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“Children Not Wanted”

(3 January 1949)

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 1, 3 January 1949, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“I never realized how unpopular children are – how discriminated against, even how hated – until I went across America in search of apartments to rent,” Howard Whitman declares in the January Woman’s Home Companion. “My mind still echoes with ‘No Children,’ ‘Adults only,’ ‘No dogs or children.’ Discrimination against children would be bad enough any time. It’s fantastic in the worst housing shortage in American history.”

From coast to coast Whitman found apartment house doors barred to children.

“In Chicago, after dismal plodding, I was offered only two places to live – provided I boarded out the children. In a small Missouri town a professor’s wife denied me even a trailer which she had advertised for ‘adults only.’

“Out of 43 ads in a Cincinnati paper, 22 openly barred children. In a Pittsburg paper 17 out of 26. In Columbus, Ohio, the total reached 87% – 13 out of 15!”

In New York, the world’s largest city, conditions are no better.

“The New York City Housing Authority maintains a Vacancy Listing Bureau. In its sparse files 88% of the listings contain a ban against children. Many of those which admit children are either priced sky-high or far removed from working centers.”

Whitman discovered that this universal discrimination against children embitters parents. “I was aghast at the number of couples who have apparently been convinced that somehow it is a crime to have children these days. One father walked into the Los Angeles Housing Authority and said, ‘Every time I find a vacancy I know there is no use because I have two little children I shouldn’t have had.’”

Why do landlords discriminate against children? The most common excuse is that “Children are destructive. However, that is not the real reason.” “When stripped of masquerade,” says Whitman, “the basis of child discrimination is largely a greedy axiom: “Get the most money for the least occupancy.’”

“What can we do about it?” asks the author. He proposes “educating” the landlords. “A small landlord can be painfully ignorant,” Whitman says. “He hasn’t been educated to the basic tenet of the free enterprise system: a profit motive conditioned by the public good.”

This is a hopeless proposal. Capitalism has existed for hundreds of years, yet the capitalist class has not yet learned to “condition” the profit motive “by the public good.” Capitalism puts profits first. It always has and always will.

Only under socialism will the welfare of the family be placed first and children welcomed as our most precious asset. Under socialism, America for the first time will be able to fully solve its housing problem and provide every family with the ideal living conditions that children require.

A step in that direction can be taken right now by mobilizing public pressure on Congress for a federal housing program to relieve the present impossible conditions. If the money now spent in armaments were turned into the construction of homes it would not take long to break the back of the housing shortage.

With plenty of vacant apartments for rent, landlords would begin to think twice before putting up their cruel sign, “Dogs and children not wanted.”

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