11 August 2007

What is marriage for? (note: I will not answer this question.)

Wedded to Work, and in Dire Need of a Wife -- Shira Boss, in today's NYT.

From the headline, I thought the article would be about men who spent too much time at work and couldn't find a partner. No, it's about women who spend too much time at work to take care of things around the house that need taking care of, and their husbands won't take care of it either. As about a zillion studies have shown, women do more housework than men even when they work the same number of hours outside the home. (For the record, I live alone, am not in any sort of long-term relationship, and housework in my apartment just doesn't get done at all. My sink is currently not full of dishes, but that's rare.)

But I think the article has confused correlation and causation. Boss writes:
A more statistically rigorous analysis published in 2004, using the Minnesota Twins Registry, tried to isolate the effect of marriage on earnings. It found that holding education and genetics constant, married male twins made 26 percent more than their unmarried brothers.

Yes, but marriage doesn't happen at random. Are men earning more because they're married (as the NYT article would have us think?), or marrying because they're earning more? I don't know which, but the latter certainly seems possible. Weddings are expensive. And I can imagine someone not wanting to get married unti they could afford the wedding (or at least an engagement ring and whatever other parts of the whole shebang are traditionally paid for by one member or the other of the couple; I understand that traditionally parents put down a lot of the money). Somewhat more seriously, I can imagine people not wanting to get married until they feel they have some sense of "stability", which for a lot of people includes a steady job (or at least as close to that as we can get in the current economy). Maybe the unmarried brothers make less not because they don't have wives, but because they sit on their asses in their parents' basement, not making money and not meeting prospective marriage partners. Or perhaps the knowledge that you have someone other than yourself financially dependent on your work makes you work harder. (Especially if you've got kids. I think a valid comparison would take this into account, since married people are more likely to have kids than unmarried people.) Marriage and earnings are so confounded with each other that I'm immediately suspicious.

(Also, how often do you see the two consecutive words "Minnesota Twins" not referring to the baseball team? The Minnesota Twin Registry [this is the correct name] is part of the Minnesota Twin Family Study at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. The "Twin" in the name of the University and in the name of the baseball team are connected to each other; the baseball team is named for the Twin Cities, i. e. Minneapolis and Saint Paul.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've read that more men are underemployed by choice these days, simply because men are marrying less. E.g. if you don't have kids it's hard to be motivated to save for their educations.