June 13, 2012

"Does gender equality produce income inequality?"

Asks Instapundit linking to this article about the way women pair up with men from the same socioeconomic class.
Doctors used to marry nurses. Now doctors marry doctors.

So while husbands and wives have become more equal, inequality between families appears to be on the rise....
Women now earn about 60 percent of all graduate degrees in rich countries. Of course they are more likely to marry men of similar educational background; they meet them at college.
Is this a problem for policymakers to solve? If so, what could they do? You can't tell people whom to marry. The linked article is in the NYT, so I expected more to be said about tweaking tax policy, but instead there was discussion of parenting classes in the UK. Isn't that odd? I'm going to infer that the NYT avoided talking tax policy because it didn't like what it would have to say.

Parenting classes have something to do with getting the next generation into better careers, but to focus on educating the young is to avoid dealing with the (perceived) problem of highly accomplished and hard-working males and females marrying each other and advancing their families at a much faster pace than in the past when women had better ability to follow the success strategy of "marrying up."

So let's talk about the tax fix the NYT presumably didn't want to talk about. It would have to penalize the 2-income family, especially where both spouses have high incomes. That is, it would have to incentivize the spouse of a high earner to opt out of her (or his) career. That might seem like a throwback to a time when women went to college to find a husband — as the old joke had it: to get her MRS degree. It would irritate many feminists, especially those who remember the modern women's movement as growing out of the perception that the stay-at-home-wife role is crushing and numbing.

Quite apart from taxing, you could create social pressure on high-earning couples to cut it out. They're being selfish. Let one move out of the career arena. Give up that great job to someone who is the sole earner in a family. Why are you taking more than your share for your family and disadvantaging others? You are part of the problem of income inequality. Step back!

Additional pressure could be applied in the form of environmentalism: Estimate the carbon footprint of the second spouse going to work. Also, there's a childhood obesity link: Estimate the average extra pounds-per-kid caused by not having a stay-at-home parent assembling healthful meals. Consider all the volunteer work this non-career spouse could do, particularly in schools, where they could tutor disadvantaged kids (and thereby improve equality). There's a lot of social pressure that could be applied to guilt-trip (or otherwise entice) that second spouse to stay home.

But I don't expect to see the NYT jump into that game.

43 comments:

Fen said...

I hear alot of my sucessful 30-something female friends complain about this. They can't find a Real Man because:

1) there aren't very many in their socio-economic sphere. Despite the advances of "feminism", women still prefer to marry up (or at least equal)

2) too many metrosexuals. They make great friends, but its hard to respect a guy who shaves his legs.

3) too many vidoe gamers. The average age of hard core male gamers (spending 40+ hours a week playing COD, etc) is 28 years old.

Original Mike said...

"Is this a problem for policymakers to solve? If so, what could they do? You can't tell people whom to marry."

You understimate their ambitions.

Freeman Hunt said...

Something I would not have guessed as a teenager but have found out as an adult:

Being a doctor is an excellent part time gig with flexible hours for the parent who would like to work a little but mostly stay home with the kids. (Being a nurse is also good for that.)

EDH said...

But I don't expect to see the NYT jump into that game.

Or to look at the effect on income inequality of same-sex households.

AJ Lynch said...

Orig Mike:

Good one!

And kudos to the NYT for actually noticing something that contradicts their worldview that income inequality is caused by the evil Repubs.

Erika said...

The word 'inequality' is funny. To many earnest people, it's a rousing call to action. To others, including myself, it provokes nothing beyond a a 'So what?'

That’s explosive stuff, particularly at a time of recession and austerity, when rising income inequality is in the spotlight anyway and the temptation of populism fierce.

Right, because random assertion = fact.

AJ Lynch said...

Correction Althouse- doctors used to marry their secretaries before they married nurses which was before they married other docs.

Chuck66 said...

Men at 13 times more likely to be killed on the job than woman are.

Lets see the equal outcomes crowd do something about that.

The Drill SGT said...

Fen said...
1) there aren't very many in their socio-economic sphere. Despite the advances of "feminism", women still prefer to marry up (or at least equal)


Hypergamy is hard-wired into the female cortex by a million years of evolution

Freeman Hunt said...
Something I would not have guessed as a teenager but have found out as an adult:


a bit off point, but not too far. When I was a Junior officer back in the mid 70's, women were just surging into the workforce in non-traditional fields.

