approximation should be provided regarding the time required and the cost that has to be borne in conducting the research.

The design of the research is, in my opinion, very important as it is in this stage that a crucial decision is being taken to determine the appropriate method of collecting data and, though all methods have their respective advantages and disadvantages; it is the choice of the data collecting method that gives a research either sufficient depth or gives it a generalized and superficial nature. If the data collection method is inappropriate, the reliability and validity of the entire research work might be open to questioning from various quarters.

It is quite obvious that the design of the research has to be scientific to ensure credibility and relevance of the entire research work and there a five well established criteria that must be fulfilled for a research to be called a genuinely scientific study. (Denzin & Yvonna, 1994) They are:

  • The researcher should be in a position to assess what is the truth and must always be in a position to assess and reassess both the data and the methods by which the said data has been collected.
  • The person who has asked the questions must be identified so as to identify whether there can be a possibility of a latent bias while the questions are being asked by that particular person. This is a double check to ensure there is no personal bias while collecting data as this happens to be one of the biggest drawbacks of any qualitative research study.
  • The conclusions arrived from the available data must be presented in a way that it can be cross checked and reworked, if necessary or desired by any other person.
  • All hypothesis and conclusions must be falsifiable.
  • There must be total transparency in the entire process with the methods adopted in conducting the research, the available data and the conclusions drawn from them laid open and threadbare to all those that are interested in the entire exercise.

There is an inherent problem with these five demands. Replication of a specific set of responses is usually very difficult, practically impossible, even if the questioner and the respondent remain identical if the set of questions are repeated at two different time intervals. This surely does not put the validity of the questionnaire in doubt as a lot of parameters keep changing in volatile scenarios and responses also vary in tune with the altering backdrop. Thus the practical approach would be to slightly alter the questions keeping in tune with parameters that might have changed over time but being very particular that the basic nature, tone and tenor of the questionnaire remains intact.


While collection of data is surely a very daunting task, analysis and interpretation of collected data is no less an important activity since the final outcome and conclusion of the research process completely depends upon how the available data is interpreted. There is an inherent risk in interpretation in that there may be multiple interpretations that might be equally valid (at least from the point of view of dry logic if not from the practicable or feasible angle) since there is always the danger semantic confusion arising in questions asked and answers provided as same words indeed carry different connotations and denotations when used by different social groups, especially a group which has intrinsically remained in the minority and been subjected to severe social strictures and discrimination. This problem of semantic confusion is very hard, almost impossible, to solve and one has to try and remain as unaffected as possible while carrying out the research project. (Reichardt, Ghauri, Gronhanug, & Kristianslund, 1995)

However, there is one way out of this problem and that is by being completely transparent throughout this research process and allowing the respondent to know how the response is being interpreted and allowing the respondent to alter the response if, in the opinion of the respondent, the responses have not been properly interpreted. Such a confirmatory detour before the responses are officially published has been found to remove a majority of so-called misinterpretations.

Since we will base our research process entirely on qualitative approach, it is perhaps necessary that we clarify what exactly a qualitative approach signifies. Though it is difficult to give a technically accurate meaning of qualitative approach, all that can be said about this approach is that it concentrates on processes and meanings that cannot be concretely quantified in terms of amount, quantity or frequency. However, such an approach provides a deeper understanding of the researched variable in the larger context of interrelated social forces that combine together to continually influence the researched phenomenon. (Hamel, 1993)

There are a sizeable number of experts that believe although qualitative approach might not be that sound statistically or mathematically, it indeed provides a far greater understanding of a phenomenon in its socio-cultural milieu which helps the researchers to formulate logical theories about why and how a phenomenon occurs under certain specific circumstances. (Markus & Robey, 1988)


According to historians, primary sources involve written records left by people who have actually lived in an era or have personally witnessed an incident. Primary sources, with respect to research process refer to the basic and original material that formed the evidence that the researcher examines analyses and interprets. (Finnegan, 1996)

Researchers can, as Cooper and Schindler state, (Cooper & Schindler, 1998) collect primary data either through direct or indirect (i.e. over telephone or email or by sending a questionnaire) interviews. The primary data used in this research process was obtained through four face-to-face interviews, four telephonic interviews and two responses received against questionnaires sent.


Secondary sources are data that have already been collected, analyzed and results presented by some earlier research process conducted in the related field and for the purposes of the current research process secondary data consists essentially of relevant information published in journals, magazines and websites. (Zikmund, 2000)

There are certain advantages and disadvantages of basing a research on secondary sources. The main advantage of secondary data is its ready availability in huge quantity and at negligible cost whereas collection of primary data is a very costly and time consuming exercise which is not always possible for every researcher to undertake on a large scale. Simultaneously, the inherent disadvantages of secondary data can also not be denied as the data available in the websites have been compiled by someone other than the researcher and the credibility and relevance of the data can very well be questioned. So, in the current research process, the researcher has exercised considerable precaution and judgment before incorporating any secondary data in the research material and can claim with a reasonable degree of confidence that the secondary data is authentic and entirely credible.



There are basically two types of interviews – structured and unstructured. While the structured interview runs along a predetermined script and is mainly controlled by the interviewer, the unstructured type generally begins with the interviewer having some loose structure in mind and letting the interview proceed along as the interviewee responds and modifying, skipping or even creating new questions along the way. The researcher might adopt both the methods and is the best judge in the given situation as to which method is best suited for the purpose of the research process.

The other issue that needs to be settled is whether the interview is to be recorded or a transcript of it would be prepared or whether the interviewer will simply rely on memory while incorporating the data in the main database. While recordings and transcripts have their obvious advantages, the time and cost involved in these options and the usual reluctance observed in most interviewees of being recorded during an interview had forced the current researcher to rely on memory but sufficient care has been taken to ensure that the collected data faithfully reflected what the interviewees had to convey. (Kvale, 1996)

The following seven criteria were strictly followed while conducting the interviews to make them as unbiased as possible:

  • Consideration – The interviewer showed enough consideration and refrained from occupying a high ground while conducting the interview
  • Empathy – The interviewer expressed sufficient empathy with the interviewee
  • Transparency and flexibility – The interviewer never shied away from expressing opinions when the situation demanded so and was always willing to rephrase questions for better comprehension of the interviewees
  • Critical – The interviewer, however, never hesitated to point out inconsistencies or prima facie contradictions in responses of the interviewees
  • Attentiveness – The interviewer was sufficiently attentive throughout every interview session so that inconsistencies and self contradictions could be pointed out the moment they occurred
  • Interpret – The interviewer was always ready to help in interpreting a question or properly framing a response so that the interviewee felt satisfied that the final response actually conveyed what the respondent meant it to be
  • Ethical – The interviewer always remained within ethical limits while conducting the interview

The interviews that have been conducted during the research process were unstructured with some guiding questions and broad topics that ensured the interview progressed more like an informed free flowing interaction rather than a question answer session that happens in most structured interviews. However, being unstructured in nature, the questions and their answers were obviously not identical in every instance but the guiding questions ensured that the interviews progressed along broadly the same line in each occasion. The unstructured nature of the interviews also helped the respondents feel relaxed and they were more forthcoming with information and suggestions than they would have probably been had the interview been strictly structured.

