Posts Tagged ‘marriage’
I think Russell Smith’s criticism of this recent viral hit misses the point—he seems to think that the video is indicative of women’s fixation on romance, not, you know, about getting over exactly that. (I guess we’re supposed to transition from dependence to Smith’s brand of empowerment instantly, or at least in private?) But that’s okay; I’d just as soon sail through to a peripheral issue myself.
And the reason this video’s popularity irks me is that I see this backsliding everywhere around me. I see all the blogs and books about being single and finding a husband and surviving divorce, written by educated women in this world in which women can do anything and I wonder if the 1960s ever happened. There is an obsession with romantic commitment in the air again.
If it’s true that women are more concerned with finding the right mate than they used to be, and I don’t know how you would measure that, I wonder if it’s a natural consequence of our expanded opportunities. Smith’s ideal modern woman, as I understand her, has ambitions and desires at both work and home. We want, and are expected to want, more than a nice guy who makes enough money to put us up in the suburbs.
We want to do something that matters, maybe something that requires extended training or time to get established. We need to fit in kids while we’re relatively young, but we can’t or don’t want to quit our jobs at that point. So we need a partner who can share housework and childcare; someone who might consider moving for our job, not just his. We want someone who is emotionally available to us and the kids. We have come to expect a fulfilling sex life, but most of us also want a mate who won’t harass us or cheat in the years when we’re most exhausted from the second shift.
It isn’t easy to strike a balance between these sometimes contradictory desires and the similarly contradictory desires of the ideal modern dude, who (we can hope) has his own ambitions and desires at work and home and is also (we can hope) figuring out what a kinder, gentler, more fulfilling masculinity might look like. Nasty break-ups, serial cohabitation, divorce, couples’ therapy, vapid self-help relationship books—maybe this is just what happens while we figure out what love and marriage is supposed to be, in world where, as Smith says, “women are just as capable of being busy and distracted by histology or the futures market or electoral reform.”
Feministing recently put me on to Feminist Finance, and I’ve been poking my way through the archives with pleasure. It’s sort of difficult to explain what this blog is about. It’s loosely organized around finance for women, I guess, but without the irritating self-help nonsense that tends to come with budgeting tips. And there are some posts on pay equity and the dynamics of marriage that would fit in just fine on this site. So you should check it out. Here’s a little welcome post to get you started.
Things are a little slow this week due to a couple exams and a research deadline. (In related news, I think I’ve decided that macro isn’t my thing.) Posts should pick up next week.
A study shows that married women do seven extra hours of housework, and married men do one hour less. That’s a net increase of five hours. It’s a wonder anyone gets married. But wait, what do they mean by chores?
Other activities such as home repairs, mowing the lawn, and shoveling (sic) snow were not in the study. “Items such as gardening are usually viewed as more enjoyable; the focus here is on core housework,” says Stafford.
Now there’s a gendered view of housework. Traditionally male pursuits are “the fun chores.” First off, I know no one who enjoys shovelling. And I know more than one person who loves vacuuming. Let’s give those wayward husbands (or wives) credit for doing the “fun” chores too. In any case, unless the study is missing ten hours of yard work, there’s a significant gap:
Based on 2005 data, which have been compared to those from national time diaries, the research shows women, of all ages with no children, on average do 10 hours of housework a week before marriage and 17 hours of housework a week after marriage. Men of all ages with no children, on the other hand, do eight hours before marriage and seven hours afterwards.
These numbers don’t automatically distinguish between exploitation and a mutually beneficial division of labour. I’d be more interested in a study which adds up housework hours and hours spent in conventional employment – I bet the women would still be working longer then.
(Hat tip to Feministing.)
Yesterday afternoon, as I sat in a library cafeteria approximating volume by cylindrical shells (calculus exam in t-minus 8 days!) I was distracted by the couple beside me. They were arguing over whether to get married. He wanted to get hitched and move to Chicago; she said that he was too sexist to spend her life with. Apparently, he had said at some point said that given the choice, he would prefer a son to a daughter, because a son would be more likely to provide for him in his old age.
A bias towards male offspring is something that we tend to associate with other countries, but this paper, by Gordon B. Dahl and Enrico Moretti at Berkeley, shows that “the demand for sons” is alive and well in the United States. They find that first-born daughters are less likely to end up living with their fathers than first-born sons. I’m going to quote at length from the abstract because it is so interesting.
Three factors are important in explaining this gap. First, women with first-born daughters are less likely to marry.Strikingly, we also find evidence that the gender of a child in utero affects shotgun marriages. Among women who have taken an ultrasound test during pregnancy, mothers who have a girl are less likely to be married at delivery than mothers who have a boy. Second, parents who have first-born girls are significantly more likely to be divorced. Third, after a divorce, fathers are much more likely to obtain custody of sons compared to daughters. These three factors have serious negative income and educational consequences for affected children.
Hat tip to Freakonomics for the paper.
Here’s a beautiful illustration of what I’m trying to do. Feministing and Freakonomics are both posting about that report on the cost of divorce. Feminists have long criticized marriage incentives and the reasoning behind them – Feministing’s take hits home as always, pointing out the “family values” sponsors of the report.
Studies like these are not just about promoting marriage, of course, they’re about promoting traditional marriages. And the idea that women don’t need a job (just a man) has [been] hurting women welfare recipients for far too long.
Great. Now let’s look at the social science. Over at Freakonomics, Justin Wolfers’ fantastic post takes us through the numbers. It turns out that on average, women are a little better off financially after a divorce – the “marriage movement” doesn’t take into account that increase in tax revenue. And there’s more.
The U.S. tax system is structured so that when poor single mothers marry men with higher incomes, in most cases, the total tax paid by husband and wife would fall. Yet this isn’t counted. Those poor single women aren’t robbing us of tax revenue, they are actually paying more than if they were married!
To be honest, Wolfers’ post is a gift – I can think of very little to add. You should check it out, and while you’re at it poke through some of his other writing on the economics of the family.