Feminist Division of Labor

First of all, you’re probably not reading Echidne of the Snakes, a vice you should rectify – as soon as you finish with Abstract Nonsense.

Second, Echidne has a tremendous post explaining the model of within-household gender division of labor that led Forbes columnist Michael Noer to advise men to marry women who have no careers, and to advocate the wife/whore dichotomy. In a nutshell, the model says that since women have a comparative advantage at household labor because they get pregnant, a household will end up either allocating all household work to the woman or all market work to the man, depending on how much of each there is to allocate.

She goes on to give several different criticisms – that there are within-household disagreements, that the model fails to agree with reality, etc. One theoretical criticism she doesn’t give is that comparative advantage itself isn’t an absolute thing, since a diversified economy is a good thing.

The household equivalent of that is that working in different things is more interesting and less monotonous than working in just one thing. So if there are 60 hours a week of each type of labor to allocate, allocating 30/30 to each partner will be better for both partners’ mental health (especially the woman’s) than allocating all market work to the man and all household work to the woman.

14 Responses to Feminist Division of Labor

  1. Kian says:

    In addition to what you’ve posted, Becker’s reasearch goes in to talk about far more interesting things about the marginal cost/benefits of marriage. He has a faulty theory, that I’ve read implying that families with higher wages will ultimately have an increase of family production – therefore childbirth. But when placed in the ‘real world’ the theory doesn’t hold very firm ground… I don’t have numbers, but my guess is that lower income families actually have a higher number of children than higher income families. Becker adds to this that we will then see parents acting altruistically when they chose old age pensions over children’s education….or using the child as a wager for automatic old age security.

    He also has a theory on divorce stating that ‘richer’ people are less likely to get divorced because it is going to cost them more in the long run. Really, after reading his entire book on his theories of marriage and family, the opportunity costs and the outcomes of all individual factors of things such as income, self-interest and power are a huge turn off of the already superficial act of marriage.

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