The interviews were conducted with persons that are directly involved and affected by the researched phenomenon and they included African American parents and students and teachers who are working in schools that have African American students. Attempts were made to interview some university professors who have specialization in this area, but the interviews turned out to be more of a pedagogic monologue without throwing up any personal opinions or sharing any personal experiences. Since such theoretical discussions are freely available in websites and magazines, the current researcher failed to discover any specific merit in those and decided against incorporating them in the final database.

The interviews were done without any electronic recording but copious notes were taken and these were elaborated into properly formed sentences and paragraphs and transferred to laptop. The interviewees were given printouts of such notes and their responses were incorporated in the main research data only after they agreed about the content.

The interviewees were informed at least three days in advance about the nature and purpose of the interview and this was repeated at the beginning of the interview so that respondents understood why and how they could be most helpful in the entire process. The issue of anonymity and publication of names was also discussed threadbare as it involved an important ethical factor and in all the instances it was resolved to the full satisfaction of all the parties involved in the process. (Calder, 1977)

The choice of appropriate language was also an issue that needed some attention and the researcher upheld the principle of transparency by not hesitating to use Ebonics when it was felt that its use will add to the transparency and comprehensibility of the ongoing interview process. The response was very positive and the researcher was invited in more than one instance to return with further queries if any. At times, direct and pointed questions were asked when routine questions failed to elicit desired response.


Though there were no predetermined questions as such, all questions that were asked observed the basic six criteria (Payne, 1980) of a properly worded interview question:

  • Is the question asked in a language known to both the interviewer and respondent?
  • Is the question unambiguous?
  • Are there any unstated assumptions in mind of the interviewer?
  • Is the wording neutral or tries to indirectly influence the respondent?
  • Is the question too impersonal to elicit a proper response, or, has the question the right amount of personal touch to make the respondent involved?
  • Are there sufficient alternatives available to make the answer meaningful?



The current research project tried to find out remedies that would make it easier for African American women to locate marriageable men from their society. A detailed analysis of the reasons for such an imbalance between marriageable men and women in this society revealed substantial discrepancy in levels of education and earning capacity between women and men with women being in the lead in both these counts. Thus, men in this society suffer from an inferiority complex and are also not sufficiently secure financially to opt for marriage. Women also do not feel sufficiently enthusiastic to enter into wedlock with men whom they consider not only qualitatively inferior but also undependable and this has led to an unnatural imbalance in the society where almost half of the women in marriageable age remaining either unmarried or divorced.

The current researcher felt that the only way to solve the problem would be to attack it at its root and try to increase the level of education among African American boys by making going to school an enjoyable experience where not only will these boys take an interest in learning and getting educated (especially in science and technical subjects) but also act as role models to those that had either dropped out earlier or are making plans to drop out from school. The current researcher also believes that if the African American boys get a sound schooling, they would automatically opt for higher college education and some of them might even get scholarships for their college education. Thus, by improving the attendance of African American boys in classes and by decreasing their dropout rate from school, the first and surest steps in creating a society where future African American women would not find it difficult to find a desirable husband from their society would be taken.

The researcher admits that it is indeed a very elaborate and long drawn out intervention but in the studied opinion of the current researcher this happens to be the only surest way to rid the society of this malady. Other options of providing subsidized training opportunities to African American men or providing them loans on easy terms so that they can start some form of business are but one-off solutions without any lasting or self sustaining impact.

The current researcher has laid down certain instructions that all teachers teaching in such schools should scrupulously follow and the researcher has also conducted elaborate interviews among African American parents and children and also teachers teaching in schools where there are a substantial percentage of minority students, and have observed a renewed sense of enthusiasm towards education and a faith that this is the only route to economic prosperity and social success.

Education, most African American parents and single mothers admitted, is the only sure shot remedy that can improve their lot and raise their economic status to a much higher level. This renewed hope and vigor has been injected in this society as they saw how one of their fellow members climbed to the highest office of the land through sheer diligence, honesty and, of course, rock solid university education.




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Denzin, N. K., & Yvonna, S. L. (1994). Intorduction: Entering the Field of Qualitative Research. In N. K. Denzin, & S. L. Yvonna, Handbook of Qualitative Research. California: Sage.

Details of Fatherhood. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Eckholm, E. (2006, March 26). Plight of Black Men Dire, Studies Say. Atlanta Juournal – Constitution , p. A8.

Emory, C. W. (1985). Business Research Methods. Richard D. Irwin Inc.

Finnegan, R. (1996). Data Collection and Analysis. SAGE Publications.

Fiske, H. (2003, February). Saving our Boys. Recovering our men. Social Work Today .

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Harvey, S. (2009). Act like a Lady, Think like a Man. What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy and Commitment. New York.

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Surrealist Humor

Filed under: American Literature — niranjanchatterjee @ 10:38 pm

Long before Andre Breton was anywhere around, and the term “Surrealism” was coined, Mr. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a shy, quiet lecturer of Logic and Mathematics at Oxford was one day rowing on a river from Oxford to Godstowe with a friend, Canon Robinson Duckworth, also an Oxford lecturer. They were taking three little girls of the Liddell family for a picnic. The weather was “dreamy”, and the three little girls, as usual, demanded a story. Dodgson, who was very fond of children, usually told and retold old favorites over and over again. But this time, he suddenly started on a new line of fairy lore, all new and completely his own. Alice, the middle sister, aged eleven, had asked of the story and suggested there should be some “nonsense” in it.


A stream of fascinating, absurd happenings belonging to the Kingdom of Nowhere, wild and wonderful, followed one another floating over Duckworth’s shoulder from Dodgson to the three eager children.

