We at IWF have always refuted the idea, so beloved of radical feminists, that there is a huge, discrimination-driven wage gap between what women and men earn for similar jobs.
If you factor in women’s choices (to take years off to be at home with children, for example), you get a miniscule wage gap, and, in some instances, younger, college-educated women in urban centers, women out-earn men.
It was from this perspective of choices and the wage gap that I read a fascinating Reuters story on a choice that educated women are increasingly making. "Educated women quit work as husbands earn more,” the news service reports. The story relies on a study from the Federal Reserve that will be published soon:
It shows that between 1993 and 2006, there was a decline in the workforce of 0.1 percent a year on average in the number of college-educated women, with similarly educated spouses.
That contrasts with growth of 2.4 percent a year between 1976 and 1992.
The result: the labor force in 2008 had 1.64 million fewer such women than if the growth rate had kept up its earlier trend, slightly more than 1 percent of the total workforce in that year.
Stefania Albanesi, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and an author of the study, seems to me to be caught in the old, feminist mindset (I say this on the basis of a few quotes in one article, so I could well be reading too much into her remarks). She says that the salaries of top men have risen and that their salaries have “dwarfed” those of wives. But you don’t quit work because somebody else is earning more than you, although you might leave the workforce if the family no longer needs what you are earning. It’s a matter of—well—the choices women make.
We at IWF have always said, in response to the question of what role women should play, that women should do what they want to, whether it is work outside the household or stay home, depending on what her financial situation is. But it is becoming increasingly hard for women who aren't college-educated and affluent to make the choice to stay home.
The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto makes that point today in a commentary on the Reuters story:
For women with lower levels of education, the picture is markedly different, as Charles Murray shows in "Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010." One-income households have become common at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum as well–but because women are less likely to be married at all, while men are less likely to be in the labor force.
Marriage and male responsibility for families were once the norm at all levels of American society. Feminism was supposed to liberate women from dependency on men. Instead it has helped to create a two-tiered culture in which the norm is for women to be "chained to a desk," but those who hit the jackpot in the mating game can realistically aspire to escape that status. Nice going, ladies. Happy International Women's Day.
As President Obama’s campaign is disgracefully promoting the idea that the Republicans are waging a “war on women,” I’d like to disagree. You know what the real war against women is? A lousy economy.