Saturday, June 09, 2012

Liza Mundy 1: The Coming "Breadwomen"

Liza Mundy, in The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners is Transforming Sex, Love, and Family, notes the rising trend of wives outearning their husbands. She foresees a day soon when a majority of wives will be the main earners in their families - what she calls "breadwomen."

Her core facts are these:

  • 37.7% of wives with any earnings at all make more than their husbands (2009, Bureau of Labor Statistics).
  • Women now hold 51% of managerial and professional jobs.
  • Women are better represented in 9 of the 10 job categories most likely to grow in the next decade. 

Mundy does outrun her data a bit.  The recent rise from 20-something percent of wives outearning their husbands to 30-something percent may be a temporary effect of the "mancession" of 2008 - 09, in which men disproportionately lost their jobs.  And "nearly 40%" is not the same as "the new majority," as her subtitle claims.

Moreover, women who make only a little more than their husbands are not quite what we usually mean by "breadwinners" (and of the course same is true with the sexes reversed). 

Mundy's best observation is that women having been doing better than men in school for a generation, which comes just at the time when our economy is increasingly knowledge-based.  This should give the average woman a growing advantage in both actual knowledge and in credentials over the average man.

I think the main phenomenon that Mundy's facts reveal is that as wives match or better their husbands' educational credentials and career aspirations, their earnings are more equal. Usually he earns a bit more, sometimes she does. This means that in many couples, neither is really the breadwinner, but together they support their family in roughly equal measure.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Marilynne Robinson Week 7 (and last): A High Estimate of Human Nature

In Absence of Mind, her Terry Lectures at Yale in which she attacks the "parascience" of Freud, sociobiology, and the new atheists, she declares her form of high-toned Calvinism:

I should declare at the outset my own bias. I believe it is only prudent to make a very high estimate of human nature, first of all in order to contain the worst impulses of human nature, and then to liberate its best impulses.

I heartily agree.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Marilynne Robinson Week 6: Family Life as Loyalty

In her essay "Family" in The Death of Adam, Robinson offers that the core bond of family life is a feeling of loyalty and identity.  And if we start our experience of family life with a feeling of loyalty, then we are saved from the degradation of measuring whether our loyalty is deserved.

As I noted in previous posts, Robinson is arguing against a culture of fear.

How are loyalty and fighting fear connected?

“The antidote to fear, distrust, self-interest is always loyalty.  The balm for failure or weakness, or even for disloyalty, is always loyalty.”