“Dodgson, are you extemporizing?” asked Duckworth.

“Yes, I am inventing as I go along,” was the famous reply.

This was “automatism” at its height!


In the green grassy meadows past which they were rowing, there must have been rabbits. Perhaps it suggested the thought of a rabbit. Anyway, to begin with, Dodgson sent his heroine Alice, named after Alice Liddell, down a rabbit-hole after a rabbit without thinking what was to happen next. Then one absurd, unexpected, wildly impossible happening was followed by another equally as absurd and impossible, but altogether different one. And all was told so smoothly, so vividly, that the children were fascinated into complete silence. When these uncensored outpourings finally came out in the form of a book, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, under Dodgson’s pen-name, Lewis Carroll, it took the world by storm, and, till date it remains a classic example of Surrealist humor.


Another creation of Lewis Carroll, “Through the Looking Glass” and several nonsense poems and stories by Edward Lear, specially, “The Story of the Four Little Children Who Went Round the World” was decidedly surreal in nature.


However, the term “Surrealist Humor” began to be ascribed more specifically to the creations of the group led by Andre Breton and the first example of such humor can be traced to Marcel Duchamp who displayed a urinal, placed upside down and signed, as a work of art. It created a furore, and, that was the basic intention of the surrealists who wanted to poke fun at the self-satisfied solemnity of the artistic establishment of the day.


The “dark comedy” of Kafka or the writings of the stream-of-consciousness school of writers like Joyce, Jack Kerouac, or, William S. Burroughs or the whimsical poetry of e.e.cummings (written in small letters) are very good examples of surrealist humor. We find “dark humor” in Brecht’s  famous play “Waiting for the Godot” too. We laugh and we introspect, both at the same time!


More modern day artists like Yoko Ono (possibly more famous as the widow of John Lennon), Andy Warhol and Italo Calvino have liberally sprinkled their creations with surrealist humor. Film makers like Federico Fellini, David Lynch and Fernando Arrabal have used funny surrealist imagery in their films time and again to deliver the killer punch.


However, the most famous influence of surrealist humor on popular psyche is “Monty Python”. Originally devised as a sketch show consisting of 45 episodes, and first aired on BBC in 1969, it pushed the frontiers of what is acceptable and has led to a spin-off of numerous stage shows, albums, books and at least five films. Monty Python’s “Flying Circus” has been a defining moment in modern concept of humor and used all possible surrealist techniques like “collage”, “breaking the fourth wall” etc., and shocked and tickled the audiences in many ways one never thought would ever be possible!


Sometimes the Pythons would attempt to fool the viewers by rolling the closing credits halfway through the show, usually continuing the joke by fading to the familiar globe logo used for BBC continuity, over which Idle (one of the famous six who formed the fabulous team) would parody the clipped accents of a BBC announcer. On one occasion the credits ran directly after the opening titles! They also experimented with ending segments by cutting abruptly to another scene or animation, walking offstage, addressing the camera (breaking the fourth wall), or introducing a totally unrelated event or character. A classic example of this approach was the use of Chapman’s “Colonel” character, who walked into several sketches and ordered them to be stopped because things were becoming “far too silly.”


It would be unfair if a mention is not made of other hit televisioon shows which primarily depended on surrealist humor. The names that immediately come to mind are “Family Guy”, “Futurama” and “Bobobobo Bo-bobo” though many more are also equally good.


Surrealist humor has been the cornerstone of quite a few websites too. “Something Awful”, “Buttercup Festival”, “Homestar Runner” and “” are some of the websites worth visiting if you want your daily dose of humor of the surrealist kind.

Strategic Human Resource Management

Filed under: Corporate Management — niranjanchatterjee @ 10:34 pm

Table of Contents


Strategic human resource management can be explained as an attempt by human resource management practitioners to align policies and processes of human resource management with strategic aims and objectives of an organization. Thus, if we view the issue at the ground level, strategic human resource management finally boils down to a process that aims to markedly improve performance of an organization through the human resource at the disposal of the organization while improving the lot of that human resource. That is, strategic human resource management aims at improving the economic performance of an organization while improving the lot of employees of that particular organization. It intends to create a win-win scenario for both the organization and its employees by ensuring a people working in an organization provide a competitive advantage that no competing organization can easily achieve (Hendry & Pettigrew, 1990).

Basis of strategic human resource management

The entire concept or practice of strategic human resource management is based on a couple of assumptions that form the foundation of this branch of management.

The first assumption is human resource of an organization is the basic source of competitive advantage and thus should be handled strategically to remain ahead in fiercely competitive environments.

There should be a vertical alignment of business strategy and human resource strategy for success and prosperity of an organization (Allen & White, 2007).

There should be horizontal integration between individual human resource strategies so that they are all focused towards a common goal. This is of course not applicable only in case of strategic human resource management as it is true for all kinds of strategic planning. Unless individual strategies and processes are horizontally aligned and are collateral with one another it is impossible to achieve the desired objective.

Thus, strategic human resource management might be described as an approach or a process rather than a set of well documented techniques where there is a continuous review of existing HR practices in the broader context of organizational objectives which result in choosing and modifying human resource strategies and planning. However, it would be wrong to define strategic human resource management as only strategic planning; it also includes implementation of such strategic plans as well as the attitude and approach of Human Resource Managers towards line managers with regard to successful implementation of those plans.

Aims of strategic human resource management

The basic aim of strategic human resource management is to make sure that an organization has sufficient volume of skilled, dedicated and motivated employees so that it enjoys a sustained competitive advantage in the marketplace. Thus, the aim of strategic human resource management would be to develop and successfully implement policies of managing people that incorporate ever changing external and internal environment parameters and long term goals of an organization (Digman, 1990).

There are certain ethical issues involved that should be discussed while elaborating on the aims of strategic human resource management. The basic areas where there must be a fine balancing act and those involve the interests of employees and other stakeholders on the one hand and the owners and management of an organization. There is also the equally important issue of discharging social responsibilities of an organization as a conscientious corporate citizen. Other than ethics, it might also be considered as a purely commercial decision where an organization must also repay the society for the resources it draws from the society for its sustenance. Unless it is very prompt and particular in repaying the society it might soon face a situation where the society might be unwilling to provide resources that an organization so urgently needs for survival and prosperity. Corporate social responsibility should go beyond the mandatory obligations of an organization; it should extend in delivering some social benefit that is not determined only by the profit motive of the organization (McWilliams, et al., 2006). Employees of an organization also reside in the society where an organization operates. Therefore, in a sense, discharging corporate social responsibility also comes under the purview of strategic human resource management as it is a significant window through which an organization interacts with general members of the society. If society in general has a good impression of an organization, it definitely has a positive impact in the mindset of employees.  

