What's the economic theory purveyed in the NYT?
New research suggests that, because it’s primarily women who take advantage of leave and part-time entitlements, work-life accommodations often paradoxically limit career trajectories.Ha. This is precisely the point made by critics of the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Clinton Era legislation that was sold as an advancement for women. Senator Nancy Kassenbaum (R — Kansas) said: "Mandating leave will have a negative impact on [employment] opportunities for women... . Employers... will seek to hire workers with lower benefit costs, increasing the pressure to discriminate against women." (139 Cong. Rec. S985 (1993).)
The NYT wheels out a Harvard economist to make the point Kassenbaum made 20 years ago.
“In a regime where anyone can go part time, where it’s hard to get rid of people if they do, employers might sort on the front end and not hire people they think are likely to want to go part time, which usually means women,” said Lawrence F. Katz, an economist at Harvard. “There may be no way a woman can credibly commit to sticking around and not going part time.” The U.S., where these policies do not exist, has the smallest gap between women’s representation in the labor force and their representation in senior management positions.Except that we do have the Family and Medical Leave Act, and it's hard to imagine getting rid of it. Once a benefit is in place, there are real-live beneficiaries who are going to yell if you try to take it away. Even if it's hurting women, threatening it will be called a war on women.
So what's the solution?
In order to prescribe policies that really allow female workers to “lean in” at work, social scientists are trying to find ones that recast social norms and encourage male workers to “lean in” at home.Just change how people think! That should be easy... in the fever dreams of a social scientist.
One area where there seems to be a lot of potential is paternity leave, which still has a stigma in both the United States and Europe. To remedy this bad rap, countries like Sweden and Norway have recently introduced a quota of paid parental leave available only to fathers.So! The prescription is outright sex discrimination! Affirmative action for men!
This might not sound like such a big deal...Uh, yeah, actually it does. It's blatant sex discrimination against women, to be sold as helping women.
... but social scientists are coming around to the notion that a man spending a few weeks at home with his newborn can help recast expectations and gender roles, at work and home, for a long time.Oh, the good old social scientists... coming around... Not even a consensus. Just long-headed brooders maundering toward an idea that just might work. Absurd!