Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Marrying Career Women

There was a piece in Forbes titled Don't Marry Career Women that claimed that men should not marry career women. A career woman is not some woman who works as a waitress. As Michael Noer, the writer of the piece says, "for our purposes, a 'career girl' has a university-level (or higher) education, works more than 35 hours a week outside the home and makes more than $30,000 a year."

Noer says that the unhappiness that career women bring to the family is created because the work that needs to be done is not getting done. He claims that one spouse should do market work while the other spouse should do non-market work, e.g. housework.
In classic economics, a marriage is, at least in part, an exercise in labor specialization. Traditionally, men have tended to do "market" or paid work outside the home, and women have tended to do "nonmarket" or household work, including raising children. All of the work must get done by somebody, and this pairing, regardless of who is in the home and who is outside the home, accomplishes that goal. Nobel laureate Gary S. Becker argued that when the labor specialization in a marriage decreases--if, for example, both spouses have careers--the overall value of the marriage is lower for both partners because less of the total needed work is getting done, making life harder for both partners and divorce more likely.
This, I just want to say, is wrong.

Noer claims that if both the man and the woman work, the work that needs to be done (e.g. housework) would not get done. He completely ignores the law of comparative advantage.

Since a career woman is intelligent and has high earning potential, putting her inside the house doing housework would be a waste. If instead, the career woman works and earns lots of money, a small fraction of that money can be used to pay the salary of a housekeeper. Since the housekeeper's salary is unlikely to be higher than the career woman's salary, putting the career woman outside of the kitchen has generated a profit for the household.

Noer makes many more claims in his piece. He says that men should stay clear of career women because all of the worrying things linked with a career woman:
According to a wide-ranging review of the published literature, highly educated people are more likely to have had extramarital sex (those with graduate degrees are 1.75 times more likely to have cheated than those with high school diplomas). Additionally, individuals who earn more than $30,000 a year are more likely to cheat.

And if the cheating leads to divorce, you're really in trouble. Divorce has been positively correlated with higher rates of alcoholism, clinical depression and suicide. Other studies have associated divorce with increased rates of cancer, stroke, and sexually transmitted disease. Plus, divorce is financially devastating.
Educated and rich people are more likely to cheat, cheating leads to divorce, and divorce is likely to stuff you up. Because of all this, Noer claims that men should stay away from career women because they are more educated and richer. However, this argument could equally be applied to men. Richer and better educated men are more likely to cheat and cheating leads to divorce, which leads to alcoholism, depression, etc. Therefore, to stop yourself from being educated and rich, why not just not get educated in the first place? Don't get a degree. Don't bother going to university. Would you do this?

Even though more education may increase the likelihood of cheating and even though richer people are more likely to cheat, I would still rather be educated and still rather have more money than less money. I would gladly accept these things and face a higher probability of being burnt by divorce. Likewise, many men are willing to accept higher household income generated by the career woman's salary and face higher probability of being burnt by divorce.

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