Approaches to strategic human resource management

Soft strategic HRM

Soft strategic HRM (Storey, 1989) is an approach that places greater emphasis on human relations angle of managing people and places more emphasis on quality of employee experience and satisfaction. It thus concentrates more on continuous development and involvement of employees through smoother and hassle free two-way communication and increased security of employment. In these turbulent times when downsizing has almost become a norm for most organizations, employment security would most certainly work as a huge morale booster for employees. The situation would become even more ambient if there is noise free two-way communication through the entire managerial hierarchy. This approach also emphasizes on achieving an optimum work-life balance of employees. With such a employee oriented approach there is a very big possibility that an organization will able to develop and retain a dedicated and highly motivated workforce that would not mind to walk that extra mile for the benefit of the organization.

Hard strategic HRM

Hard strategic HRM, as the name implies insists on a more commercial approach to the entire process of managing people and insists on deriving a positive return on investment at every step. Though this approach could not be faulted as the primary objective of every organization is maximization of shareholders’ wealth, it must be remembered that human resource is inherently different from all other types of resources and should be dealt with more sensitively than the manner in which inanimate raw materials or machines are evaluated. It needs no elaboration that there should be an optimum balance between the hard and soft approaches but the unfortunate fact is in most organizations hard approach almost invariably takes precedence over soft approach. But an organization should not overlook the fact that for long term survival and prosperity, it should keep people at the center of each and every strategy (Quinn Mills, 1983).

Concepts of strategic human resource management

There are three basic concept of strategic human resource management:

  1. Resource-based approach
  2. Strategic fit
  3. Strategic flexibility

Resource-based Approach

This is the most predominant approach towards strategic human resource management. This is based on the basic premise that resources available with an organization, especially, human resource provides unique character to an organization and a unique competitive advantage. Competitive advantage arises when firms within an industry do not have homogenous control over resources, that is, resources are not uniformly spread across firms within an industry, and also when these resources do not have the ability to freely move across firms within that industry. In such situations, competitive advantage on account of ownership of resources can last for long time. Therefore, in order to create sustainable competitive advantage a firm should have ownership of unique resources and capabilities as compared to other firms in the same industry (Barney, 1991). In order to create sustainable competitive advantage, a resource should primarily be rare and secondarily neither be easily imitable nor be easily substitutable and, it is but obvious, that such resource must have high value and importance in the production process. The resource that has the highest possibility of fulfilling all these attributes would be human resource as knowledge, experience, risk taking propensity and judgmental capability of individuals are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to replicate within a short span of time. Resource based approach to strategic human resource management can provide such sustainable competitive advantage to a firm by properly nurturing employees in a company through implementation of optimally designed training and development programs and opting for a predominantly soft HRM approach. Such investment in human capital endows an organization with sustainable competitive advantage over a considerable period of time (Boxall & Purcell, 2003).

Strategic Fit

This is related to the two fold balancing of strategic human resource management in an organization. Firstly, human resources policies and programs should be vertically aligned with overall strategy of an organization and, secondly, various HRM policies should be streamlined and be unidirectional in the sense that all policies should be oriented towards strengthening overall corporate strategy without any policy generating any confusion or disruption of overall corporate strategy. That is, human resource policies should also be horizontally aligned or collateral to prevent any cross current of wasted efforts that might wrong signals to employees (Wright & McMahan, 1992).

Strategic Flexibility

It refers to the ability of a firm to respond to changes in external business environment which are beyond the control of that firm. However, such flexibility is in its turn largely determined by the environment in which a particular firm operates. In case the external environment is relatively stable, a firm would opt for developing specific set of skills for its employees and would not choose the more costly option of imparting multiple skills as it might not be necessary given the relatively stable external environment. The job descriptions in such scenarios would also tend to be more tightly and narrowly defined. However, if the external environment is unstable and dynamic, an organization would opt to impart multiple skills to its people and job descriptions will also have more latitude and flexibility. It might be argued that the concepts of strategic fit and strategic flexibility are contradictory but it must be understood that while fit is a short term concept, flexibility is a relatively longer term concept (Wright & Snell, 1998).

The best practice approach

This approach assumes that there is a list of best practices which, if implemented, would most certainly lead to a superior organization irrespective of the business environment in which a firm is operating. Thus, this approach implicitly assumes that these best practices are universally applicable to all organizations across the board.

List of best practices

One of the commonest lists of best practices runs as follows (Guest, 1999):

  • Recruitment should be done through a very well designed testing system that would identify only those potential employees that have the capability of contributing the maximum
  • Training and development should be a continuous activity in the organization
  • Jobs should be designed in such a manner that employees have full scope of putting to use their skills and enjoy considerable autonomy at workplace which is adequately tempered by having to bear full responsibility of their autonomous actions
  • There must be uncluttered two-way communication to ensure free flow of information throughout the organization
  • Distributing ownership of the organization among employees to make them fully aware of financial implications of their actions

High performance organizations as US Department of Labor might enjoy considerable advantage through implementation of these best practices (Appelbaum, et al., 2000).

Drawbacks of best practice approach

Contingency theory postulates responses of and practices adopted by an organization are almost totally dependent on the business environment in which that particular organization operates. As environment varies widely between countries, regions and cultures, it would be nearly impossible to lay down a cut and dried list of best practices that would be universally applicable to all organizations. Therefore what might work miracles in an organization might usher total chaos in another organization because of their differing working practices, corporate culture, technology, or management styles (Armstrong, 2008).

However, it is always helpful to know of some sort of best practices as that allows a firm to pick and choose from among these best practices and modify those according to prevailing situations. This list acts as sort of primary resource for an organization searching for human resource practices that could be gainfully implemented.

The best fit approach

From the name itself it is apparent that this approach prefers a version that would be best suited for an organization thereby implicitly admitting that organizations vary so widely that it would be quite impossible to find a one-size-fits-all universally applicable approach.