It was the CW wisdom among my peers, that nurses and teachers made the best spouse career fits with a military officer, because both were very portable, whereever the next assignment was, and absent an active local civilian market meant that DoD would be hiring both on post.


Me? I dated a couple of teachers, nurses, a Doc, and married an Army Lawyer :)

Fen said...

Lets see the equal outcomes crowd do something about that.

I think we'll get there. I know alot of guys who have Gone Galt in the "war" against -women- men.


[geez, its 2012, can we have strikeout tags yet?]

Fen said...

So let's talk about the tax fix the NYT presumably didn't want to talk about. It would have to penalize the 2-income family

That's ironic. The rise of 2-income families (at the expense of the children) was due to the higher tax burdens placed on the middle class.

And now the Left wants to tax that. Sheesh.

DCS said...

The article is incomprehensible BS.

campy said...

You can't tell people whom to marry.

Maybe you can't.

traditionalguy said...

The suggested policy decisions are aimed at controlling outcomes of individual lives.

Since that never works, except for prisoners under armed guard, when will opinion writers quit playing at games of group rules that pretend the Government can change free people at its fiat.

Oh yeah, Harvard has assumed that role as its special power given to its Professors. Ask Elizabeth Warren how she will control our life for the better given a chance at fufilling her destiny to rule over us.

We need another Andrew Jackson who first defeated that thinking from Boston Bhramins 184 years ago. Or is that now Scott walker's destined role?

The Progressives are today touting the unlikely Warren as their new leader since she is 180 degress opposite from the Scott Walker type that they must defeat or else.

Dan in Philly said...

Puts a lot of pressure on young men - gotta outacheive women to get their respect more and more.

Michael K said...

"Being a doctor is an excellent part time gig with flexible hours for the parent who would like to work a little but mostly stay home with the kids. (Being a nurse is also good for that.)"

Nurses are losing a lot of the job flexibility as hospitals try to cut costs. When I was a medical student 50 years ago, women were often turned down (or didn't bother to apply) because admissions committees assumed they wouldn't practice full time and there was a perceived doctor shortage.

Now, women physicians practice about 40% of the hours male physicians do and male physicians work less hours than we did. The 1962 admission committee was right. Plus there is a real doctor shortage looming, largely because of reduced work hours by present time graduates who know they won't make as much money and will be on a salary with less incentive to put in more hours.

The gap will be, and is being, filled by PAs and RN practitioners. They do a good job but need supervision which is less and less available.

The subject of this post was one of the major issues that Charles Murray was writing about in "The Bell Curve." His comments about race and IQ dominated the discussion but that wasn't the reason for the book.

virgil xenophon said...

Also, how about "lookism?" It's SO unfair for good-looking people, yada yada. Look for calls for govt "marriage boards" to refuse to issue licenses to like professionals and to two equally good-looking partners as well. Only one good-looking and/or high earning partner per marriage! THAT'LL fix things!.

virgil xenophon said...

Oh, hello Michael K, didn't see you post. Did you know Lex's site is back up for access to archives/previous commentary?

Jay said...

Is this a problem for policymakers to solve?

No.

Why does anyone think "policy makers" actually solve problems?

Do you realize that the poverty rate is higher now than it was in 1965?
Would you like me to list the trillions that have been spent on trying to alleviate poverty since 1965?

YoungHegelian said...

In the 60's, it seemed to be assumed by the women's libbers that with rising female income & opportunity, that women would start to choose mates like men do: i.e. wherever their fancy leads them.

But, echoing the DrillSgt, that's not how it turned out. Most women still want to marry up. Even rich chicks want rich-er guys.

Well, clearly, that math just isn't ever going to work out. As the women get wealthy, the pool of wealthier men either stays the same or gets smaller (e.g. an upper income job went to a woman rather than a man-- that's one less available wealthy man).

I should be astounded that that no one thought this through, but I've lived through too many noble social experiments gone awry to be surprised any more.

AJ Lynch said...

"Is this a problem for policymakers to solve?"

