Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Married men earn more if their wives stay home

According to this Reuters article (via MSNBC), a recent report (.pdf file) issued by the British Institute for Social and Economic Research concludes that it pays for men to have wives who stay home. Specifically, men with stay-at-home wives earned on average "3 percent more than comparably employed single men." The article goes on to mention that the wage increase "disappears if wives go out to work themselves or don?t do most of the housework," indicating that who tackles the household chores may be one of the determining factors.

I have no argument with that conclusion, as the possible reasons they mention (the husband may have more time to devote to income producing work or developing job-related skills if his wife is taking care of everything at home) seem logical. But a couple of items do kind of irk me about the whole thing.

First, there's absolutely no mention of families where those roles are reversed. I wonder, do working wives with stay-at-home spouses also see a 3 percent increase in wages, and if not, why?

Second, Reuters reports that the researchers analysis points to how "a marriage might allow a husband and wife to focus their activities on tasks to which they are most suited." Then they go on to say that "this would result in the man concentrating on paid work" and imply that women are more suited for housework. Sure, these may be traditional roles, but does that really mean that women are not as well suited to being the breadwinner? And, conversely, men are ill-suited to staying home? That's just pure bunk. As the Boston Globe (via Rebel Dad) recently quoted Jerrold Lee Shapiro, a professor at Santa Clara University: "There is no gene for diapering." To which I would add this suggestion: There's no gene for housework or at-home parenting either!

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