Life cycle model

Human resource strategy that best fits an organization depends on the stage of life cycle it is residing (Baird & Meshoulam, 1988). An organization, just like a product, passes through the following stages during its life cycle:

  • Start-up
  • Growth
  • Maturity
  • Decline

In the initial stages, human resource management is generally informal with the owner/founder performing most of human resource management activities themselves. As the organization starts growing both in size and activities, more formal structures are introduced and professional human resource managers are employed as the owner/founder finds it beyond their capacity to handle this facet in an efficient manner. This is the period when recruiting right people for right jobs and innovations in reward and remuneration structure takes place at a rapid rate. Also, introduction and implementation of innovative and often radical training and development programs are being carried out in right earnest. As the organization becomes more mature, human resource managers gradually become less and less innovative and prefer to consolidate existing practices rather than implementing newer and more innovative ideas. When an organization starts declining human resource managers have very little time in implementing schemes and programs for the benefit of employees; the department becomes more involved in unpalatable activities as restructuring and downsizing (Buller & Napier, 1993).

Competitive strategies and best fit approach

There are three basic strategies adopted by firms to attain and sustain competitive advantage (Porter, 1985):

  • Becoming a unique producer, the uniqueness attained through innovation
  • Providing high quality goods to customers that cannot be matched by competitors
  • By managing to produce at a lower cost as compared to competitors

A firm would be able to be much more effective if it manages to modify its human resource practices so that they suit the approach the firm has adopted to retain competitive advantage (Schuler & Jackson, 1987).

Drawbacks of the best fit approach

There is no doubt that best fit approach is better than best practices approach since the former incorporates the reality that organizational culture, management practices and business environments vary widely between organizations. There is, however, a very real danger of falling into the trap of blindly aligning human resource strategies with overall corporate strategies and ending up being on the wrong side of the law of the land. Moreover, such tendency to align often results in trying to search for models that would factor in all variables of change without analyzing the interconnection and cause and effect relations between those. Such attempts might lead to half baked and confusing policy decisions that harm the organization more than benefitting it (Boxall, et al., 2007).


This concept refers to development and implementation of several human resource practices and policies that work on different planes but are coherent and complement and reinforce each other in a synergic manner. It is an established fact that employee performance is as much dependent on proper training and skill as it is on proper remuneration and incentive schemes. Thus, for effective implementation and tangible results adequate human resource practices would be necessary in both aspects (MacDuffie, 1995).


Strategic human resource management has developed through rigorous academic analysis and equally rigorous field research and if one is able to peel off the jargon one will be able to admire the solid common sense approach that this field of knowledge possesses. This branch of knowledge effectively tackles major issues related to employees that often erupt on account of overall business strategies and objectives. It also provides a solid academic base for developing and implementing methods of approaching employee related human issues especially in current day dynamic external and internal environments that every firm has to endure and attempt to successfully negotiate.


Allen, M. R. & White, P., 2007. Strategic management and HRM. In: P. Boxall, J. Purcell & P. Wright, eds. Oxford handbook of Human Resource Management. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 67-89.

Appelbaum, E., Bailey, T., Berg, P. & Kalleberg, A. L., 2000. Manufacturing Advantage: Why high performance work systems pay off. 1st ed. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press.

Armstrong, M., 2008. Strategic human resource management a guide to action. 4th ed. London and Philadelphia: Kogan Page.

Baird, L. & Meshoulam, I., 1988. Managing two fits of stratgeic human resource management. Academy of Management Review, 13(1), pp. 116-128.

Barney, J. B., 1991. Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. Journal of Management Studies, 17(1), pp. 99-120.

Boxall, P. F. & Purcell, J., 2003. Strategy and Human Resource Management. 1st ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Boxall, P. F., Purcell, J. & Wright, P., 2007. Human resource management: scope, analysis and significance. In: P. F. Boxall, J. Purcell & P. Wright, eds. Oxford Handbook of Human Resource Management. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 12-21.

Buller, P. F. & Napier, N. K., 1993. Strategy and human resource management: integration in fast growth versus other mid-sized firms. British Journal of Management, 4(1), pp. 77-90.

Digman, L. A., 1990. Strategic Management: Concepts, decisions, cases. 1st ed. Georgetown, Ontario: Irwin.

Guest, D. E., 1999. Human ressource management: the workers’ verdict. Human Resource Management Journal, 9(2), pp. 5-25.

Hendry, C. & Pettigrew, A., 1990. Human resource management: an agenda for 1990s. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 1(3), pp. 17-43.

MacDuffie, J. P., 1995. Human resource bundles and manufacturing performance. Industrial Relations Review, 48(2), pp. 199-221.

McWilliams, A., Siegel, D. S. & Wright, P. M., 2006. Corporate social responsibility: strategic implications. Journal of Management Studies, 43(1), pp. 1-12.

Porter, M. E., 1985. Competitive Advantage: Creating and sustaining superior performance. 1st ed. New York: Free Press.

Quinn Mills, D., 1983. Planning with people in mind. Harvard Business Review, Issue November-December, pp. 97-105.

Schuler, R. S. & Jackson, S. E., 1987. Linking competitive strategies with human resource management practices. Academy of Management Executive, 9(3), pp. 207-219.

Storey, J., 1989. From personnel management to human resource management. In: J. Storey, ed. New perspectives on Human Resource Management. London: Routledge, pp. 12-21.

Wright, P. M. & McMahan, G. C., 1992. Theoretical perspectives for SHRM. Journal of Management, 18(2), pp. 295-320.

Wright, P. M. & Snell, S. A., 1998. Towards a unifying framework for exploring fit and flexibility in strategic human resource management. Academy of Management Review, 23(4), pp. 756-772.

Legalizing Polygamy in Canada – Would it do more harm than good?

Filed under: social awareness — niranjanchatterjee @ 10:32 pm


Canada is home to people belonging to diverse cultures and religion. The country is not embarrassed by the fact that it does not have a monolithic culture or religion; rather it is proud that it can shelter in its folds multiple strains of thought and ways of life. It considers itself to be liberal and broad minded enough to rank as a multicultural nation where all groups, sects and factions can co-exist together without any friction or tension among each other. There is of course nothing wrong in such a situation but an accompanying legal problem almost invariably crops up in such multihued scenarios.

To appreciate the inherent problem in such scenarios there is a need to appreciate and admit that there are two legal aspects to any situation in a society.