The JFK School of Government at Harvard, many universities have Schools of Public Policy, etc etc. Look where these have gotten us - I say shitcan them all.

edutcher said...

The next time the Demos try to foist HillaryHealth/ZeroCare on us, they'll have a mandate that will guarantee everyone the exact same salary.

Ann Althouse said...

Doctors used to marry nurses

According to The Blonde, nurses married doctors.

Doctors, if not snagged by nurses, married middle class women.

Dust Bunny Queen said...


Do you realize that the poverty rate is higher now than it was in 1965?
Would you like me to list the trillions that have been spent on trying to alleviate poverty since 1965?


Exactly. Just think if they had cut a check for each and every one of us instead of running the money through the filter of government graft and corruption.

Obama's next trillion dollars....just give me a check and I can figure out what to do with it.

RE: marriage People marry people who are like themselves economically and socially .... or marry those who are like what they would like to be. All the public policies in the world are not going to change that.

Bruce Hayden said...

Maybe I am being a bit pessimistic, but I see most of this as somewhat inevitable. When women died fairly young, often in child birth, after being pregnant a good part of the time from the time they were maybe 16 or so, educating most of them didn't make a lot of sense (said by an early baby boomer whose four grandparents had college degrees - a rarity at the time). It didn't make sense for most married women to work outside the house, because of their domestic duties, including child rearing.

Fast forward. With a BA degree, one can expect maybe a 40 year career these days (ok, maybe a bit longer, thanks to Obama's profligate borrowing). With 2 kids, optimally spaced maybe 2 years apart (so that they can grow up together), we have maybe 7 years (until kindergarten) spent in mostly full-time parenting, another 6 until they are in middle school, where parents are somewhat useful during the day, another 3 or 4 until the youngest has a driver's license, and boom - maybe 25 years of empty time to fill between undergraduate and retirement. Probably more.

The second part of associative mating is that since we tend to move away from our families, and, esp. if college educated, our families tend to be much less involved in picking our spouses. Instead, the best place to meet such is in college, graduate school, and then the work force. Those are the people that we spend most of our time with. Remember, 2 of the last 3 Presidents have had two-attorney households, and they were all (kinda) baby boomers. Much more so with those in their 20s and 30s.

There is more, of course. Females seem more driven to find mates these days, maybe because their biological clocks are running, while the males are taking longer to settle down. Why hurry, when you have 45 years of work ahead of you? Making things worse, family law and society have become so female friendly, that young males have an incentive to stay away from females now. If they marry and have kids, if they divorce, they will pay for the woman to raise the kids for the next 20 years, and if they don't, they will still have to pay for the children being raised by women who didn't bother nailing down and keeping a male around to do so. The natural result of all this is that a lot of women are hard charging into and through their 20s, while their male counterparts are slacking and mostly staying away from them, except for occasional protected sex (and, that slacking goes well beyond video gaming).

rehajm said...

(hang Mission Accomplished banner here)

Women now earn about 60 percent of all graduate degrees in rich countries.

Remember the good old days when we used to worry about gender inequality in higher education?

glenn said...

So lemme see, smart people marry other smart people, then they have smart kids who go out in the world and make a lot of money and pay a lot of taxes so us dummies can sit home on our fannies posting snarky comments on websites like Althouse. Cool, sign me up.

Fen said...

Actually Glenn, its not a given that smart people produce smart kids.

glenn said...

And here's a hint for all you smart guys. marry a good cook. Otherwise you'll be spending all that beautiful money eating out.

glenn said...

Fen: That's why it's a snarky comment.

Bruce Hayden said...

Actually Glenn, its not a given that smart produce smart kids.

Not a given, but probable. Most likely have both genes and environment going for them. And, probability is the name of the game.

Interesting theory though about why the incidence of Autism and ASD have skyrocketed, esp. in some communities - associative mating between engineers. Get two engineers together, and the odds apparently go up significantly. Maybe. The theory being that autism is an extreme form of a systemizing brain, and engineering tends to select for just that characteristic.

Or, it could be something in the water. Not buying the immunization though.

Matthew Sablan said...

"3) too many vidoe gamers. The average age of hard core male gamers (spending 40+ hours a week playing COD, etc) is 28 years old."

