We needed to divide the chores because it is simply not efficient for the best cook and dishwasher to do all the cooking and dishwashing. The economic principle at play here is increasing marginal cost. Basically, people get worse when they are tired. When I teach my students at the University of Chicago this principle, I explain it in the context of managing their employees. Imagine you have a good employee and a not-so-good one. Should you make the good employee do literally everything?...Part of this idea seems to be that efficiency is a concept that appeals to males. That is, efficiency is not only efficient as a principle for ordering the tasks, it's persuasive to the person you are trying to enlist in the tasks. And that appeals to the females: It's good for the relationship to use the rhetoric of economics.
To “optimize” your family efficiency (every economist’s ultimate goal—and yours, too), you want to equalize effectiveness on the final task each person is doing....
To decide who does what, we need more economics....You want to assign each person the tasks on which he or she has a comparative advantage. It doesn’t matter that you have an absolute advantage in everything. If you are much, much better at the laundry and only a little better at cleaning the toilet, you should do the laundry and have your spouse get out the scrub brush. Just explain that it’s efficient!
November 25, 2012
"But luckily for me and my husband, I’m an economist, so I have more effective tools than passive aggression."
"And some basic economic principles provided the answer."