The first is the civil constituent of a specific scenario. It deals with specific rights and privileges of a specific minority group. It is concerned with whether or not rights, privileges and customs consistent with those adhered to by a specific cultural minority are being honored by the legal system of a country.

One need not have to worry much about these civil aspects as relevant legal provisions about religious freedom can very easily be weaved into the civil jurisprudence of a particular country whereby every religious and cultural minority would have the freedom to practice their cultural and religious customs without any legal or societal interference. Canada does have in place such provisions of allowing cultural or religious minorities to freely practice their religious and social customs as long such practice does not cause any discord in the society as a whole.

The second aspect of a specific social scenario is however rather disconcerting. It deals with the criminal jurisprudence prevailing in a country. It is a commonly held notion that nobody should be above law and a criminal is a criminal irrespective of what religion, sect or community that criminal hails from. The problem arises precisely here as customs that are considered quite common in a particular society might be considered abhorrent in another.

So, if, for example, a person steals and claims immunity from consequent legal penalties since it happens to be the prevalent custom in their society, that person cannot be allowed to go unpunished as the commonly held concept in the society is stealing is a crime. Here we face a situation where the commonly held or majority sentiments must be honored to maintain order in a civil society. This, quite obviously, curtails the religious or cultural freedom the affected minority but criminal jurisprudence cannot and should not be modified for each different sections or subsections of a society.

While stealing is a rather extreme example as no religious or ethnic minority would ever condone or promote such a criminal act (though Gypsies were blamed by Nazis as being a society of thieves), there are issues that indeed cause concern in the minds of social leaders as to whether such customs be incorporated in criminal jurisprudence to honor the religious and ethnic customs of minorities.

Polygamy is such a thorny issue. While it is considered illegal in Canada, there are ethnic and religious minorities that consider practice of polygamy as an integral part of their religious custom. Practice of polygamy also runs counter to Canada’s many international commitments and grossly violates the notion of gender equality that is an integral and fundamental tenet of Canadian society.  Thus it becomes a delicate balancing of religious freedom and individual rights, especially rights of women to obtain immunity and protection from abusive relationships that come into existence from following some religious practice that is not commonly followed by other sections of the society.

There is another contrarian stream of thought that gives more weight to the aspect of religious freedom and espouses legalization of polygamy. Reprehensible and totally abhorrent at first sight such stream of thought also have certain inherent merits.

The proponents of this stream of thought base their argument on the premise that polygamy as such has been completely abolished from civilized society and this practice, if it still exists, is followed by miniscule and very often secretive religious societies that are almost fanatical in their belief that what they are doing is not only right but also the only available path to salvation. They practice such a system not to fulfill their lust but as a method of reaching the next higher stage of human existence.

It is well known fact that fanatics, by definition, are extremely zealous of protecting their religious beliefs and would go to any extent to protect those from any outside interference which in their opinion is aimed at decimating the religious purity and divinity of their beliefs. It is thus natural that no amount of legal enactments would be able to prevent them from doing what they feel is their bounden religious duty.

One also must remember that women of these fundamental sects have been brought up in this atmosphere where they have been taught and indoctrinated to accept polygamy as the only way for salvation and reaching God. Hence, they have been conditioned to accept polygamy as the holy and religious way to lead life however much other members of the civilized society might abhor it.

Therefore the whole perception of equality, dignity and freedom of women takes on a wholly new hue in their minds as they ready themselves to lead a life of remaining as a co-wife of a polygamous man. Hence, any attempt to make them aware of their rights and making them alert about the plights they might have to face if the entered into a polygamous wedlock would have little or no effect on these women.

Would it not then be a case of trying to save women from a calamity which they consider as perfectly normal, indeed pious way of leading life? It would hardly have any impact on these women; rather they would scrupulously avoid any attempt by state machinery to release them from oppressive polygamous wedlock and would flock more determinedly to the comforting arms of the fundamentalists who would only be too eager to brainwash these hapless women into believing what they are doing would actually make them dearer to God.

Thus, instead of trying to stamp out polygamy, the authorities should instead legalize this custom that is followed in any case by only a miniscule minority. By legalizing this custom, all those that follow it would no longer be obliged to lead secretive lives and become a part of the mainstream. In such a way, women of these secretive fundamental religious groups could gradually be made aware of the ill effects of polygamy and might have a change of attitude after freely interacting with other members of the society over a long period of time.

Moreover, by bringing these fringe groups in the mainstream, wives and children born out of polygamous wedlock would be able to avail of social benefits and security net that is available in Canada. In such a manner, these persons can actually be helped to lead a better and more productive life.

This line of argument indeed has its merits but it also admits abject defeat of progressive Western thoughts and philosophy at the hands of obscurantism and medieval tyranny.  By accepting within the folds of civil society these fundamentalists with all their warts and moles the authorities would be opening a Pandora’s Box, or should we call it a can of worms, when all hues of religious fringe elements would want to share a part of the social pie without bothering to adhere to the norms of a civilized society.

Hence, the issue of polygamy becomes more of a debate between two fundamental freedoms – religious and gender equality.

Polygamy in Canada

In Colorado, a desert city straddling Arizona-Utah border, reside a small band of Mormon Fundamentalists. This ultra-conservative religious group was founded by Joseph Smith. Mormon Fundamentalists firmly believe that saints have a divine right, rather obligation, to take multiple wives and practice polygamy as a matter religious duty. Polygamy is illegal not only Canada but also In United States and in almost all the countries in the world except perhaps a few obscure and remote countries in the heartland of African continent.

Here lies the fundamental question that has been referred to in the previous section. What should get precedence; criminal jurisprudence or, religious faiths and beliefs?

 The modern and mainstream brethren of Mormon Fundamentalists, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) quite rightly feels very embarrassed by the proud proclamation of this quaint custom by a handful of ultra-conservatives and has gone to great lengths to declare this as an ancient and quirky custom that was followed by a handful eons ago and is no longer followed or espoused by LDS. Handouts and promotional literature published by LDS generally glosses out this issue and keeps stoically silent about the fact that the founding father of Mormon movement had married anywhere between thirty three and forty eight women and was the biological father of numerous children. He also espoused that taking at least three wives was absolutely essential for a man to attain religious glory and eternal peace in afterlife (Berkowitz, 2007).

Despite vehement protests and denials by LDS protagonists, actual events suggested this criminal practice of polygamy is still being practiced by some members of this minority group and they consider it to be an integral part of their religious obligation. This ritualistic custom is still thriving and rigorously practiced in remote locations in United States and Canada by an estimated 30,000 to 100,000 Fundamentalists within the Church of Latter-day Saints (FLDS).