-- Game playing is rising for both genders; Zimbardo's Demise of Guys study is kind of a sad study that I'm surprised got on CNN, a TED talk and a book deal.

Hari said...

It all works out fine for the politicians. Yesterday's nurse married a doctor and had three or four children. Today she's spends most of her child-bearing years in medical school, then marries a doctor and has one child.

So, everyone else has the kids, who grow up and vote for income redistribution from the 1%

jvermeer51 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jvermeer51 said...

One of the theme's of Murray and Herrnstein's Bell Curve was that social mobility actually may end up producing a more stratified society, just as the original column suggested. Intelligence is inherited to some extent; the book suggests 40-60%. Does anyone seriously suggest that skills, intelligence, productive attitudes are randomly distributed? And if they are not random, they would tend to repeat themselves generation after generation.

BladeDoc said...

I hate the word verification, lost my first comment.

Shorter version: increasing the marriage penalty for high income couples wouldn't reduce assortative mating, it would just reduce assortative MARRIAGE.

Kimberly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kimberly said...

Could someone please define the "up" in marrying up? I just don't think it's as simple now as it was before, and these terms get tossed around without being defined.

My husband has less eduation than I do, along with a lower salary and a less prestigious, less visible job. He's also younger than me, healthier than me, and has way more money in the bank than I do and (if you don't count our joint holdings), a higher net worth (he's great at saving).

Did I marry up, down, or sideways? And in this day and age, does that really matter? Isn't it better to just marry someone with whom you are compatible and who is strong where you are weak? That's the strategy I used, at any rate.

Balfegor said...

Re: Kimberly:

Could someone please define the "up" in marrying up? I just don't think it's as simple now as it was before, and these terms get tossed around without being defined.

It's never been as simple as all that. Think of all those impecunious British lords who married the daughters of American millionaires. Churchill's father, for example, Lord Randolph. Or Lord Curzon with his second wife (who got her money from her dead first husband, not her father, but similar situation). Both sides married "up" in a sense.

Jessica said...

My husband and I were both lawyers making over $200k but when we had our baby we decided I would stay home permanently. I LOVE being home mostly because our family life (and marriage) is far more peaceful and joyful without the stress of two full time demanding jobs. I also love seeing my daughter grow up each and every day.

Thanks for pointing out, Ann, that I am also entitled to feel smug because we're "remedying social inequality" and "greening the planet." (Honestly, I don't find either of these justifications compelling, but if it forces liberals to respect our decision to opt out of the consumption race, that's gravy....)

Jeff with one 'f' said...

I've been wondering about this issue as it plays out in the Meadehouse.

RE: Kimberly

Standard NYC dating rules: if a woman marries shorter, less educated, poorer and in some cases younger she has married down.

If a woman marries same height, same income and sometimes same nest egg she has also married down.

Marrying at the same level is acceptable but carries the risk that the husband may fall behind the wife if his career stalls or declines, if his wife's career surpasses his, if the wife continues her education past her husband or if the wife works and the husband stays home to take care of the kids. In these cases a the husband has lost status in the marriage which is then reclassified as being "down".

If the status changes while prior to marriage then the whole thing is up for reconsideration.

Bender said...

the NYT avoided talking tax policy because it didn't like what it would have to say . . .

They can't find a Real Man because: Despite the advances of "feminism", women still prefer to marry up


Talk about things that people avoid talking about because they don't like what it would have to say --

A major problem is that a great many females simply refuse to grow up and become Real Women.

To be more blunt: they want a Daddy to take care of them -- someone bigger, stronger, more powerful, and richer, and wanting to perpetually remain Daddy's little princess who is always pampered and taken care of.

David said...

Simple solution:

In a two earner household, tax all income of the lower earner at a rate of 75%. It's only fair.

Of course since this will create another disincentive to marriage, "household" will have to be redefined. The feds can use drones to see who is living with whom.

Fred Drinkwater said...

@jvermeer51: Back in about 1980 my father flew a small plane from Princeton NJ to Mountain View CA, in hops of about 150 miles each. Practically the first thing he said to me afterward was "There's lots of nice folks in those small towns, but I sure got the feeling that anyone with any ambition got the heck out of there."
Mobility at work.
(And this was from a born-and-raised midwest guy who married a girl from South Dakota.)