the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Ultimate Status Symbol: More Kids

(Is Eight not really enough?)

When I first moved to Los Angeles, my roommate was an unemployed actor.  He drove an expensive BMW.  When I asked him how he afforded it, he said that he leased it.  It was very important to him that he looked wealthy and successful.

I thought about my former roommate while I was reading this recent article about the uber-wealthy of Manhattan in the New York Observer (5/16/05).  According to the piece, written by Simon Doonan, it used to be easier for everyone to know you were wealthy, particularly if you were a woman.  Everyone would see your status by the clothes you wear.  For instance, you would wear your mink stole.  Today, of course, a mink stole will only get you red paint thrown on your head by some crazed PETA supporter. 

Certainly, there are other types of expensive designer clothes you can wear while you are strolling down Park Avenue.  Then again, in today’s world with Loehmann’s and Barney’s Warehouse Sale, even women from Queens can dress like you!  They might even find a knockoff purse that looks exactly like yours, but cost 1/20th the price.   That’s just not fair.  If you have the money, you want to show it off.

What about your terrific condo?   Surely that will impress outsiders.  Maybe.  But how are people going to know about it?  You can’t walk around with a photo of it hanging around your neck.

I already mentioned that any poor shnook can lease an expensive car, and cars are not such a big deal in New York anyway.

So, what’s a wealthy gal to do?   How do you show up the other women at the charity functions?

According to the article, the answer is simple:  more children.

While two children used to be the average for an upper-middle class, wealthier families are trying to distinguish themselves by having three or more children.  Not only does this give your family a "Kennedy clan aura" but as Amy Ashley, editor of Teen Vogue writes, "The third child screams, "My apartment is massive, my S.U.V. is spacious, my cash unlimited!"

Of course, this only puts more demands on the overworked American woman and her need to "have it all."  Now, they must be successful in their own career, marry well, have several children to impress their friends (while always bouncing back to a size 4), and never look over age 40.

Let the baby wars begin!


  1. Daniel

    Dear God. Well, the Chinese win hands down, they are obviously the richest culture on the planet…

  2. Aurorealis

    You might be on to something… I’ve been noticing there’s some kind of mini baby boom going on. Does having three step-daughters count? I hope my expensive handbags will be sufficient to flaunt my “status” in LA for at least a bit longer, as I enjoy being child-free.

  3. Neil

    Three step-daughters do count. After all, someone in the family is supporting them and it only makes you look good. And what type of expensive handbags do you have? We all want to know.

  4. sac

    Good to know. I have 3 of my own. I’m rich, bitch! Oh, I’m sorry for that. I thought it was last year for a second.

  5. Aurorealis

    I try to score one or two from every designer. So far my collection contains Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Marc Jacobs, Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, Kate Spade, Juicy Couture, Dolce & Gabbana, and Prada. So there! 😛

  6. Neil

    You are one hip babe. That’s way trendier than having three kids.

  7. […] I feel like the kids-as-status-symbol story bubbles up occasionally. But what’s new here, if you take the NPR reporter’s word for it, is that having lotsa babies has become a way for super-educated moms who have left the workforce to “justify” their choice to opt out. […]

  8. Brian

    According to Dave Ramsey, the paid-off house is becoming the next status symbol, but I don’t think that is true. You just can’t show it off without talking about it…and talking about your power is a no-no. You must show off without talking about it: clothes, jewelry, hairdos, cars, boats, lake houses…and yes, have several children. And none of these require any difficult level of character.

    It makes it really hard for humble and responsible people to compete.

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