However, in spite of such a comparatively significant presence in United States and Canada, maybe because of their secretive nature, practice of polygamy by this religious sect was largely undetected by law enforcing agencies till the arrest of Warren Jeffs, a prominent religious leader of this community, from Colorado City on 28th August, 2006 (Johnson, 2006).

Jeffs was suspected of committing rape, of being an accessory to rape and being accused of having sex with minors and engaging in unlawful flight to avoid legal prosecution by law enforcing agencies of the state. This stunning arrest blew the lid off an unpleasant reality of continuance of a criminal and highly reprehensible practice that grossly undermines female dignity and freedom from persecution and oppression by members of the civil society that otherwise have all the credentials of becoming genuinely productive and valued members of the social fabric.

Had this practice being followed or espoused by some obscure non-Christian religious group that had its origins in some remote and dark corner of an unexplored continent, it would not have created that much consternation. But the fact that it is being practiced by members of progressive societies of the Western world, creates a genuine sense of alarm as one realizes that the ancient mindset that should have been abandoned long time ago is throbbing hideously and very incongruously in the midst of all the development and progress that modern societies are so very proud of.

It was not unknown to the authorities in Utah that some of its citizens do practice polygamy as a part of religious ritual but as the legislature has been dominated by Mormons, the authorities were somewhat reluctant to initiate legal proceedings against fellow practitioners. Moreover, there was always a lurking fear that any attempt to crackdown on this reprehensible custom would immediately be misrepresented as a wholly unwelcome interference by the authorities in matters of religious freedom that have been enshrined in the constitution. The authorities, it seemed, were caught in two minds and preferred to turn a blind eye on the happenings within the society (Brooke, 1998).

After sensing trouble in Colorado, Fundamentalist Mormons have shifted northwards to the more ‘peaceful’ climes of Canada. They have founded a new colony called Bountiful a few miles out of Creston in British Columbia.

Though there are only seven hundred to one thousand members of this sect in this newly established colony, which has Prophet Rulon Jeffs as its leader, it simply can neither be denied nor wished away that the scourge of polygamy has firmly struck roots  in Canadian soil and unless something drastic is done to check this menace, sooner rather than later, Canadian society will have to face embarrassment in front of the world community as being the protector and fosterer of such a shame as polygamy (The Economist, 2004).

Problems of women in a polygamous wedlock

The first and foremost problem with the reprehensible custom of polygamy is that it severely affects women’s status as individual citizens in a civil society. Their rights to freedom and equality are totally compromised by this practice. And, it is perhaps needless to add that such a restrictive practice has serious adverse affects on the economic position and health and well being of women. No civilized society should and could accept a practice that denigrates nearly half of its population.

Authors that have investigated in detail about the status of women living in polygamous societies have viewed the issue from several perspectives. They have a general opinion that it would be improper to brand polygamy as grossly ‘bad’ or ‘good’ as there are several layers of interaction that permeate a polygamous relationship.

The women that stay together as co-wives often tend to develop some sort of sisterhood and a support system among themselves as they have the common cause of staying together as wives of the same man.

However, there might also be an extreme sense of competition (perhaps much more than the cutthroat competition that we so often refer to while describing happenings in the commercial world) between co-wives in their attempts to attract more attention and also material benefits from the husband. Research reveals that jealousy can reach such extreme levels that it might lead physical confrontation between women resulting in grievous bodily injury and harm to combating wives (Al-Krenawi, Family Therapy with a Multiparental/Multispousal Family, 1998).

A case in point is the state of affairs in polygamous families that have shifted to France. As cost of living is decidedly higher than what they are in their country of origin, it is often impossible for the head of the family to maintain separate households for each of his wives. Hence, the entire family lives cramped together I restrictive conditions and this often leads to bitter confrontations between co-wives. There have been damning reports of women being treated in Paris hospitals with serious injuries that have resulted from fights between family members and co-wives (Al-Krenawi, Women from Polygamous and Monogamous Marriages in an Out-Patient Psychiatric Clinic, 2001).

There is also the issue of insecurity among co-wives in a polygamous family. It is no wonder that all these women compete with each other for attention from their common husband and it is also no surprise that the man favors company of his younger wives. Hence, senior wives tend to have access to lesser economic resources and lesser conjugal support and generally lead a comparatively more miserable life than their younger ‘sisters’.

This differential treatment meted out to senior wives does not result merely from the fact that younger women quite naturally are more sexually attractive than their senior counterparts, and men, if given opportunity and social sanction, would quite obviously tend to share their time and resources with younger wives than senior ones. A case study of Palestinian polygamous families reveals that while the men initially got married through socially arranged match making that rested on a host of delicate social, economic, ethnic and tribal equations, subsequent marriages were mostly result of love matches. Thus, men preferred to spend more time with wives they love rather than with those they were married to as a result of social dynamics (Wing, 2001).

There is also a contrarian view to the position of senior wives in polygamous families. In some cultures, a senior wife enjoys a more exalted position among all the wives. In the absence of the husband, the senior wife manages the household and has near complete control over the junior wives. She also at times plays a vital part in the act of choosing another wife if that becomes necessary to deal with child care and other domestic responsibilities. However, if another wife is independently chosen by the husband because of love or attraction towards the new woman, it sure causes a great amount of strain, tension and strife within a polygamous marriage (Bissuel, 2002).

While women felt insecure and were jealous of new entrant in the family, these harsh feelings generally tended to dissipate as family and societal environment encouraged women to accept the new entrant as an integral part of the family and as a new member of their ‘sisterhood’. Such a feeling is often promoted by equitable treatment of wives by the husband and often prompts existing wives to encourage the husband to take on more wives (Forbes, 2003).

It surely does not need further elaboration that when a group of women share domestic and child care responsibilities the burden on each member gets substantially reduced irrespective of the size of the family. Thus, co-wives in a polygamous household indeed enjoy some of the benefits that a wife in a monogamous can only dream of. Moreover, these co-wives form a closed and private society of their own where they share their personal issues and get help and assistance as long as such help and assistance does not jeopardize the assistants’ relation vis-à-vis the husband (Al-Krenawi, Family Therapy with a Multiparental/Multispousal Family, 1998).

There is one other benefit that arises from this ‘sisterhood’ among co-wives in a polygamous family. If there are instances of abuse or harassment within the family by the male members, the co-wives usually get together to protest such ill treatment and abuse and, faced with such a concerted protest, the perpetrators of such domestic abuse and violence usually desist from precipitating further such incidents (Levine & Silk, 1997).

Sometimes the social environment in which a polygamous family resides plays a decisive role in the importance accorded to the senior wife. As for example, in polygamous Muslim families residing in United Kingdom, the senior wife is always accorded the highest importance and social status. As domestic polygamy is illegal in that country, a second or subsequent wife is not considered legal and hence cannot be openly held out as a legal spouse in social get-togethers. Hence, second and subsequent wives generally live in inferior housings and have lesser interactions with their husbands and enjoyed lesser economic amenities. The irony of the whole situation is while second wives bitterly resented their pitiable economic and social status and did not get any legal recognition of their marital status, they still felt that they are leading the life of a genuine and dutiful wife (Yanca & Low, 2003).

This issue is highlighted by those that support the cause that polygamy should be legalized in Canada. Though married under religious norms, these subsequent wives are denied of societal benefits and recognition and are destined to permanently live their lives in the shadows of social periphery. If polygamous wedlock is legalized, these subsequent wives would not be forced to lead such ignominious lives.

So, it is indeed a very complex relationship between women in a polygamous household. While they stick to each other as comrades in arms when confronted by a common enemy, mostly an outsider, they bitterly squabble with each other between themselves.

There is also that obvious inequality between a man and woman in this type of wedlock. While a man has the choice of deciding who would share his bed on a particular night the women have to contend with sharing a single man between themselves. So, it can be said without any sense of ambiguity that one of the basic tenets of civilized society that of equality of status between men and women in wedlock is definitely not maintained in a polygamous marriage.

This, quite naturally, tends to be one of the most serious hindrances in legalizing polygamous wedlock and seriously scuttle claims by a section of thinkers of legalizing this system. But, it must also be remembered that any legislation that is forced down the throat of a community and acts against their perceived religious tenets has seldom ever succeeded anywhere in the world. All that such legislations have managed to achieve was increased levels of isolation of affected communities and their near total rejection of mainstream social norms. Almost as a reaction to state policies these fundamentalist groups have gone deeper into their shells and become even more fanatically associated with their cause and world views (Berkowitz, 2007).

Problem of children in polygamous families

The other aspect that needs attention is the impact of polygamous relationship has on children born out of it. In this regard an observation about the Mormon community at Bountiful deserves special attention. Bountiful has been chosen simply because all other polygamous communities are so secretive about it that it becomes near impossible to get any worthwhile data in this regard. A mutual sense of distrust between researchers and subjects has made the situation even more complex.

There are clear indications that boys and girls are treated separately in this community. While the boys are encouraged to go out in the open society, the girls are encouraged, or, should we say brainwashed, to remain within the community and enter into polygamous wedlock as soon as they step into their adolescence. They are made to believe that is the only way to lead a pious and honorable life. The boys are, in fact, not only encouraged to go out but those that refuse to do so are actually hounded out of the precincts of the community. This practice has reached such a stage that in 2005 a survey found that nearly 400 had been banished from the community rendering them genuinely homeless and making them easy victims of substance abuse or male prostitution (Tresniowski, 2005).

Treading on into more generalized domain, one should also inspect the other serious problems related to academic and intellectual development of children in polygamous families. There are, of course, some factors that would affect the academic and intellectual development of a child irrespective of whether they brought up in a polygamous or a monogamous household but here we would try and concentrate on only those factors which are peculiar to a polygamous household.

An empirical study of Israeli Bedouin-Arab communities revealed that polygamous families engendered lower levels of intelligence and scholastic achievement among their children. The most obvious reason for such a conclusion lies more in the social and economic status of these families rather than in the institution of polygamy itself. Reduced per capita resources for each child automatically reduced their access to books and education and limited their chances of scholastic and intellectual success (Gage-Brandon, 1992).

The other more serious impact of polygamous households on intellectual and academic development of children arose from rivalry between co-wives where children of one wife were not always treated equally as own children. Being bred in such an intensely hostile environment since childhood often tended to lead the children astray from sedate and constructive endeavors as academic and scholastic pursuits. Moreover, being subject to latent and often apparent hostility from mother like figures tended to skew the attitudes of these children who grew up to believe that the only way to survive in this world is to deny others from their rightful dues by any means available. The moral fabric of these children got horribly distorted and prevented them from developing their intellectual abilities as their entire efforts were concentrated since childhood in a perpetual struggle to beat others by hook or by crook to achieve what is desired (Ward, 2004).

The other more mundane reason for lack of academic and scholastic development among children from polygamous families is more children meant lesser attention from parents, especially fathers, and as these children grew up in a relative environment of unsupervised independence their interests were more diverted towards gross sources of enjoyment rather than more disciplined spheres of academic and scholastic activities.

The other equally harmful effect of polygamous wedlock in countries where it is illegal is the near complete isolation of such families from the social mainstream. This prevents children from these families to develop their own network of support and sustenance they so very desperately need to overcome the ill effects of tension and strife at home. Trapped with nowhere to go, these children get engulfed by the abnormalities of relationships at home and get drawn deeper and deeper into the vortex of ignorance and scholastic incompetence.


From what has been discussed above, one seems to remain undecided as to whether it would be proper to legalize polygamous marriages in Canada. While one passionately feels for the women who are often bound by their societal pressures to enter into a polygamous wedlock, they and their families are permanently barred from any form of social recognition and legal rights as legally married spouses in countries where polygamy is forbidden.

But at the same time one also argues with oneself as to what would be the benefits if such marriages are legalized. Would they finally lead to a situation where these women would one day realize that the institution is harmful to not only them and their children but also to the society as a whole? The chances of such a realization, if it at all happens, appear extremely slim at the current juncture. Rather, their community and spiritual heads would jump up in glee and convince their followers that they were right all along; it only took the degenerated Western authorities so long to realize the benefits and religious requirement of polygamous wedlock. Hence, instead of educating the womenfolk and their children about the pernicious impact of polygamy it would reinforce their faith and trust in their community leaders and might lead to spreading of this malaise in other hitherto unaffected areas of the society. This would undoubtedly lead to complete disaster and cause irreparable damage to the social fabric and long held widely respected perceptions of good and evil.


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